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Days of Whine and Dozes


Were You Awake in 2008?



Whiners have a holiday, and it probably was created because someone whined about not having a holiday. National Whiner’s Day falls on Dec. 26, presumably so we can salute those ungrateful crabs who always want what they don’t have on the day after they whimper endlessly over being (wrongfully, of course) gifted.

Whining isn’t about legitimate complaints. Whining is childish, reactionary, persistent and annoying noise about petty issues. On the whole, whiners usually represent individuals who have too much; therefore, any perceived slight that crosses a whiner’s path becomes a matter of one more serving on an overly full plate.
   
But I believe some whiners are simply asleep at the wheel. For instance, an investor who complained excessively about falling stocks in September probably missed markets plunging worldwide on Jan. 21, 2008, in response to fears that the U.S. was headed for a recession. Where was that investor between January and September, when financial news revealed clues month after month — and when there was time to diversify?
   
I won’t respond to that question, because I don’t know the answer. But when the Federal Reserve Board slashed two key interest rates — the federal funds rate and the discount rate — by three quarters of a point on Jan. 22 (the largest single-day reduction in its history), that began to catch the attention of a whole range of investors, as long as they were alert.
   
Move forward to February, when it was reported that 17,000 jobs were eliminated in January, the first monthly decline in more than four years. Then look at March, when the Fed outlined a $200 billion loan program that allowed some of the country’s largest banks and securities broker-dealers to borrow Treasury securities at discount rates and post mortgage-backed securities as collateral.
   
March also marked the first bank concern, when the Fed approved a $30 billion loan to JPMorgan Chase to absorb Bear Stearns.
   
Then jump to July, when the U.S. Department of the Treasury proposed a rescue plan for mortgage companies as tumbling stock prices diminished confidence in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In September, when Rip Van Whiner woke up, the government (meaning taxpayers) was bailing out Freddie and Fannie and AIG, the world’s largest insurance company. Oh, and Merrill Lynch was agreeing to be acquired by Bank of America and Lehman Brothers was declaring bankruptcy.
   
But I’ll stop with the writing-on-the-wall examples, as people who have legitimate complaints such as losing a job or home, having a family member in Iraq, going hungry or losing retirement income all need breathing room. So do those long-term investors who quietly and bravely held on to stocks and those investors who diversified when they had a chance.
   
From what I understand, there’s no cure for whining, but you can help a whiner focus his or her attention this month in the kitchen. That’s right: Hand a bowl and spoon to the next whiner you meet, because National Fruitcake Day falls on Dec. 27. I don’t know who lined up these back-to-back celebrations, but that person must’ve had a whiner in the family and a sense of humor — something we could all use a little more of right now.




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