Friday, May 23, 2008

A-Rod Economy? Or Manny Economy?

Economists deal in the theoretical, and in predictions.

They analyze the actual, and then, if the actual matches the theoretical they've chosen, they toot their own horns in mind-numbing newspaper columns and magazine articles. (I love Paul Krugman's willingness and ability to spell it out in the New York Times, but the guy isn't much of a writer and his style often does his cause no good.)

If the actual doesn't match the theoretical they've chosen, they simply say their theoretical was improperly applied, or circumstances outside the control of (choose based on your politics: the government, or the free market) interfered.

In the 1992 campaign, as the economy had flattened out and was crawling back up, at a pace far too slow to help most people, the elder George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle kept talking about how well the stock market was doing and how low interest rates were.

Morons. Bill Clinton talked to people about their own economic situations, as they actually were, not as economists told them it should have been, and he listened, and he came up with possible solutions, and he proposed them to the people, and they elected him in a landslide, and he fixed the economy, making it better than ever.

The average American doesn't measure the economy by stats spouted by some economist liked by the President (whoever he may be at a given time). He measures it by, How much money is in my pocket? How much do I have in the bank? How much can I afford to put on my credit card? Can I afford to get sick, or care for a relative who does? Can I afford to make a repair on my house or my car? How much food is in my refrigerator and cabinets? Can I get that new pair of shoes this week? Can I buy a full tank of gas? Will I have to miss a payment on (whatever) this month?

Economists measure the economy by cold, hard statistics.

People measure the economy by cold, hard facts -- sometimes even colder and harder than the statistics.

Eddie Stanky was a baseball player and then a manager. He didn't believe in stats. He said, "If I stick one foot in an ice tray and another in an oven, according to a statistician, I should feel fine."

Broadcaster Vin Scully says, "Statistics are like lampposts. Use them for illumination. Not for support."

And somebody else -- was it Woody Allen? -- said, "Statistics are like bikinis: What they reveal can be great, but what they don't reveal is more important."

How does this apply to politics? Simple: Argue what you can. If your friends are telling you the economy is doing fine, and they have numbers to back up their opinion, tell people that. But if you see people every day telling you, "Mr./Mrs. Candidate, the people are hurting, we need someone to turn this economy around," then maybe you have the wrong friends, or friends who would be doing well in any economy.

Think of it as an A-Rod Economy: Yes, Alex Rodriguez puts up monster numbers, which he should, since he's the highest-paid athlete in the history of North American team sports.

But he's never won a Pennant, let alone a World Series, and his postseason performances have been horrible. People who can afford the price of a ticket maybe one time a season know that they're not getting an appropriate bang for their buck.

Case in point: On Tuesday night, A-Rod came off the disabled list and hit a home run against the Baltimore Orioles. At the moment he hit it, the Yankees were losing 10-0. In other words, nobody cared, regardless of what team they root for.

Contrast that with Manny Ramirez, who might just be the dumbest great player in baseball history. (He hasn't exactly gone out of his way to dispel that perception.) He's certainly one of the most ridiculous-looking players ever. (Oddly, as a Cleveland Indian he shaved his head, but as a Boston Red Sock he looks like he can't make up his mind between Hippie and Rastafarian.)

But his playing, which will soon result in his 500th career home run (a milestone A-Rod surpassed last season), has led to his teams winning 4 Pennants and 2 World Series, in one of which he was named Most Valuable Player. "Winning Ugly" is still winning.

What would you rather live in: An A-Rod economy, in which a few rich guys get richer, and whether anyone else does well wouldn't matter? Or a Manny Being Manny economy, in which, no matter how much some people complain about how it looks, everybody on the team ultimately benefits?

I'm a Yankee Fan. I despise the Red Sox. And I wouldn't want Manny on my team, because he's too unpredictable. You never know when one of his homers is going to get canceled out by a baserunning or fielding blunder, and you never know when he's not gonna show up at all.

But I'd rather have a Manny economy than an A-Rod economy.

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