Thursday, November 4, 2010

Some Mary Kay Perspective

David Galland, the Managing Director at Casey Research, summed up the election as below. I wish my "cliff notes" from yesterday's post were as good.

Dear Readers,
One of the most memorable lines I’ve ever heard, I heard while standing in line at a kid’s store in a nearby town.  Even though short, the checkout line had ground to a halt thanks to an irate woman blocking further progress. “She said I could put it there!” she nearly shouted, her face red.  “I’m very sorry, ma’am, but she didn’t have authority to let you do that,” politely explained the man whom I recognized from previous visits as the proprietor of the well-run store.  “Well, then why did she say I could put it there!?!” she asked angrily, stabbing a finger accusingly at a blank space on the checkout counter.  “It was a mistake on her part,” the owner answered patiently. “This is a place of business – my business – and we can’t just let anyone who wants to put things on our checkout counter.”  Casting upon him a steely glare she growled, “Okay, fine! Then just give me my box back!”  With the line still stopped and his customers, me included, looking on, the shop’s owner rummaged around beneath the counter in search of the missing box. Thanks to continued muttering by the angry roadblock, it quickly became apparent that the box in question was meant to harvest business cards from anyone interested in a free makeover from Mary Kay cosmetics. It also became apparent that the box was nowhere to be found.  Even so, the steaming MK rep made it abundantly clear she wasn’t going anywhere until the handsomely decorated cardboard box was back in her hands.

“It’s my property, and I want it back!” she stated in no uncertain terms, giving no ground and entertaining no discussion on the topic, then reinforcing her wrath with a stream of invective while tapping her foot expectantly.  It was at this moment that the proprietor gave up the search for the lost box and, rising up to his full height behind the counter, delivered the memorable line.  “Stop!” he said, emphasizing the point by extending his hand and arm in the forceful manner associated with well-trained crossing guards.  Having halted the MK representative mid-insult, the proprietor delivered his coup des mots.  “Ma’am,” he said, cool as a cucumber, “With all the suffering and misfortune in this world today, do you think we could try to keep this matter in perspective?”

I’ve forgotten her exact response, but if memory serves it was along the lines of, “Huppity huppity uhnn.” With nothing more to say, she took an embarrassed glance at the unsupportive faces of the people she had been holding up, then slinked out of the store.  When it came my time to pay, I smiled widely at the store’s owner and thanked him profusely; for so succinctly saying what so desperately needed to be said… for the excellent entertainment… and for enhancing my spoken repertoire with a useful phrase to be henceforth trotted out whenever confronted by anyone making something out of nothing.

For example, in the context of yesterday’s elections, the punditry is all agog about the big changes to be ushered in by the Republicans regaining much of their lost political clout.  To which I might respond…“With all the suffering and misfortune in this world today, do you think we could try to keep this matter in perspective?”  Appropriate? I think so, and here’s why.  From a big-picture perspective, history clearly shows that in all the ways that actually matter – at least to those who care about personal freedoms and the fostering of a strong economy – it has hardly mattered a whit which of the two entrenched political parties are at the top of the leader board.  Sure, there have been fleeting periods of some small improvements in those key criteria – and these periods have come about during the reigns of both Democrats and Republicans – but it’s mostly been a one-way street toward more government, and the attendant costs of that shift.  On that point alone, one is entitled to be skeptical about any real change coming to pass.  That’s the big picture.

Grinding down a level to the present time, however, we note that the Republican resurgence is largely being attributed to voter concerns over the damaged economy and out-of-control government spending – concerns, you know, we share.  One poll reported that fully nine out of ten people exiting the voting booth said that they thought the economy was in bad shape.  So, now we have the House of Representatives solidly in the Republican camp, and the Senate divided by a razor-thin margin. The big house, of course, is still occupied by Obama. But other than the power of the presidential veto – a double-edged political sword should any of the Republicans’ cut-the-government initiatives actually make it through the Senate – the man is now largely isolated and irrelevant.  No question about it: the real fireworks will be happening in Congress. While we can’t know everything that’s going to be proposed, it’s safe to say that – given the Republican surge – the legislative agenda will be replete with initiatives aimed at undoing some of the worst damage inflicted over the last few years.  And that’s where things get interesting, but maybe not in the way you’d expect. I’ll tell you why in a moment, but first a bit more spade work is required.

While we can’t yet know all the new legislation that will be pushed forward by the reinvigorated Republicans – or drooping Democrats, for that matter – it’s a fairly safe bet that most such legislation won’t make it all the way through the briar patch in order to become law. That’s what gridlock is all about.  That said, rightly fearing for their own fates in the 2012 elections, some Democrats may be tempted to jump the aisle and support the Republicans in passing government-rollback legislation over the next year… legislation that even Obama might be reluctant to veto.

Huzzah, some dear readers might be thinking. Not so fast…The problem with the coming episode of gridlock goes back to the fact that the nine out of ten people mentioned in the poll were right – the economy’s a mess.  Over the last year, the only thing that has kept it from getting downright dire has been the government’s unhesitant intervention… its unleashing trillions of dollars of new money into the economy and supporting failed institutions with trillions more by buying up toxic mortgages, offering purchase incentives, suppressing interest rates, offering tax credits, and so forth.

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