The very old ones—los viejos—still tell the tale of the Cubs and the Fed.
As children, they heard stories about the legendary Cubs squads of the past, teams with players like Tinkers and Evers and Chance, Banks and Santo, Sandberg and Maddux. And, oh yes, Ferguson Jenkins. And they were told that one day the Cubs would win the World Series. Trust us, they were told: The Cubbies will hoist the trophy, lift the curse, stir the embers, slay the dragon. The Cubbies will not only survive; they will prevail.
Maybe not in 1909. Or in 1910. Or 1932. Or 1946. Or 1968. Or 1984. And certainly not after that idiot knocked the ball out of Moises Alou’s glove in 2003, when the Cubs were holding a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead over the Marlins in Game Six of the National League Championship Series. But someday. Someday, they were told by the very old ones (long before they themselves became the very old ones), the Cubs would win the World Series. It would happen. It would. They only had to be patient.
But the village elders tell another tale, this one about the Federal Reserve and the short-term interest rates. When los viejos were very young—los jóvenes muy jóvenes—interest rates in America had climbed into the high teens. This was back in the early eighties, when inflation ravaged the economy and the mujahedeen were our friends and people bought records by the Thompson Twins. This was in the dark and cruel reign of the ignominious Jimmy Carter, a fool’s fool, a clown among nincompoops, The Prince of Bozos.
The young ones were told that interest rates would be raised from their current levels. In due course. Any day now. Soon. But then recession after recession crippled the economy, and the Fed kept slashing interest rates until they reached practically nothing. And the interest rates stayed that way.
And all along the Fed promised the people that they would raise interest rates, because otherwise no one would ever be able to earn enough on their life’s savings to retire. Be patient, said the Fed. Please, very old ones, please tend to your knitting. Please, los viejos, please just chill. We will raise interest rates. We will.
But the Fed said another thing. They said that they would only raise interest rates when they felt that the economy was strong enough that they could do so without plunging the entire planet into another brutal recession. But then the third-quarter consumer spending numbers were disappointing. And then the first-quarter jobs report was disappointing. And then the second-quarter corporate earnings reports were disappointing.
And the stock market started to quaver. So they delayed. They hesitated. They dropped chimerical hints about impending rate hikes. They encouraged economists to study the tea leaves, examine the entrails, think outside the box, read between the lines of their enigmatic pronunciamientos. They said that this could not go on forever. All good things would come to those who waited.
So the people waited. And always, the rumors were heard. Surely the Fed will raise interest rates in January. Surely the Fed will raise interest rates by the end of the summer. Surely the Fed will raise interest rates before our children go to college. Surely the Fed will raise interest rates before the 2020 Summer Olympics. Surely the Fed will raise interest rates before Armageddon. Surely—well, the very old ones can tell you the rest.
“Fed Can’t Stand Pat Much Longer,” said the Wall Street Journal. “Stocks Soar as Fed Softens Rate Plan,” reported Barron’s. “Strong Buck Complicates the Fed’s Rate Policy,” announced the Los Angeles Times. And so on and so forth.
Now the old ones are very, very old. They are very old, and their hearts are very heavy. They are still waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series. To be honest, they would settle for the Cubs winning the National League pennant. Actually, a lot of them would be happy if the Cubs merely sneaked into the playoffs for a quick peck-on-the-cheek and an early exit. But it will never happen. The viejos know this, and it makes them sad.
Other things make them sad—drought, global warming, their humongous cable TV bills, the last 17 Bruce Willis movies—but this makes them really sad. For they have waited their entire lives for the Cubs to stop stinking up the joint, and they know now that the Cubs will never stop. They will talk about winning, but they will never do it. Because they are the Cubs. And to be a Cub is to stink.