The Breakfast Table

Leave Your Hat On

Ok, Herb, let’s not talk about economics–at least not to start.

Let’s go back to talking about old (and new) songs. And, of course, Clinton and Starr. Last night while I was watching the 11 p.m. news on NBC, I was mildly surprised when the newscaster posed a question to the viewing audience: When and if the videotapes of Clinton’s testimony are released (the committee vote to release them had not yet been taken), how much do you want to see and how would you like them presented?

Well, one obvious thing we might ask for is background music. Thinking that we should have a broader representation of generations in our musical offerings, I conducted a poll around the office. As it turned out, the hands-down winner was “Bolero” (Maurice Ravel, 1928). But that seems pretty old-hat. So does “Makin’ Whoopee” (not Gershwin, Porter or Berlin but I don’t have time to look it up). So here are some fresher offerings from the world of “slow jams” and funk. Anything by the-artist-formerly-known-as Prince, or by Barry White. The theme from the movie Shaft. The Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces.” And, my personal favorite, Joe Cocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” (or, my friend Rob suggests, Your Beret).

P.S. On Soros and the shaky state of much of the world economy. You say that many financial institutions in the United States and Europe are big enough to insure themselves and that over the long run they don’t lose money on their Third World investments. But many is not all or even most. And why then do we repeatedly (e.g. South America in the ‘80s, Mexico in the mid-’90s and now Asia) hear that we need to send IMF money to the rescue lest the world financial system be seriously shaken? You say the real problem is “the local worker in, say, Indonesia, who is now unemployed or has to take a big pay cut because the factory in which he has been employed, built with foreign money, has turned out not to be competitive in the world market.” I certainly won’t argue with that. But it is precisely that problem–careless investing by foreign capitalists–that Soros’ scheme aims to address by making it clear up front that if things go wrong investors can’t expect governments to bail them out (though you’re right in implying that some government money or at least reinsurance would surely be needed to get the insurance system going). I’ll certainly also agree that the most serious and enduring problem of the world economy is that the fruits of its productivity tend to be gathered by a small financial elite, while hordes of workers and their families toil in poverty.