MARTY RUSSELL: Meteors and markets: What goes up …

By Marty Russell

I’ve heard a lot of pundits, politicians and pontificators in the past few days doing their best Chicken Little impersonations by warning that the sky is falling this week. Turns out, they’re right.
Most of them, of course, were referring to the nose dive the stock market has taken since one credit rating agency reduced the United States’ score from first string to injured reserve. I’ll admit that I don’t have the dollars and maybe too much sense to play the stock market. The verb used to describe what one does in the stock market – play – should be enough of a caveat to cause most sensible folks to avoid it like a salmonella turkey sandwich. If I want to play with money, I’ll break out the Monopoly board.
No, playing the stock market is too much like gambling to me only, in most cases, you’re handing your cards over to someone else – brokers – to make the important decisions for you, like whether to fold or up the ante. And the whole concept of asking the private sector – you and me – to bankroll large corporations so they can get even larger seems more like a Ponzi scheme than a sound economic strategy. After all, isn’t that why we have banks, to loan businesses money and ensure a return on their investment? With the stock market there is no guaranteed return.
So much of the discussion following this week’s crash has been on where investors should put their money now that is safe. Some have suggested gold, which hit an all-time high this week. Others say U.S. Treasury bonds are still the safest haven for investors. Personally, I would recommend putting your money into Maxwell House, and then burying the can in the backyard. That’s the only way to know it’s really safe.
And even more perplexing than the stock market is futures trading, betting on something that may or may not happen at some point in the future. I got a call once while working at the Daily Journal from a man who wanted to know what pig futures looked like. I explained to him that I knew absolutely nothing about pig futures but, if it was on the market it probably didn’t look too good for the pig.
But, in a way, all those shouting that the sky is falling this week actually were right. Starting tonight and peaking on Friday night is the annual Perseid meteor shower with an expected 60 to 120 shooting stars each hour. Look to the northeast at a time when this week’s full moon is not in the way to catch the best glimpse.
The stock market and its investors could learn something from the Perseids – what goes up, must come down.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University, MS 38677 or by email at marusse1@olemiss.edu.