Ben Bernanke’s Speech

Posted by Marc Hodak on August 24, 2011 under Economics | Be the First to Comment

August 26, 2011.

Ben Bernanke goes up to the podium, and looks around at an expectant crowd, every ear bent in his direction, wondering what he will announce to kick start the economy. He sees the cameras trained on him, ready to carry around the world his brilliant musings, and his expert prescription for what to do next. The global markets await.

Ben clears his throat, looks around, and begins.

“Why are you all looking at me? What the hell do you expect me to do?”

Whoever wasn’t sitting up already is now.

“OK, our economy is in the crapper. You think I can save you? Do you think I can make microchips tumble out of my sleeve? Do you think I can sprout corn out of my ass?

“Oh yeah, I control the money supply. Oh boy, the money supply. Right here in these hands. I can put extra numbers on a ledger appearing at some bank. I can take the numbers off. I can put the numbers on again. I can take the numbers back off.

“Big shit. That doesn’t produce anything. And for you Keynesians out there, who believe that it should have helped spur production, well, look around.

“No, folks, the only way we are going to kick start this economy is to produce things. And the only way we are going to produce things is for you to: Get. Off. Your. Asses. And I don’t mean pushing more paper and writing opinions about it. I’m talking real work.”

He twists his face in mock misery, “‘Oh, but there are no jobs, Mr. Chairman. Oh, no one will hire us. Oh, whatever are we going to do?’” He straightens up, and pats down his beard.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is an unlimited amount of work that needs to be done in this country. And there is plenty of money out there to pay people to do it.” He looks at the puzzled expressions in the crowd.

“I need my gutters cleaned. I don’t have time to clean them. What with having to manage the money supply, and getting called by those ignoramuses on Capitol Hill to answer their inane questions…I don’t even have time to find my Johnson. But I have a hundred bucks. Right here, for anyone with enough skill to climb a ladder and scoop shit. Trust me, you are better off taking my $100 and spending it on a lap dance, than sitting around complaining about there being no jobs.” The crowd murmurs.

“What, you don’t think $100 is enough? That wouldn’t get you out of your chair? Or $200 bucks to plant a garden? Or $500 bucks to paint a house? I know, I know; you can make more than that sitting on your front porch collecting 99 weeks of unemployment.”

He takes a deep breath.  “I don’t blame you. My colleagues are handing it out as if it were other people’s money. Or maybe some weenie from Labor will complain that my offer may not amount to minimum wage, depending how slow you work.  Or maybe some union asshole will file a grievance that if I hire you on the cheap that some pal of his my not get that job. So, in the meantime, my gutters stay clogged while you’re sitting on your ass. There’s economics for you.

“I don’t know. Maybe there are too many impediments to all the stuff that needs to get done. You’re not allowed to watch your neighbor’s kids, or ferry them around town to work or shop without a license from the state. You’re not allowed to fix the overcrowded buildings you live in without violating god-knows-what codes because some jack hurt himself and got a jury of his peers to award him a lifetime supply of your and my income. Maybe we’re only allowed to do jobs where the permits have been obtained at the town hall, certified by the state, compliant with innumerable and conflicting federal codes…  Maybe you can’t do anything substantial without fifteen lawyers having to get involved. Maybe we’re just screwed.

“Well, maybe. But don’t let anyone tell you that we have to spend money first because the demand isn’t there. There is infinite demand.  My wife likes tomatoes. She doesn’t have time, but she has a hundred bucks, too. Yeah, I know, everyone from the town clerk to the Department of Agriculture has something to say about that. Been there. The fact remains, there are an unlimited number of needs out there that are going unfilled. There is money.  Lots of it.  Don’t blame me if they aren’t coming together.

“Still, you are all looking at me, an academic who hasn’t set up so much as a lemonade stand, wondering, ‘What are you going to do?”

He looks around the room at the now-terrified faces. “I’m not going to do anything. Here is what you can do. Go home. Write down a list of the top ten things you’d like to have done, but haven’t had time to do yourself because you’re running around to exotic locales listening to talking heads pretending they have something important to say. It should take you about ten minutes. Then try to legally hire someone who is out of work to do those things. And when you fail, list all the reasons it didn’t work out—paperwork headaches, legal costs, insurance codes, etc. That list is what is wrong with our economy. Not the lack of jobs. Not the money supply. When you wonks figure that out, we might begin to get somewhere.

“In the meantime, I’m gonna check out the Grand Tetons. Inside joke, there. I’ve got the money supply on autopilot.  We thought we might peg it to Chinese yuan, just to see what happens.”

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