Sunday, January 11, 2009

Focal Point

My son's newest party trick is singing "Twinkle Twinkle" to himself, all throughout the day. To grandma's sheer delight, he sang her a melodic bar of it this week. We can hear him singing to us early in the am via his monitor, from his little man kingdom (e.g. crib.) We can't get enough of it. Ergo, he can't get enough of us not getting enough of it. Before that, it was climbing on the kitchen chair and banging the keyboard on which I now type. Prior to that, he had a killer 'toothy grin' (and if you've seen it in real life, well. You know.)

Our focus then, continually changes with these developmental stages.. when he can do more, understand more, vocalize more, we latch onto it and ride the new stage's wave. Sometimes it becomes hard to look back and envision the start of the stage, when he could first start saying the syllable of that new word. When he could sing. When he started to run down the hallway, stubby arms overhead, careening around a corner. When did that start again?

Is that not exactly what's happening with the financial meltdown?

Take this quote from a recent Washington Post article about AIG's implosion:

Many of the most compelling aspects of the economic cataclysm can be seen through the story of AIG and its Financial Products unit: the failure of credit-rating firms, the absence of meaningful federal regulation, the mistaken belief that private contracts did not pose systemic risk, the veneration of computer models and quantitative analysis.
(Washington Post, 12/29/08, The Beautiful Machine)

In other words, we all weren't all that focused on what was going on. People were making money on Wall Street, super. Stocks were going up, great. Credit Default Swaps and Hedge funds went unregulated. So what? (OR, in some cases, from Congress, "what are those?")

Remember that $168 Billion stimulus package in Feb. 2008? The Facebook group "I'm sending my stimulus check to Barack Obama?" Remember that Bear Stearns failed in March, a month later? But still, we enjoyed a nice bump in the stock market in the first half of the second quarter that followed. The point is, we weren't entirely all on the same page. Some were still sending vast sums to Bernard Madoff, while panic-stricken Bear employees had their bright futures and 401(k)s ripped away from them.

It's interesting to think about focus. Now we're all panic-stricken. The latest bad economic news is always a text or breaking email away or blog post away. We know how bad the numbers are, and we know right away. The information flow is unlike anything our economy has ever seen--New or Old. Just like we like to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle." We can't stop.


Anonymous,  January 12, 2009 at 4:28 AM  

Twinkle, twinkle - so cute.

J is a big "ABC" fan. I love it.

(I'm doing my best to stop reading all the news stories, but it's like a car wreck. I'm having a hard time looking away.)



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