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And the Rich Get Richer
August 3, 2002
By Doug Pibel

Ah, the life of Ari Fleischer, the puppet run by a marionette. What was it he said a while back? Something about his every word being the expression of the inner truth of our Dear Leader. Pinnochio channels Howdy Doody.

Lately, he was on about saving our hard-won freedom to exercise our boundless savvy by investing our trickles in the powerful money machine of the stock market. Has Ari's faith in the privatization of Social Security been the least rattled by the latest revelation that the stock market is the longest-running known Ponzi scheme? The Boss Man's faith is unabated; Ari's remains firm.

All it takes is a bit of money, any amount, almost, to put into the this-time-for-sure perpetual motion machine, and we'll all be rich. Take the tiniest grubstake, a little crumb that could hardly be noticed missing from the great Social Security loaf, add that market knowledge we all possess as an American birthright, wait some prudent amount of time, and Huey Long will be proven right: Every Man a King. Why, just look at the fortunes recently made in the stock market! GW Bush made one. Kenny Lay made one. Bernie Ebbers made one. Even Dick Cheney made the quick slide from bureaucrat to corporate chieftan in time to make one.

If you think it was just the big guys, look at all those millionaire day-traders. Oh. We don't talk about day traders any more, do we? Not since their adventures in little-guy arbitrage resulted in a murder or two, more than a few bankruptcies, and a general object lesson in the vagaries of putting all your money in the market without knowing who's pulling which strings.

You're a regular American, right? One of the millions who are separated from a personal fortune only by the devotion of elitist socialists to an outmoded mechanism for keeping the elderly from abject poverty.

So what's your hot pick? What's your investment strategy, once you get your hands on that all-important grand a year that our Dear Leader wants to put in your freedom-loving hands? You've been studying the stock pages in eager anticipation. Haven't you?

Well, of course you have. Just as much as anybody else. And you know what you'll do if you get to direct your investment future. You'll do exactly what the overwhelming majority of the newly-formed little-guy investing class did over the last decade. You'll put it in a mutual fund.

All the blather about "we're all in the stock market now" doesn't change the truth. During the roaring 90s, great numbers of the great unwashed put money into equities. Almost all of them exercised no greater market analysis than choosing amongst no-load mutuals. Some opted for 401k accounts heavily loaded with shares of their employers' stock; many now wish they hadn't had quite so much investment freedom.

The number of people outside the moneyed class who actually spent time sorting amongst individual issues, who acted like the classic stock speculator, is infinitesimal. The number of such people who actually got "rich" (consider that, to the folks amidst whom Ari moves, a million bucks is chump change) is vanishingly small.

Ari and his boss tell us that, if everybody can invest in the market, we'll all be better off. They're not lying. They just have a different definition of "we." Their "we" is constituted of the people who make money moving money. There's no question that stockbrokers will be better off if Social Security is privatized. Likewise investment bankers. Same for the Lays and Ebberses at the top of the pyramid.

You and me? The principal freedom Ari is concerned about for us is our freedom to hand ever more money to the people who really deserve it.

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