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BTW: Many Happier Returns

At Christmastime 2008,

In this, our fragile fiscal state,

We search our economic soul

And find the world's a lump of coal,

Where many cover food and rent

Then wonder where the paycheck went,

Or, if they dare to peek, they gaze

At 401s with fractured (k)s.

Plus, as you're reading this, you'll find

The value of your home declined

(Poor Sheila Bair works overtime,

But still foreclosure figures climb),

Or if you sought a small-biz loan,

The bank just laughed you

off the phone.

You're Big Biz? Well, it's still no dice:

The credit market's Arctic ice.

The Dow fell stomach-churningly,

And Bear Stearns is a memory,

Nor is there any point in dreamin'

Richard Fuld will bring back Lehman.

Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke

Mainly leave folks dazed and cranky;

As the bailouts get rewritten,

The reaction? Less than smitten.

On the front page, Bernie Madoff;

On Page Two, new thousands laid off.

'08's theme, if such there be,

Is simply negativity,

Where every bond or fund or stock

Is in a state of constant shock

And every industry's dismayed

Enough to plead for federal aid.

In such a climate, can we cope

With anything that smacks of hope?

What, hope? That hoary, corny thing

To which a nation used to cling

When ears beneath fedora hats

Heard F.D.R. give Fireside Chats?

With every indicator down,

Against all odds, it's back in town.

So Christmas greetings first to him

Who made the outlook seem less grim:

For Prez-elect, salute so calm a

Presence as Barack Obama.

Laud his sense of fun, implied in

Picking for a Veep Joe Biden.

Why stop there? We're even wishin'

Good things on the opposition:

Yes, it was a doomed campaign,

But Merry Christmas, John McCain,

And even though you kept assailin'

English, droppin' g's and flailin'

Into syntax that kept failin',

Happy Yuletide, Sarah Palin.

Season's best to Hillary—

You really dodged artillery?

Comparatively, State should be

An island of tranquility.

A callout to the Fox News crew,

Who did what Rupert told them to,

And thanks for an amusing summer,

Reverend Wright and Joe the Plumber.

One more nod, to Silver, Nate,

Who nailed it at FiveThirtyEight.

In the business world, success

Was rarer than a C.D.S.

That didn't wind up in a mess,

Yet some achieved it nonetheless.

Yuletide greetings, then, to Heinz—

It's growing fat on soy sauce lines,

And comfort food's a thriving group—

Congratulations, Campbell's Soup.

For lunch, it's not what you'd call glam,

But never one to loaf is Spam,

While Kellogg, Kraft, and General Mills

Are raking in the dollar bills.

There's Coca-Cola, full of fizz,

And Apple, winning office biz,

While Avon Products found a boon

In Avon gal Reese Witherspoon,

Plus those who seek secure-stock grabs

Are glad to grab at Abbott Labs,

And making cable buys, the ad men

Flock to AMC for Mad Men.

In a downturn, shining through

Are Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, too,

And when the housing market slows,

Home Depot perks up; so does Lowe's.

To firms like these, we bow and scrape;

For tough times, you're in decent shape.

Season's greetings, too, to those

Contending with recession woes.

Wagoner, how maladroit,

In trying to bail out Detroit,

To travel via private jet

To beg the Hill to wipe out debt,

As did Nardelli and Mulally—

Talk about your PR folly.

Still, let's hope the Chevy Volt

Gives GM an electric jolt,

And U.S. drivers who request a

Diesel-engine Ford Fiesta

Won't forever be left flat;

The industry needs stuff like that.

It's not just Motown that's in pain—

Good luck with B of A, John Thain,

And down at Citi, Vikram Pandit,

Hope reform goes as you planned it.

Also hoping, Jamie Dimon,

You'll get JPMorgan climbin'.

Sumner Redstone, ere you crash,

We pray at last you find some cash,

And hey, Lloyd Blankfein, don't relax,

There's much to do at Goldman Sachs.

(Now that it's a commercial bank

We only hope the shares don't tank.)

EBay's been a little slow,

So crank it up, John Donahoe,

And Larry Fink, we'd like to think

That you'll keep BlackRock in the pink.

August Busch, both Third and Fourth,

May InBev send your bankbooks north;

Jeffrey Bewkes, we pray Time Warner

Finally can turn the corner.

Mr. Gates, with less to do,

We're counting on good works from you.

(We're confident at Microsoft

Steve Ballmer will keep things aloft.)

T. Boone Pickens, going green,

A blessing on your wind machine,

And since warm wishes seldom reach

Where activist investors preach,

A happy Yule to Nelson Peltz,

Who's off annoying someone else.

For next year, we merely wish

A climate not so Hades-ish,

Where every week we don't convene

To tear apart the magazine

And start from scratch, because we find

The landscape newly redesigned,

A market not so cellar-bound

(We can't imagine turnaround),

Some leadership in Washington

That actually gets things done,

And globally, a brotherhood

That stumbles toward a common good.

I can't say why, I don't know how,

But if you've read this up to now,

You too may sense the universe

May soon get better (can't get worse).

So raise a glass to auld lang syne,

And see you in 2009.

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