Wednesday, October 01, 2008

456 The Financial Crisis and Grandma's Victrola

456 The Financial Crisis & Grandma's Victrola

Grandma Julia's Victrola is about 80 or 90 years old and a little battered. Stands about four feet tall, which means Grandma had to strain a little bit to put those Caruso and Ukulele Ike records on the turntable.

It works. You wind it up, you put on the record, you put down the needle and music comes out. Great in a power outage. Not a bad piece of furniture, either. In fact, the cabinets have outlived the works for many of these machines. Nice mahogany with a reddish tinge. A little bit of checking on the finish, but a fine and stately object. The brass hardware is perfect and so is the decal picture of the Victor Talking Machine, later the RCA Victor dog on the underside of the top. This contraption dominated the foyer for more than four decades, then came to visit here and stayed.

It is a valuable artifact or a valuable antique. Or not.

One attempt to sell it brought bids so low as to make parting with it unworthy. A second attempt brought bids so high as to make parting with it economically unfeasible. Is the thing worth a couple of hundred bucks or a couple of thousand? Or both? Or neither.

Who knows.

The contraption is a symbol, though, beside being the only known way to play those old 78 rpm records.

No one knows what it's worth.

Kind of like WaMu or Wachovia, your General Motors stock, your house, your IRA and a dozen eggs.

And here's where the Victrola and the financial markets merge.

No one knows what anything's worth.

That's something the "bailout" doesn't deal with.

Until we know that, we don't know what to do with the bailout. Or the Victrola.

Grandma Julia would say "sell the thing for the best price you can get."

That may have worked in the 1920s. It's not working now.


Shrapnel:

--Welcome aboard, Kevin, and better late than never. That's Kevin Hassett, McCain adviser, biggie at the American Enterprise Institute and a Bloomberg News columnist, has put up a column called "Magic Ring to Save Us May Be Accounting Overhaul." There's great doubt such a luminary first got that idea by readingWessay #450, "Booty Call," posted 9/17/08, but there are similar ideas in both postings.

--RIP the heavily subsidized, conservative New York Sun newspaper. Six years of trying to convince us of your point of view, exceptional reporting; exceptional writing, exceptional editing. Credit that last part to SethLipsky, late of the Wall Street Journal and founding editor of the English language version of the Forward newspaper.

--This leaves New Yorkers without a sane conservative source of news. The Post doesn't qualify. Maybe if they put a New Yorker in the top job there....

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

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