Ben Bernanke Needs a Hooker’s Heart

Crash Davis: Look, Nuke - these Big League hitters are gonna light you up like a pin ball machine for awhile - don’t worry about it. Be cocky and arrogant even when you’re getting beat. That’s the secret.

You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance.

Nuke LaLoush: Fear and ignorance.

Crash: No. Fear and arrogance, you hayseed, not ignorance.

In truth, the Federal Reserve has fewer economic tools in its toolkit than your average left hander has pitches. The secret to success — as any good pitcher, poker player, or even hooker knows – is arrogance. Alan Greenspan was not the brightest bulb on the economic Christmas tree. Granted, the Federal Reserve’s evergreen has always been a dimly lit affair. But Greenspan had a skill that served him well – he had arrogance.

Greenspan never had the economy under control – no one person, agency, or government could. But he got up in front of Congress and strutted his stuff like he was the best piece of economic ass to ever walk the streets. Maybe he was well-served by delusion. Or maybe he just knew he was the best at a game primarily played with smoke and mirrors.

Any good poker player knows that poker is a game played with cards, but won with psychology. And any hooker worth her salt knows that being pretty means nothing. Give me the bankroll of a fat old hooker who has the audacity to make you believe she’s unlocked sexual secrets you could only dream about over the bankroll of a Julia Roberts wannabe any day.

The economy is not “played” with interest rates and money supply any more than poker is played with cards. In large part, it is a psychological game. And investor and consumer confidence give the Fed its fragile edge.

This week Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, aided by Treasury Secretary Paulson, gave up the edge. Bernanke berated Congress for not immediately passing his ill-conceived three page bailout bill to buy toxic banking assets. Never mind that $700 billion was pissing into the $63 trillion wind of the world’s credit-default swaps. But he needed all this money right away, or the economic world as we knew it was going to end. So this week, after spending just half of the bailout - temporarily shoring up the balance sheets of a few big banks and insuring that AIG had ample capital to continue its island getaways - Bernanke confessed he had no idea what to do with the rest of the money. Buying toxic assets, he now admits, is out of the question. And he doesn’t think the money should go to car companies or home mortgages. Most pitchers fight to stay in the game even when the bases are loaded. But only armed with ignorance, you get the feeling Bernanke is just waiting for the new coach to pull him.

Also not helping on the arrogance front: the Fed released the minutes of their last meeting where they basically said they would continue to lower interest rates, but were fairly certain that interest rate reductions would do little to help. “Committee members agreed that significant easing in policy was warranted at this meeting in view of the marked deterioration in the economic outlook and anticipated reduction in inflation pressures. Some members were concerned that the effectiveness of cuts in the target federal funds rate may have been diminished by the financial dislocations, suggesting that further policy action might have limited efficacy in promoting a recovery in economic growth.”

Geez guys, why not just come out and say we’re fucked and you don’t know what to do about it. Actually, in Fed-speak, I think that’s exactly what they said.

Bernanke better hope that the next Chairman can battle the Fed’s exposed culture of ignorance, because I doubt Ben could make a living peddling his ass on the street in good times, let alone during the protracted recession we are wading into.

You can blame Pauly for my hooker/Fed analogy. I was at work when the Fed’s minutes were made public, and I just couldn’t bear to watch the market’s steady slide as a result. I don’t normally surf at work, but this was an emergency. Lucky for me, my first stop was Pauly’s post “Existentialist Conversations with Hookers: Maelstrom at the Hooker Bar.” Not only did I ponder the brilliant audacity of hookers, but I got to relive some of my favorite moments of WSOPs past – shared over a few drinks with Otis and Pauly at said hooker bar. By the way, I think someone needs to start compiling a list of the aliases Pauly uses with hookers. This time he was a propane and propane accessory salesman ala Hank Hill. I know he’s been a striking screenplay writer. Was he a pilot – or an astronaut - once?

I did actually get caught surfing at work. My boss peeked his head in and asked what I was doing.

”I’m reading about a hooker bar in Vegas and thinking about Ben Bernanke.”

”Right.”

3 Comments

  1. Posted November 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Love the new-and-improved blog, Amy! And its inclusion of more-than-poker. Jealous!

  2. wildbill41
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    And how many times has he been an architect?

    Bill

  3. Posted November 26, 2008 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Friedman was a Libertarian and his supposed hero. If that was true, he’d have run screaming from the fed chairmanship. The Libs seem right in characterizing the fed as incapable of doing good but very capable of doing evil.

    Back before the wheel, the computer club I belonged to met at the UoC Grad School of Biz. One time, the meeting room was in use and we met next door at Econ — ratty stepchild. Two of my fellow geeks (XT era) had their PHuD in Econ from there and in hushed voices showed me Milt’s old office. He wasn’t big on status offices.

    Money supply = Drunken Sailor

    Y2K fear unleashed the flood. And Wall St. can always put it “to work”…