The mess we’re in: A Poor Richard’s Debt Almanac

By Sol Sanders

The debt crisis is likely to be with us for quite a while. And since TV talking heads speak in gobbledygook, what better than a layman’s glossary? Herewith:


— Safehouses where hardworking individuals and corporations put their savings supposedly to discreetly finance other people’s worthy projects.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) delivers remarks alongside Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the Rose Garden of the White House. / Reuters / Jason Reed


— Paper representing company or country debt bought and sold with interest paid to owners whose value peaks when repayment looks more and more unlikely.

Central Bank — Each government’s own bank to protect the national prosperity by printing money at a proper level and manipulating it against other currencies.

Correction — When the bottom falls out of the stock market, and small investors get caught with their pants down, not knowing whether to ride it on down and hope or sell at a loss.

Derivatives — Bets on bets on bets hidden in computers until someone punches the wrong algorithm and all hell breaks loose.

Dollar — The USA currency, devaluing in a deteriorating economy, but still the standard for international transactions and guarantee for other even weaker currencies.

ECB — European Central Bank, the Euro mother bank unable to salvage bankrupt Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and, perhaps, Italy, who can’t pay their bills because they borrowed too much elsewhere.

Euro — The European Community’s common currency but uncommonly in trouble because 17 different finance ministries drive their countries’ earning and spending in different directions.

Financiers — Technocrats who believe they have mastered markets in order to feather their own nests but in times of crisis panic endangering the system by calling for government handouts.

GDP — Gross domestic product is an estimate of all national economic activity, often divided to give a widely used per person figure not revealing much about you and me.

Geithner — The U.S. chief financial officer who is looking for a way to get off the Obama ship of state after his government bureaucratic instincts called all the shots wrong.

Gold — It’s a precious [as in valuable not cute] metal which shines when polished whose value is considered immutable and therefore a refuge when currencies cheapen wherefore now at all time highs.

IMF — The international money pot, the cavalry supposed to come to the rescue when individual donor members got into trouble before the whole caboodle got too big and complicated.

Inflation — When too much money chases too little goods, the prices begin to spin upward and shortly get out of control if the government simply continues printing money to chase it.

Intervention — When Central banks buy up or sell their own currency in order to halt, slow or accelerate its value against other currencies which often doesn’t work and results in further panic.

Merkel — Germany’s chief executive whose training as a physicist in Communist East Germany hasn’t equipped her to keep pumping out exports to countries who can’t pay in order to maintain Europe’s largest economy’s prosperity.

Obama — The American chief executive, the first in the 200-year history of The Republic who believes government-directed redistribution of the fruits of citizens’ labor will insure future stability, prosperity, peace and justice.

RenMinBao — Beijing’s currency, for which no one knows the value, only used in China except when held outside in the hope it can eventually be reinvested in China, but which is usually called the yuan.

Revenue — The money coming into the government’s coffers – particularly in the U.S. – enhanced only in periods of prosperity created by a government which promotes business and suckles taxpayers.

Stocks — Paper representing bets on the ability of corporations to profit under changing circumstances, swapped with fellow gamblers who think they know more than their trading partners.

Taxes — Money squeezed out of citizens to fund the commonwealth which when reaching exaggerated heights encourages government profligacy and citizens’ evasion blocking entrepreneurial talent.

“Terrorists” — That’s what spendthrift liberal politicians call Congressmen who think they ought to stick by 2010 campaign promises to rein in Washington’s 75-year-old spending spree to pay off debts before drowning.

U.S. Treasuries — American government debt traded and still considered, despite all the U.S. trials and tribulations, the better place to keep money as its current relatively low interest paid buyers indicates.

World Bank — A collection of highly paid, income tax free Washington theoreticians who helped reconstruct Europe after WWII but mistakenly preached that government-to-government lending could modernize backward economies and societies.

Sol W. Sanders, (, writes the ‘Follow the Money’ column for The Washington Times on the convergence of international politics, business and economics. He is also a contributing editor for and

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