March Madness

In the middle of what his teleprompter once described as “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression”, President Barack Obama visited ESPN studios yesterday to share his Final Four picks in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The President has broken many of his campaign promises, so it’s nice to see he finally kept his word about something.

It’s refreshing to see that even the leader of the (increasingly less) free world has time for a hobby. All work and no play makes Little Timmy a tax cheat and all that. Nero had his fiddle and Catherine the Great had an abiding interest in equine uh sports, and the President takes breaks from his teleprompter, Blackberry and nicotine addictions to shoot hoops.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help wondering if there was any coincidence between Obama’s NCAA picks and last week’s stock market rally, which took place while President Obama was studiously uh studying his Final Four picks and therefore distracted from his primary goal of destroying the American economy to pave the way for Socialism.

In 1994, President Clinton proposed a bold new approach to fighting inner city crime: Midnight Basketball. This was not really such a new idea. A decade earlier, one of my black friends in law school shared the following joke:

Q: How do you stop five black men from raping a white woman?
A: Roll a basketball by them.

Leave it to Bill Clinton to take a racist stereotype and make it the basis for a brilliant public policy idea. While crime rates have fallen since then, it remains uncertain what percentage, if any, of the decrease in crime rates is attributable to Bill Clinton’s midnight basketball programs. But if it worked before, perhaps it’s worth another shot. In any event, I have a new joke I’d like to share, although I’m sure most of you already know the punch line.

Q: How do you stop a black Marxist from destroying the U.S. economy?
A: Ask him about his NCAA Tournament picks.

Growing up in New York City, a place with at least two professional teams in every major sport (assuming the Knicks qualify as a professional team), I’ve never quite understood the hoopla surrounding the NCAA tournament. The only college basketball game that generated any excitement in my neighborhood was when local favorite St. John’s took on archrival Georgetown. Therefore, I don’t have any insightful commentary on the President’s selections, but his example inspired me to share my own Final Four picks. Here they are:

1) Hyperinflation
2) Confiscatory Taxation
3) Crippling Regulation
4) Protectionism

Hyperinflation
Yesterday, while our elected officials were busy distracting the American public with a Kabuki theater display of feigned indignation against the CEO of AIG, the Federal Reserve quietly pumped another $1.2 trillion into the money supply. Last month, I wrote a piece titled “Money for Nothing”, which included a graph courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showing how the money supply has tripled since Y2K. Yesterday’s Fed action represents yet another drastic and desperate measure to resuscitate the economy. It appears to be a variation of the Zimbabwe economic strategy, which sadly has not worked out so well to-date.

Confiscatory Taxation
This pick is a shoo-in given a Marxist Administration hell-bent on demonizing the most productive and entrepreneurial citizens, the very people who create wealth and jobs necessary to economic recovery. Expect this pick to result in diversion of much economic activity from wealth creation to avoiding wealth confiscation, increasing what economist Ludwig von Mises called “mal-investments” at a time when real investments are sorely needed.

Crippling Regulation
Our President’s environmentalist fellow travelers (pun intended) have apparently convinced The One™ of the truth of their environmentalist faith. Who can fail to be moved by the sacrifice of these rich elite Profits who publicly inveigh against the dread scourge of carbon “emissions”? Though personally disinclined to subsist on the locusts and wild honey they recommend for us benighted masses, still they eschew countless frequent flyer miles to travel via private jet to the next environmental revivalist meeting, held not in tents but in air conditioned auditoriums. What better way to stimulate an economy in trouble than by a labyrinthine schema of taxes, fines and transfer payments, known as “cap-and-trade”. As gas prices skyrocket and heating bills triple, the shivering masses can take comfort in the knowledge that we’re doing our part in the fight against Global Warming®, a registered trademark of Al Gore.

Protectionism
This looks like a long-shot among my Final Four economic picks. Yet Candidate Obama seemed quite enthused about the virtues of protectionist intervention in the free market, at least until such time as progressives achieve sufficient uh progress to outlaw free markets altogether. Given the increasing roles unions will play in the continuing campaign to elect more Democrats, expect this dark horse to surprise the rest of the tournament.

* * *

My Final Four choices won’t win any basketball games, but when it comes to destroying a free market economy, they may be hard to beat.

During the final stages of this March Madness season, as we contemplate our decimated 401k accounts, worry about keeping our jobs and paying our mortgages, and face the certainty of higher taxes that somehow never suffice to fund out-of-control government spending, I find myself nostalgically recalling those exciting St. John’s basketball games from two decades ago. The fellow they named the school after was quite famous for his Final Four picks — and when I say “his Final Four picks”, I really do mean Final Four.

You can find St. John’s Final Four selections in the back of a very old book; their names are War, Pestilence, Famine and Death. They may not appear in time for this year’s NCAA tournament, but rest assured, they are coming.

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