Our "Make It Look Good" Economy Has Failed

When rigged numbers are the basis of our success, we have failed.

The essence of the U.S. economy is make it look good: never mind quality or long-term consequences, just make it look good today, this week, this month, this quarter: make the pink slime look like meat, make the company look profitable, make the low-quality product look good enough to close the sale, make the unemployment rate low enough to justify re-electing the toadies currently in power, make the body count of bad guys look good, and on and on--just makes the numbers look good now, the future will take care of itself.

This is, of course, an attractive lie: the future is a direct consequence of present decisions and actions. It is remarkable how quickly we latch onto the notion that an endless parade of lies, manipulations and deceptions will magically produce a warm and fuzzy future of organic growth fostered by sound investments.

Alas, an economy that relies on an endless parade of lies, manipulations and deceptions has only one possible future: failure--abject, total, undeniable, devastating. Equally remarkable is the current conviction that absurd extremes in manipulation--the billions of dollars of corporate buybacks pushing stocks higher, the socialization of the U.S. mortgage market, where privately issued mortgages (unbacked by government guarantees) have virtually vanished, the ginned-up unemployment number (remove enough potential workers from the count and the unemployment rate is soon near-zero)--will magically lead to an economy that no longer needs extreme manipulations to sustain itself.

All these lies (if we are bold enough to call a lie a lie) and manipulations cannot possibly herald in an economy of honest reporting, market discovery of price and sound investments.

This is equivalent to doing nothing but eating junk food while playing martial-arts videogames for months on end and then expecting to beat Tony Jaa in a real-world sparring match. Only people who've lost touch with reality would think that getting fat and wheezy playing videogames while eating Happy Meals and Ho-Hos would create a future that required an entirely different set of decisions and disciplines.

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