The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, September 20, 2006  

In the Business Pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer

This has been a long time coming, but I have to say today that I've about had it with Andrew Cassel, who writes a column creatively entitled "The Economy" for the Philadelphia Inquirer's business section.

This is a guy who in the four or five years I've been reading -- and been consistently amazed by -- his work, has never met a piece of negative, disturbing, or troublesome bit of economic data he couldn't try to explain away by relying on the type of dogma discredited supply-siders, monetarists, and doctrinaire "free-marketeers" (There's no contradiction in Cassel's mind -- Hey, whatever's handy.) were slamming down the throats of gullible freshmen and first-year MBA students circa 1982.

Today, in "The Housing Bubble has Popped, But Most Need Not Worry," Cassel concedes "the Great Housing Boom of the early 21st century is over." (His capitalization, not mine.)

Sounds dire, right?

No, not to any reader trained to expect the best possible spin of data from Cassel. Granted, he goes for the big "sure, I'm a realist" stance, albeit briefly, by offering readers: "How big a deal is this? It's huge, of course, if it's your family facing higher mortgage payments or the chance of foreclosure."

As for the rest of you, or us, not facing a possible bankruptcy, he offers a quintessential Casselism: "[K]eep it in context."

In other words, Nothing to see here.

Cassel goes on, and on, in his inimitable and uneviable style, with largely unconvincing talk of how the U.S. economy is huge and housing is not that big a deal, even though it's well-documented by larger minds that the Greenspan-Bernanke Fed has been happy to sit back and watch and rely on upon "growth" generated by Americans, who while they're not exactly merely taking in each other's laundry, are instead just selling each other their houses.

Ultimately, this leads to the punch line, which in any Cassel column comes in the purportedly pithy final sentence, which here reads, "This economy is big enough, and dynamic enough, to take a lot of bad news in stride."

Gee, Andy, we've never heard that kind of reassurance before, have we?

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