Looks Like a Diploma; Feels Like a Pink Slip

Cue the pomp.

Roll the circumstance.

The grads march onto the sunlit field.

Not a dry eye in the house. Professors, misty over mentoring these youngsters for the world. Parents, mushy over offspring stepping out of the nest.

But what about that big group in the back, bawling uncontrollably, leaning on each other for support. Who are they?

They're BMW salesmen, overwhelmed with joy at all those new customers.

Zowie! What a job market. These kids are stepping off the podium, out of the Ivory Tower, and into Fat City.

That piece of paper is not just a diploma. It's a ticket to boomtown.

Just look at Christine Sobiech in the picture above. Is she deciding which job to take? Finance vs. marketing?

Methinks not, fair Mercutio.

The question probably goes something like "red or blue," "convertible or hard top?"

Actually, in fairness to Ms. Sobiech, she looks quizzical at our request, so we could take that nifty photo.

But she does represent a generation that sits - forgive the over-revved metaphor - in the driver's seat.

As you'll see from the Eric Evarts stories starting on Page B4, this generation of grads has more choice, and more money, waiting for them, post cap-and-gown, than perhaps any generation, ever, in America.

Because this economy is the best ever in America, and it doesn't show any sign of slowing down.

For a parent, the sense of relief is inspirational. I can testify to this personally. My son, Chris, joins the ranks of the matriculated this June, and I am, as you might imagine, peacock-proud of his accomplishments, thrilled at his prospects, and ecstatic that he'll be able to take over payments on his tuition loans. Congratulations, kid, and welcome to a fully amortized lifestyle.

But if we're looking for a lead lining to this silver cloud, look no farther than the David Francis column to my immediate left.

The man with the quizzical look in that photo is Alan Greenspan, and, even as you read this, he is probably wondering what to do about the Christine Sobieches and Chris McCormicks.

It's those record salaries that give him pause.

Mr. Greenspan, as we all know, chairs the Federal Reserve, which meets Tuesday to ponder an increase in interest rates. What worries Greenspan most are inflationary pressures from rising wages.

And that explains why the stock market has been so jumpy. If Alan Greenspan is wondering whether to raise rates, Wall Street traders are wondering whether to sell stock in response.

A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article stating that the Fed is now looking more closely at the possibility of higher rates, and that prospect sent the stock market reeling.

It recovered, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average setting a record last Wednesday, but if the Fed raises rates, Wall Street may lower the boom on your retirement funds.

We wouldn't want you to blame Christine or Chris, but their ability to capitalize on the current economy is cause for concern about the future economy.

Comments? mccormickl@csps.com

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