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Man of the House by Chris Erskine

Fannie, welcome to my world

OK, so Posh-onomics was a bust. Maybe I'll turn the house into a billboard.

September 27, 2008|Chris Erskine

OUR 5-YEAR-OLD wakes up, stumbles to the bathroom where his mother is getting dressed and says, "Mommy, you missed a good dream."

He thinks we all share the same dream, like a TV show, like a Hallmark movie. I would trade my car for one night of his dreams. To rollick in the wonderland that exists between his flimsy ears.

"This is the funny part, so don't laugh . . .," he says, starting to explain the dream.

My lord what a September, what a dream. Doesn't this month seem like it's been six weeks long? We've spent much of it watching Ben S. Bernanke -- he of the Fed -- stand at the lectern wearing that thousand-mile stare.

Mr. Bernanke may be a fine and decent man, but his very countenance worries me. Guys like me can have slumping shoulders and thousand-mile stares -- it's to be expected. But not pinhead plutocrats with their fingers on the nation's floor safe.

"We need to keep an eye on this," I say while reading the newspaper, my user's manual to the world.

"On what?" Posh asks.

"The economy," I say.

"OK, Greenspan," she says.

Like most of us, Posh is disappointed in the events of the last few weeks. For years, she has tried to spend our country back toward prosperity and failed, though it hasn't dimmed her enthusiasm for the Grove, the Americana or those expensive little shops in Old Town Pasadena.

I call it Posh-onomics. It's based on the idea that a $280 pair of shoes helps everyone, not just her. Of course, if she'd merely pay the cell bill, the Dow would probably shoot up 500 points.

Meanwhile, in this long September, our household budget has been tested like never before. The other day, the "check engine" light came on again in the minivan. Stinkin' car is only 11 years old. Can't the Japanese make anything?

A day later, the government turned down our bailout request. I had assured Treasury officials that, were they looking to purchase billions and billions in bad debt, they could just write me a big fat check right here.

They declined, so now our kitchen -- the place where we tend to pay our bills and worry deep into the night -- has begun to resemble the control room in "The China Syndrome," when all the lights are blinking and no one knows for sure what's going to happen next.

"Who's Fannie Mae?" one of the kids asks as Matt Lauer moans on and on about Wall Street, as if he has an infected toe.

"Remember 'Petticoat Junction'?" I ask.

"No."

"Well, Fannie Mae was the redhead," I explain.

How she ended up in the mortgage business, I'll never know, but that's just the way the world seems to work, in a smoke screen of procedures that even Fed chiefs can't fathom. In America, if the right person takes a liking to you, you can emerge from total obscurity to a position of tremendous influence. (Yes, I'm talking about Jeff Zucker.)

Good thing I'm not a worrier. Yet, here's an idea: Find me the man or woman who can explain, in plain English, exactly what went wrong and let's elect him or her our next leader right now. Not in two months but this minute, the way the Brits do.

Right now, I'm leaning toward my buddy Alan, who did a pretty good job of explaining this mess at one of those juiced-up suburban soirees we're always attending, like it or not.

Wine glass in hand, Alan painted a picture of greed and suffering worthy of a miniseries. It was like "Roots" in reverse, where we all end up as slaves.

"Get ready for 50% tax rates," Alan warned, and the three guys standing around him all got that thousand-mile Bernanke stare.

I'm ready. Bring on that big crushing $700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 debt. I don't mind paying through the nose because a few sensationally rich companies overextended themselves in an effort to satisfy sensationally rich foreign investors. Besides, I've developed an economic plan of my own.

First, I've been eating lots and lots of eggs, in hopes of storing up protein while protein is still available.

Second, on Monday morning, I plan to sell the naming rights to our house.

It's a sprawling villa set in the foothills of Los Angeles. It was once a Medieval Times, till the health department closed it down because we mixed the silverware with the swords. During damp weather, you can still smell the horses.

Since then, we have raised four kids in this villa, along with two dogs, a cat, several hamsters and an opossum or two.

What corporation wouldn't want its name across our roof? A huge telecom company would be a great fit, but we'll settle for something dignified as well.

I'll also throw in the 5-year-old, who prefaces stories with, "This is the funny part, so don't laugh. . . . "

But laugh anyway. Really, what else you gonna do?

--

Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com. For more columns, see latimes.com/erskine.

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