Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Bankruptcy Wishes from The Devil and Norma Jean

June 1st has once again made its way onto my desk calendar.

Unlike dates of significance that are associated with a holiday or moment of societal reflection, a birthday is more personal. This year's transit, for me, has proven to be a day of unique confluences that I can honestly say, as a younger man, I would not have expected.

As of this hour, twenty-two people have come together in one place from different parts of my past to wish me well today. I've heard from high-school acquaintances from the early 1980's, past and current professional colleagues, clients, service providers, friends and relatives. All of them have written on my Facebook wall today, in a sort of virtual birthday party that started on the 29th and will probably linger into mid-week. I've long-since stopped being awe-struck by internet technologies - there hasn't really been a disruptive innovation in this space for years. However, the disruptive application of internet technologies continues to weave social tapestries that had no counterparts just 5 years ago, let alone twenty or more.

Every day on the calendar contains footnotes to famous events, births and deaths. Certainly the news of today will add another footnote that will be of far greater impact than I could expect to have. At 8:00am this morning, General Motors, which at one point employed over 500,000 skilled workers and was the manufacturing engine of the United States, became a ward of the state and filed for bankruptcy. Unfortunately, this was an event that was foreseeable, especially in the last few months. Yet in that time, the American taxpayer has been subjected to a fleecing of epic proportions to support GM and its denial of the inevitable. The price tag for such hubris, funded predominantly for political expedience, has already put taxpayers on the hook for $100 billion dollars and is likely to pass $150 billion as the true depth of the liabilities are uncovered.

Do you know what $150 billion could have bought today? The Apollo program, which ran from 1961 to 1972 and put humanity on the moon (creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and spurring technology and manufacturing innovation on a scale we haven't seen since from any other single event) cost $25.4 billion in 1969 dollars. In 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars, that comes out to just under $148 billion. President Obama says we may ask ourselves, "Where's my Moon?". Apparently, it's been hacked to bits and locked in the trunks of our fathers' Oldsmobiles, which the mob has already collected and placed into outsourced car crushers.

Thanks, Barry. Keep the Change.

Maybe you could spend it on a birthday party of your own, as a predecessor of yours once did.

Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1st.

Still, among the well-wishes and gifts that did not come with a certificate of perpetual wealth transfer from the IRS, was an extremely practical birthday reflection / greeting from Satan (via my goddaughter). It was a short, to the point, pull-no-punches message studded with the realities of what will befall people on any given birthday.

This guy's good. If only we had such clarity and sobering honesty in our country's fiscal and monetary policies (to say nothing of the budget). He clearly seems to have the capacity to show us exactly the road we're on and the Inferno to which it leads.

Dante was born on June 1st. I wonder if Virgil ever threw him a party?

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