People sometimes tell me they've given up reading the financial news since the 2008 crisis because they keep seeing the same headlines, over and over, as if trapped in some sort of bizarre time loop.
I know what they mean:
--Greek crisis on. Greek crisis off. Greek crisis back on again. Another Greek bailout. More Greek austerity. Greece this, the rest of Europe that. And the whole world is going into a recession.
--The U.S. economy grew modestly. The U.S. economy grew at a modest pace. U.S. economic growth is modest.
--Housing market rises. Housing market declines. Foreclosures? They're not as bad as last year.
--"Stocks fluctuate." Now that's a headline that repeats as surely as a turkey-fryer fire on Thanksgiving or a trampling on Black Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average first crossed 13000 in 2007. And it's poised to keep doing this like a schtick from the movie "Groundhog Day."
--Congress must act now or we'll have yet another recession. We've got to head off another recession while we're recovering from the last recession, or God knows how many more recessions we'll have.
--If it's not the fiscal cliff, it's the debt ceiling. We'll break our legs if we fall from the cliff. Or smash our heads if go through the ceiling. The uncertainty from Washington is crippling. We had so much more certainty in the past...now that we can look back on it.
--Warren Buffett: The rich should pay more taxes. The rich should pay more taxes. The rich should pay more taxes.
--Donald Trump: The beauty of me is that I'm very rich.
--The People: Don't tax the rich. We might win Powerball.
--The Federal Reserve will always buy more bonds and mortgage-backed securities. Operation Twist, a Fed program that buys $45 billion worth of long-term Treasury bonds a month, is due to expire at the end of December. On Wednesday, Charles Evans, president of the Fed's Chicago bank, said it should continue "until we see labor-market improvement." He then added: "That's likely to be at a minimum six months....perhaps as long as a year." Or the year after that...Or the year after that....
--Something strange always happens on a plane. Seats come loose. A flight attendant goes psycho. Or maybe the whole airline nosedives into bankruptcy. This week, Japan Airlines announced it would serve KFC on holiday flights. Chickens will be cut to pieces, breaded, fried, and then they will finally be able to fly.
--Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), Kmart, J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), RadioShack (NYSE:RSH), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY). It can take a frightfully long time for a tired, old retailer to die.
--There is always a bizarre debacle at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ). If it's not a spy scandal, or a sex scandal, it's a merger scandal. Lately, H-P claims it got ripped off in its $10.3 billion acquisition of British enterprise software company Autonomy. H-P threatens a lawsuit against Autonomy's former managers, while class-action lawyers are going after H-P for getting duped, by its own admission. The company can't generate any more technology jobs, but it remains in the news for generating lawyer jobs.
--BP PLC (NYSE:BP) will always be receiving some kind of punishment for its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf. It's just been suspended from bidding on government contracts. Earlier this year, it agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay a $4 billion fine. Some of its employees could face prison sentences. It's had to spend billions cleaning up the mess and repairing the damage to the Gulf Coast economy. It buys ads and TV commercials to talk about all of this, keeping the media industry alive, so it can continue to portray it as a corporate monster. But why stop there? In February, the U.S. government will take BP to civil court for damages under the Clean Water Act. BP now stands for Billions Paid.
--The world will end Dec. 21. There was a rapture May 21, 2011. Don't worry if you missed it There's sure to be another one in the news soon.
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoall.com)