By Dan Valentine
Good news! “The economy is growing again!” So said President Obama, just the other day.
Of course, his opponents would have you believe otherwise. But there are certain solid economic indicators that prove him right.
Like, for instance, cigarette butts.
That’s the word from a little-known tobacco expert who calls himself West Virginia Slim. When the economy went bust, he took time off from his job to tour North America–by thumb–after he found a pink slip on the desk of his corner office overlooking Broad & Wall.
I ran into him outside of Hussong’s Cantina here in Ensenada, said to be the oldest bar in the west. He was smoking a Cuban cigar.
And he says he has definite proof that the U.S. economy is, in the words of the President, “picking up considerable speed”. He can tell by the half-smoked cigarette butts strewn across the land.
“After the bust,” he told me during an exclusive interview, ‘cigarette butts flicked on the side of the nation’s streets were short. People took more puffs and got the most out of each cigarette before tossing it.”
But ever since Obama took office, he has noticed that the cigarette butts are getting, slowly but surely, longer. “People are throwing ‘em away, half-smoked,” he says.
30-foot cigarette butt in London, England. Is this an indicator that England is undergoing a huge recovery? National Geographic photo
And this, he assures me, is definite proof, regardless of what the naysayers say, that good times are upon us.
Slim isn’t the only economic wizard who says so. A woman by the name of Gertrude, who made jillions in the stock market before she lost jillions in the market, can prove without a doubt that the country is, in Obama’s words, “beginning to turn the corner.”
Gertrude, who now makes a living as a waitress–she was here to buy duty-free Tequila to take back over the border–uses the “Parsley Principle” to judge prosperity, or the lack of it.
“During the last few months of Bush’s presidency,” says Gertrude, “customers ate the funny little green garnishes that chefs like to place on the sides of dishes as tho’ they were going out of style. Fact is, we couldn’t keep enough parsley in stock during the last days of the Bush Administration.”
But now, in Obama’s second year, very few people, if any, eat the tiny, little parsley garnishes. And this, she says, is a sure-sign that, in Obama’s words: ‘the worst of the storm is over.’”
Another economist, who uses a somewhat different barometer, says times are getting “much” better.
Her name is Olive. She spends a good part of her day going through suit pockets. She works in a dry cleaning establishment in L.A. It’s her job to empty the pockets of the suits before they are dry cleaned.
Says this full-time pocket-picker: “When times are good, people leave all sorts of coins in their pockets. But during bad times, practically no money can be found at all.”
Since the stimulus package was passed, says Olive, “the pocket-picking has been mighty good.” So good that she could afford a 3-day cruise from San Diego to Ensenada on the “Fun Ship”!
Economics seminar at Hussong's Cantina, Ensenada, Mexico
Another little-known economic expert, a cop from Chicago, told me that he can measure the economic atmosphere of the nation by pantyhose.
He told me this over several rounds of Margaritas. (Some people drive hundreds of miles to visit the birthplace of Abe Lincoln. He flew hundreds of miles, here to Ensenada, to visit the birthplace of the Margarita. But, anyway …
Said this Chicago cop, after years on the force, “When times are good, bank robbers tend to wear expensive, luxury pantyhose over their heads to cover up their mugs. They like the confident, silky-soft feel that expensive pantyhose give them during a hold-up.”
But when times are bad bank robbers tend to buy generic or no-brand pantyhose for a bank job.
“I remember one time,” he told me, “during the last days of the Bush years, we arrested this bank robber at the scene of the crime and he had several runs in the pair of pantyhose pulled over his face. I really felt embarrassed for the fella.”
But the cop added: “Right now, since Obama took over, you hardly ever see a bank robber with runs.”