Oz and the Rubin red slippers

He clicks them together, and they whisk Robert Rubin out of the surreal land of Washington, back to no-place-like-home Wall Street - where people may seem greedy, conniving, and ruthless, but they don't mind saying so.

And we should all feel pretty good about Mr. Rubin's departure.

Rubin resigned last week as Treasury secretary because, thanks to him, the global economy is back on the yellow-brick road.

And the prospect of a Rubin redux in the halls of money should also cheer us up.

His singular focus, at Treasury, on eliminating the deficit helped fashion an economy that generates remarkable prosperity for the American people and their 401(k) plans. His return to Wall Street indicates he still sees opportunity, not a bubble, there.

But his departure also suggests that America's land-of-Oz economy may be too good to last.

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan hinted earlier this month that inflation cannot remain at historic lows if the economy keeps reaching near-hysterical highs.

And Rubin's the reason.

The global financial crisis that started in July 1997 kept US inflation low because Asian and Latin American companies slashed prices to export their way out of recession.

And stalled economies needed less oil, cutting those prices, too.

US consumers took it to the bank via cheaper cars, clothes, and "fill 'er up with premium" visits to the pump.

Now that our Mr. Wizard has given the Tinman a heart, the Scarecrow a diploma, and the Asian tiger some growl, those conditions no longer exist.

It may finally be time for some inflation-adjusted expectations.

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