I smell pack journalism. I smell group-think at alarming levels. And I'm tired of paying for it.
Here's the typical news chatter: The latest news about the Greek debt crisis is being felt on Wall Street, where trading was weak (or down) because of the ongoing uncertainty in the markets. Blah. Blah. Blah.
I'm not trying to say there are no connections. If Greece really does fail -- and that's an if -- it will be like tossing a brick in the pond. There will be ripples. Some European banks -- but not many American ones -- will suffer. Too bad for their investors. Maybe the skittishness will spread to Italy, and if they screw up, another bigger brick could land in the pond. And if the Euro zone somehow falls apart completely, a whole wall of bricks falls in the pond.
I get the claims of a domino effect. What I don't support is the assumption that each step will happen just because the previous step did. These "dominos" are not the same size. In fact, each domino of potentially larger impact is increasingly less likely to fall -- simply because in the real world, people and governments will be increasingly motivated to intervene to prevent the bigger dominos from falling.
It's just not true that bad debt in a nation of 11 million people can wreck our U.S. economy of 300 million people, or the world economy of 7 billion people.
But instead of people thinking reasonably about what realistically could happen, people are acting as if if the worst case scenarios WILL happen. That's excessively paranoid. Our educated traders and investors should know better. So should our media, even though they are not as expert as the experts.
A massive distraction
I'd be ignoring Greece completely if it weren't for the hyper-sensitive stock market over-reacting and screwing up my savings for retirement and college.
I blame the people in the trading world for failing to focus on the fundamentals, for allowing the political mood-of-the-day to dictate their moves. They're the ones making bizarre, unrealistic and overhyped "connections" between the market for shoes in Cincinnati and the price of olive oil in Athens. The media is just parroting their "analysis."
This is why the Greek debt "crisis" strikes me as a massive distraction.
If you want to buy stock in, say, Target or Merck or Fifth Third Bank, there's no reason why you shouldn't just because people in Greece are going on strike because they don't want to give up collecting a pension at age 50. Maybe, just maybe, you should focus specifically on how things are going at Target, Fifth Third or Merck.
Yes, we may be techincally connected to Greece as part of the world economy. But the problems there have NOT put people out of work here. The Greeks did NOT cause our housing bubble.
So why all the breathless media hand-wringing? I think the story has taken on a life of its own. The media doesn't know how NOT to write about Greece anymore.
Where are the success stories?
So how do we break this seemingly endless cycle of low-level panic?
Here's one thought...if we want to make a big deal out of our connections to the world economy, why talk only about the bad connections? Why not take a closer look at the people and the companies making money in emerging economies, like say Brazil?
Surely somebody is selling something at a profit in India. Or China. Or somewhere. Maybe even right here in America. Almost by definition, if things are sinking in one part of the world, they're looking up somewhere else. One person's failure is often another person's opportunity.
We act as if there are no successes happening at all, anywhere. That cannot be true.
I'm not saying ignore the bad news in Europe. I'm saying we should be putting this into perspective.
Instead of relentlessly obessing over what's going wrong, do a better job of telling the rest of the truth -- about what's going right. would be useful to also tell the truth about what's working, not just obsess over what's wrong. After all, the news isn't just about pointing out how we got lost. It's also about finding our way out of the woods.