Sensational Journalism

Get out a pencil.

Open your calendar.

And .... Nah. Put the pencil down ...

Go over to that kitchen drawer with all the loose ends, and rummage around for a big, fat red pen.

Now open the calendar to today, Jan. 20, circle it. Tear out the page. Frame it.

And when your grandkids cozy up and ask about the good old days, pull out the page, wind 'er up, and let fly with tales of wonder.

Because this day, this year, this time ... This feels as good as it gets.

For the American consumer, this is the dream come true. Times have never been this good.

Stop muttering. I'm completely serious. This is not the Monitor's answer to tabloid journalism.

But the news is sensational.

No? Well, consider this.

Interest rates have fallen to 20 year lows. Home prices are rising; unemployment keeps falling; employment has hit all-time highs.

Soon, no one will be able to even spell "inflation." It has lost its punch and conversational relevance - 1.7 percent last year. This economy just won't slow down.

And while rates and inflation have been this low before, and unemployment worked these levels in the 1960s, we're seeing all these elements converge. And I don't think that's happened before, not in my baby-boomer lifetime.

Make no mistake, the handwringing in Asia rings true - a world-class catastrophe that could smack the US economy.

But, for now, that backswing is starting to look irrelevant, maybe even a plus.

Interest rates have fallen, for example, in large part because investors yanked their money out of there and put it here, in safe US Treasury bonds. That drives the bond prices up and rates down.

Asia also brings a bonus for US inflation as those countries crank up the export machines to make money. US import prices will drop as will those for competing domestic goods.

But keep an especially close eye on interest rates. They've unleashed a stampede of mortgage refinancings, which frees up money for consumers to spend.

And consumer spending drives two-thirds of the US economy. So whatever damage Asia inflicts may get glossed over by an American consumer flush with a job, cash, and the security that comes from a seemingly invincible economy.

US companies could even gain from the pain in the Pacific Rim. Some very tough Asian competitors are now hobbled.

Consider the big US banks with business in Asia. Early analysis saw trouble ahead, but that thinking is changing. Growth will return and the BankAmericas face an easier time financing it.

All this, by the way, bodes well for the stock market, especially through March.

This isn't to gloat. Tragedy looms large for millions of Thai, Indonesian, and Korean families - their struggle out of poverty into the middle class now blown out by corrupt or inept governments.

But on this side of the pond, the fly in the ointment looks increasingly like a smudge on the reading glasses.

So enjoy these times while they last, because they may not. A rush of cheap Asian goods could threaten US jobs, and as Asia recovers, rates should rise. Don't dally on a mortgage decision.

In the meantime, mark your calendars.

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