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December 17th, 2008


by Sean Jaeger

The Great Wall Street Panic of 2008 should have taught us all some very valuable lessons. Lesson number one should be to forget about all those people on Wall Street and in Washington, on television, and in the newspapers telling us everything is going to be all right and we should just hold on tight.

Just who do you think was selling all those stocks flushing the Dow Jones average down the toilet to levels not seen in years? That’s right, the very same people telling us not to panic. The rats don’t want us to panic because they want to get off the sinking ship first.

The lesson is, don’t just stand there; panic. Panic first, panic fast and panic often.

Simply put, the guy who panics first gets a lot of cash to put in the mattress where he or she can save it until the storm passes over so he can buy a lot of bargains. In other words he sells near the top so he can buy near the bottom. Call this guy your broker, your hedge fund manager, or your financial advisor.

What they all need is a willing buyer when they panic early, and a willing seller, when the vultures are ready to start picking over the corpses for some shiny bargain baubles. That’s us. The last guy to panic is the biggest loser and also the last guy to recover his nerve and buy again. This means he buys at the top and sells at the bottom. Call this guy a sucker, a victim: us.

But looking ahead, keep your eye on those trillions of dollars of bailouts, guarantees, and rescue plans for everyone but you and me. Instead, we’ll get to pay it off. The blowback from that move is going to haunt us all for years. The question to ask is where does all that money come from, and the answer is simple. The name of the process is printing money and the inevitable result is inflation. Prices are going to keep going up and the value of the money in your pocket, and your bank, and your 401-k is going to keep going down.

If you have any money left pretty soon real estate is going to be the best bargain you can buy. Right now cash is king, but as the shake-out continues, hard assets like real estate are going to be the best money farms.

And the next time you hear someone blame the whole crisis on “irresponsible people who bought homes they couldn’t afford,” just remember the real deadbeats who brought this catastrophic credit crash down on us are predatory lenders who made bad loans to rake in commissions, greedy bankers gouging out artificially high returns by slicing and dicing dodgy mortgages into bundles of financial time bombs, and the high rollers playing liar’s poker with tens of trillions of dollars worth of unregulated credit default swaps to go with them. The people threatened with foreclosure were trying to buy into the American dream and keep a roof over the heads. The financial four-flushers defaulting on millions and billions of dollars of toxic toilet paper are still trying to keep their unearned millions.

Meantime, keep your seat belts fastened, my friends. This roller coaster ride is just getting started.

‘Seatbelts’ serves as a reminder that all of this is another part of the giant regulation two-step our so-called leaders and political bullies keep trying to force us to dance to.

For example, take a look at the Lobster Inn, now most likely destined to die after almost 50 years of serving the community just because of a bunch of bureaucratic busybodies who should go out and play in traffic instead insist on making idiotic rules and regulations about traffic flow, like NO LEFT TURN at the Lobster Inn.

For decades the Lobster Inn perched at the lip of the dreaded merge where the primary road to and from Southampton and points east shrank to just two lanes. The huge trade parade crashed into the bottleneck and slowed to a murderous crawl during rush hours. The rest of the time daring drivers played russian roulette with the local highwaymen (otherwise known as cops) supplementing local government revenues by lurking in the bushes to ambush drivers going too far over the unofficial 65 mile an hour speed limit. Somehow, for decades, with only two measly lanes to choose from and speeds often exceeding 60 miles an hour, people managed to turn right and left all along this highway every day.

Now, after decades of dithering, the road has been widened to four lanes but the speed limit has been reduced to 35 miles an hour, with huge communist style signs emblazoned with speed gun-toting, threatening cops trying to scare you to death. Except for cops left turns are banned just about everywhere, for no particularly good reason. This followed a truly ridiculous interim plan which turned miles of this crucial highway into a three lane road specially laid out so that no one was allowed to use the middle lane for almost the entire length of the road, miles of empty asphalt going to waste. The few places where the authorities deigned to allow left hand turns were usually set up in such a way as to encourage head-on collisions as people going in opposite directions both dived into the middle lane to make a quick left. The bumbling bureaucrats also closed off and barricaded a bunch of feeder roads whose only sin was to provide some relief for short cutters trying to get around the merge madness.

With four lanes reduced to a 35 mile an hour crawl, why not just let people signal for a left turn, just like they would on, say, Queens Boulevard, and turn left wherever they want to? After all, people often drive faster on Canal Street in SoHo.

How is it the same people who don’t want to regulate Wall Street want to regulate places like the Lobster Inn out of business?

All over the Hamptons there seems to be a mania for trying to remake the place into a Disney fantasy land.

Bridgehampton was once home to a world famous race track. The late Paul Newman raced there. But then people moved into the once despised scrub land north of the highway and complained about the track. Now the only remnant of a once proud tradition is trophy antique cars coming once a year for the Bridgehampton Vintage Auto Rally and Classic Car Tour. Now, instead of a place enjoyed by thousands, the old race track is the gated haunt of Disneyesque McMansions for the rich few and an exclusive golf course famous for having an employee arrested after a deadly bar brawl in a Southampton Pub.

Airports east and west, East Hampton and Westhampton, come under constant attack, largely from people who moved there long after the airports arrived. Maybe we need a time stamp on some local ballots. If you weren’t there before the race track or airport or store or farm stand you are protesting was built you have no vote on regulating it.

In fact the regulation-rag mania seems to be a big problem all up and down the scale. The same group that says let’s not regulate free market forces, like Wall Street, wants to regulate what judges are allowed to do, wants to regulate birth control and sex education, and they want to regulate sex in our bedrooms and abortion rights right out of existence. But for God’s sake, don’t you dare try to regulate big business. It seems only a little inconsistent, right?

How about this as a new rule—why don’t all the people who want deregulation for themselves stop trying to regulate the rest of us?

Let’s regulate the fat cats and the government and deregulate the people.

After all, that’s what the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution were all about. They liked a good lobster back then, too.

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