Days like today are fine for giving the news at least a passing glance. A ‘socialist’ who looks like the last guy picked for basketball has won in France, and the Greeks can’t decide what they do like, though they are sure they don’t like what they’ve had.
Greece has had a belly full of austerity, the financial equivalent of bleeding the patient to make him well, and when it doesn’t work, bleeding him some more. France has been part of the gang supplying the cutting tools.
The votes in France and Greece are rejections of austerity as religion, doctrine, plan, which leaves Germany out on a limb. Chancellor Merkel was pretty quick to say there won’t be a renegotiation of the punishment disguised as deal that has kept the weak members of the Euro-zone breathing, but it’s not clear what happens if Greece and other countries that are taking it on the chin decide to walk or fight or just stand up, even.
So there’s a lot in the air, but even without the business in Europe, the day started large: over on CNBC this morning Warren Buffett was being chatted up by the morning hosts. Buffett said something strange, I thought, that the U.S. already had enough stimulus, and went on to define stimulus as a lot of spending not paid for. I don’t agree, but he’s a nice man – it’s rare to see that much money in one place that goes to the trouble of being polite.
I’m sure he said something about Europe, but I missed it because there was Fox News to watch. Steve Doocy set the tone for the day, with lots of ‘concern’ about what Europe could mean for America. In fact, Fox was high on concern today, as if whatever had gotten into Europe was a contagion in danger of spreading here, and the preferred treatment, a Romney/Republican win, might not arrive until it’s too late.
I wanted to tell him to relax, that these things take time and besides, when it starts to happen, Fox can gum it up, slow it down, piss on it. But he was hepped up on whatever tv actor fear he could get going. It was enough to spoil, just a little, co-host Brian’s birthday. Even Gretchen seemed vaguely unhappy, in that way she gets when something liberal is going on.
So that was the day, or at least the parts I caught. Shout out that a ‘socialist’ was in power somewhere else, ask if it could happen here, conclude that it could, worry. At one point, the Foxers put up a picture of President Obama and a picture of the new president of France, and then bullet points showing how much alike their plans were. It was hogwash, of course, but it gave the anchors more chances to say ‘socialist.’
The thing about Fox today was that it seemed more tired than usual, like someone who has run the pick up line at the local bar a whole lot, and while it still works, the game isn’t much fun. It’s grim labor, lying for a living.
I heard nothing about whether austerity is actually working. Nothing about unemployment or prices or any discussion about what happens when you turn off demand that’s already weak. I heard a lot about how the socialists want to bury the rich in taxes, spend what they don’t have and offer ridiculous benefits to the public. Usually, a shot of President Obama managed to appear at some point.
There were also predictions the ‘markets’ would be roiled into chaos, which didn’t happen. It wasn’t a great day, but we’ve all seen worse. The problem with the market as bogeyman may be that markets, like the rest of us, would like to see things get better.