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Uncle Sam is a Subprime Deadbeat

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As of this month, California is insolvent. It does not have enough money to pay its bills and has resorted to covering its expenses by issuing IOUs to creditors. Washington is also insolvent. It has been for a long time, since at least 1971, when Richard Nixon defaulted on America’s debts by closing the gold window to foreign creditors. The only difference between the two entities of course, is that Washington can simply print more money, as much as it needs and then some, to keep the federal gravy train also known as the welfare/warfare state rolling. California cannot. Any way you look at it, both California and Uncle Sam are in the same boat and it’s headed for the poor house.

I know, this is just more hyperbole by a bitter, resentful, much maligned for his political and economic views blogger. That is the beauty of the internet. Millions of people like me can vent online about the stupid choices American voters make when they pull the lever every election day. Agreed, many American voters are hoodwinked by the so-called mainstream media and political advertisers during campaigns. We have all heard the same nonsense spewed each election cycle, about how the American political system is a two party system and a vote for any minor party is a wasted vote. Then there are the exclusion tactics of the Republicrat Establishment. These include archaic ballot access laws, no debate inclusion for those outside their exclusive club, and downright illegal conduct.

But, it is no wonder that the voters of a society who have personally spent themselves into oblivion would elect similarly irresponsible representatives who have bankrupted them nationally. This current financial depression was initially brought on by the defaults of individual subprime borrowers. Plain and simple, many people who already had bad credit, encouraged by easy money from the Federal Reserve, entered into mortgages and other loans they inevitably could not afford. The fact of the matter is that Uncle Sam is no different than these subprime borrowers.

Generally speaking, bank regulators classify subprime borrowers as those with:
• a foreclosure or charge-off in the past 24 months;
• two or more 30-day delinquent payments in the past 12 months;

• any bankruptcy in the last 60 months;
• qualifying debt-to-income ratios of 50 percent or higher; and
• a limited capacity to pay monthly living expenses

Uncle Sam meets each criterion. Washington allows the Federal Reserve to simply print money to meet current expenses, which essentially means the government has been foreclosed on, been delinquent in its payments, and has a limited capacity to meet its monthly expenditures. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the total federal debt of the United States is really $56 trillion. This figure includes the official $11 trillion debt plus $45 trillion in unfunded future obligations through Social Security and Medicare. If Uncle Sam had a conventional mortgage at 5 percent for thirty years, his yearly payment would be $3.6 trillion per year. Given that he collects about $2.5 trillion per year in taxes, his qualifying debt-to-income ratio, at 140 percent is much more than 50 percent! What this means is that no respectable bank would give Uncle Sam any future loans given his deadbeat borrower status.

That’s the point. The United States’ government is broke, propped up only by a cabal of legal counterfeiters. The politicians tell us on a daily basis that the debt is not what is important right now, that stimulating the economy must come first. They say that without their interference, the economy would have imploded a long time ago. But, how do they know that? There is no empirical evidence to support their belief. As this blogger has maintained all along, none of their spending will work. And in fact, after trillions have been injected, unemployment continues to rise, foreclosures and bank failures continue, and the latest Fed induced bubble since March, the stock market, is popping as I write. These policies didn’t work during the Great Depression and only an unread person would believe they will work today.

So, why should we be concerned that our federal government is a subprime borrower? At some point, creditors will be less inclined to buy its debt; the rates on Treasury bills have already begun to rise. As the value of our dollar falls against other currencies the rest of the world will no longer be willing to sell us their goods in exchange for our debt. With our own goods increasing in price because of the Fed inflating the dollar, our standard of living will fall. Lastly, as the dollar is replaced as the world’s reserve currency, Washington’s credit will dry up further, forcing the politicians to raise taxes to finance their largess. With tens of trillions in debt, grab your wallets because if inflation doesn’t do you in, taxes will.

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About Kenn Jacobine

  • Heh!! Those Pocahontas dollar tokens – with a teenage girl carrying an illegimate baby (what a symbol of America’s morality and high moral stature!) are looking cheaper by the minute! O! To hear the ring of real silver in a real silver half dollar!

  • Since Uncle Sam is such a bad credit risk, I’m going to elect not to do business with him.

    In our business we rely on the State. Since we’ve been screwed by several thousand dollars in payments, I don’t take the promises of state workers. Show me the money or find someone else to Ponzi.

    I’m NOT going to buy GM or Chrysler (I know, bad words in SE Michigan). My Prius is going to last ten years more, if the last five years are any indication.

    I’m going to close all my bank accounts with TARP receivers. And my credit cards.

    Deadbeats deserve to suffer. Or fix their credit.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    To all –

    FYI, there was a time that America’s debt was even worse than it is now – immediately following WWII.

    Not only were we deeper in debt then, but we had millions of suddenly-unemployed servicemembers returning home.

    That’s why America had a 90%-plus top marginal tax rate for individuals, and we gave corporations FAR fewer loopholes and tax breaks than now…

    …and we very nearly paid off the entire deficit, and our economy was the envy of the world.

    Those much higher tax rates were kept through both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations…back when ‘conservative’ also meant paying off the national debt.

  • Bliffle

    “Conservative” no longer means paying off the national debt. Witness the Bush 2 regime when national debt increased from $4trillion+ to $9trillion (all the while falsely claiming that tax cuts would result in increased tax revenue to pay off that debt).

    The hollow neo-republicans that promoted the 2000-2008 predations on the US economy by unregulated corporate monopolies/oligopolies are exposed for the charlatans they are.

    IMO Kenn has degenerated from the thoughtful and insightful articles he wrote a couple years ago into just echoing the notions of political extremists.

    The premises of this article are so poor that they can’t support his syllogism and conclusion. It’s disheartening to think of refuting each one individually because of the labor involved, but let’s take a look at the first one:

    “Washington is also insolvent. It has been for a long time, since at least 1971, when Richard Nixon defaulted on America’s debts by closing the gold window to foreign creditors.”

    The notion that currency should be pegged to a commodity was long discredited before Nixon, who may have been a paranoid control-freak but was nevertheless very intelligent, properly took the US off the gold standard.

    One would hope that any grammar school graduate who was not asleep in long-division class would be able to figure this out. If you peg the currency to a common commodity, say soybeans, whose production is easily increased, soon opportunistic soybeans will clog the market to be exchanged for dollars, and dollars will be radically depreciated thereby. Everyone will suffer. Contrariwise if you peg the dollar to a constricted commodity, say gold, then as population increases fewer dollars (which net will remain the same) will be available for each person, radical deflation will result and everyone will suffer.

    As population increases, and Real Business that produces intrinsic capital value increases, the currency must keep pace.

    The problem is that currency expansion must be done wisely, and justified on that basis.

    But the simple-minded idea of fixing currency to a commodity like gold just cannot work. It’s a useful claim for the lazy, but it can’t work. Unless, of course, your population is unvarying and business is static, neither of which has been true in the USA for many decades.

  • Baronius

    Kenn, please answer this question for me. Why is it that when the international markets panic (as last year), money rushes to the dollar? I don’t ask that as a refutation of what you wrote in this article; I’m just curious why you think the dollar hasn’t collapsed yet.

  • Bliffle

    That’s easy. The dollar is the best of a bad lot. Ever since James Madison we’ve always paid our debts, even when advised not to. For example, after the revolutionary war most statesmen advised Madison to renege on national debts but he refused, and paid them off, eventually.

    Many nations renege or require major foreign cash infusions at very favorable terms.

  • Indeed Madison made sure debts were paid at the expense of taking the land from the lesser classes that were fighting the war. Men were fighting the revolutionary war for years and therefore unable to pay their mortgages. Madison said the banks must be paid. During the uprising (brought on by the shock of finding out all this fighting wasn’t really going to protect them, but the banks, and they would lose their land AND be thrown into debtor’s prison despite that they had/or were risking their skin) the military was sent in to put them down.

    (no reflection on your post Prof. Bliffle. I still thought it was worth bookmarking.)

  • Our dear Professor Bliffle, quoting Mr. Jaccbine, writes, “Washington is also insolvent. It has been for a long time, since at least 1971, when Richard Nixon defaulted on America’s debts by closing the gold window to foreign creditors.”

    And then he continues, tearing apart Kevin Jacobine’s argument, “The notion that currency should be pegged to a commodity was long discredited before Nixon, who may have been a paranoid control-freak but was nevertheless very intelligent, [and who] properly took the US off the gold standard.”

    Over 30 years ago, I had to write a paper on this precise subject, de-linking the currency to a commodity – like gold. In those days, it seemed wonderful to have finally gotten away from the “golden handcuffs”. Richard Nixon, in 1971, made come true what William Jennings Bryan had called for in 1896 – “America shall not be crucified on a cross of gold!” – and he had done a better job than the venerable Mr. Bryan had ever imagined possible. Instead of bi-metallism, a reliance upon both gold and silver that Bryan wanted to see, Nixon had de-linked the currency entirely from the fortunes of the silver and gold miners of the planet. Now the economies of the world would go head to head, and currencies representing those economies would be traded against one another.

    Thiry years ago, all this looked great. It was unstable, a heady brew that a currency trader had to have steady nerves to dare inbibe, but it was great, nonetheless. But thirty years ago, America had a real manufacturing base: “people didn’t kill time in Bethlehem (PA), filling out forms, standing in line”. There were car copmpanies, and if they weren’t the healthiest in the world, they at least manufactured the cars everybody admired. Don’t ask me, ask Joanne Huspek, who lives in the ghost of a rusted industrial base near Detroit – and who can’t sell her way out. If she wants out of that place, she has to load up the car, and drive away – not even looking back.

    Nobody (at least not the common fellow) imagined that the United States would sink from the biggest creditor economy in the world to the biggest debtor economy, dependent upon slavers in China and Arabia for loans (that’s worse than being in hock to the damned Jews, who at least do not believe in slavery, and will not look upon you as potential slaves and chattel – yes: Im talking about YOU!. Nobody imagined that Republicans would spend money like drunken sailors on leave (Nixon left the US with a budget surplus). Nobody, but nobody, foresaw that an American leader would bow like a dog before the mullahs of Iran (Reagan), sink America’s economy into the swamps of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Bush II), and bow before the king of the Thugdom of Arabia (Obama).

    Mr. Jacobine is right and the professor is wrong; history hath shown him to be wrong! The golden handcuffs, supplemented with silver handcuffs, were not handcuffs at all! They were lifelines against the irresponsibility and greed of the common thief, a.k.a. the corprorate executive.

    Bernie, who Madoff with a fortune of money, and who has left thousands of poor people even poorer and more destitute than they were, was just the most obvious of the lot. The real thieves are the boys who OWN the Federal Reserve Banks of the United States, and the oil moguls who have sucked America dry over 36 years and all of the cursed lot who have been their lap-dogs.

    As for America going down the tubes, I don’t need stats. The Ruvy standard states this: “if the wife doesn’t have to work to support the household in one generation, and she has to in the succeeding generation, it does not matter how much crap the family can buy, its living standard has declined.”

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is the understatement of the month.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ruvy –

    You posted, “if the wife doesn’t have to work to support the household in one generation, and she has to in the succeeding generation, it does not matter how much crap the family can buy, its living standard has declined.”

    Not long ago I told my nephew from overseas one of the biggest problems with America are the _expectations_ every family now has, “keeping up with the Joneses” run amuck.

    Back in the 50’s when one-income households were the norm (and we had a 90%+ top marginal tax rate and far fewer corporate loopholes), there were FAR fewer ‘expectations’ of every family. A car, a television, a radio, and a working stove and refrigerator – the expectations were not much more than these…and these can still be largely met today on one income.

    But now we are ‘expected’ to have computers, microwaves, houses with multiple bathrooms, health care that costs an arm and a leg, new clothes for the kids every year (or every few months)…it’s ridiculous.

    It’s not the fact that two incomes are necessary now, but the fact that we are all ‘expected’ to have this, that, and the other or we’re somehow depriving our families of a proper life.

  • The putative housewife could have just decided that staying at home was boring and she wanted to go out to work.

  • Kenn Jacobine


    With all due respect, I don’t believe you understand how a commodity backed currency would work. First of all, I never suggested using soy beans. A commodity that is scarce like gold is ideal for the very reason you gave as to why soy beans would not be. Secondly, it is no coincidence that our deficit has ballooned since ’71 when gold went by the wayside. A commodity backed currency helps to prevent outrageous federal budgets because as the currency depreciates dollar holders cash them in for gold. Roosevelt in ’33 defaulted on the US debt by ending domestic gold exchange (frankly he committed grand larceny). Nixon defaulted by closing the gold window to foreigners because they were depleting Fort Knox because of the depreciation of the dollar. Now we have a fiat dollar and a government that is out of control. Stop reading the Krugman types and read thinkers that actually know what they are talking about – Murray Rothbard.

    As to adjusting money to population increases – if money is backed by a commodity, the market would determine what the supply of say gold and dollars should be. Do we need central planners to determine how many computers are needed because the population changes. No, the market decides and if the market needed more money in supply then mining companies would mine it in reaction to a profit motive and market forces. The Fed has failed in its mission because it is nothing more than a special government agency that exists to serve big banks.


    I do think the dollar benefits a lot from being the international reserve currency. I mean we have been able to default on our international debt and run up huge deficits. If the dollar were the Mexican Peso I believe our leaders would have to be more careful with inflating or we would face default like those types of countries do. The US is also still, for the time being, the world’s strongest economy and there is some safety to investing in that. I don’t feel safe but a lot of folks in the world have been socialized to believe this and the Fed and treasury have always shown a willingness to spend what they have to to keep the welfare/warfare state rolling.

  • Glenn, I wrote out a long comment that I managed to lose. Let me make this sweet and simple. My brother-in-law, the ice cream truck driver, was able to raise three sons and feed his wife in the 1950’s and 1960’s. My sister didn’t have to work until he divorced her after the kids had moved out. All of them went to university.

    In order for me to raise our two sons in the 1990’s in St. Paul, both my wife and I had to work full time, and I held down a part time job for a time as well. Our material possessions had not significantly increased: microwave ovens and computers, by the time I bought them, were not expensive.

    Put simply, our standard of living had not gone up but down.

    All those expectations you mention – I never attempted to meet them. The Joneses and the Smiths did not interest me at all, and keeping up with them interested me less. Lots of folks fit that mold, but I’m an iconoclast who doesn’t give two shits what his neighbors think; I’ve always been that way.

    So, for my money, “Ruvy’s Standard” of measuring a standard of living – how many folks have to work to maintain it – stands.

  • Mark Schannon

    All this certainty is certainly reassuring. (BTW, great pun Ruvy.) I’ve been fretting about how confused everything is, unwilling to congratulate or condemn ol’ Jug Ears because I just can’t figure out whether we’re sinking, sinking more slowly, bobbing, rising, or escalating.

    Everyone else seems to know. The fact that no one seems to agree is besides the point. It’s like the old saw: one Jew & one room = a violent argument. (I either made that up, screwed it up, or offended the wrong ethnicity.

    I’m in the middle of an interesting book on how certain we can be when we’re dead wrong and how we’ll hold on to those false beliefs even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence.

    At least, I think I’m reading it. These days, it’s hard to be sure of anything.

    Oh well, rail on. I’m waiting for inspiration.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Bliffle

    What ties the sad condition of housewives NEEDING to work outside the home to our general over-leveraging of intrinsic capital values, such as a home, was the 1974 FHA rule change that required that loan officers consider BOTH husband and wife incomes in assesing their credit-worthieness. At that time the formula was that you could buy a house for about 2.5 times your annual income. Thus, a household where the major breadwinner earned $10,000 could qualify for a $25,000 house. The minor breadwinners income was ignored.

    But two income families felt this was unfair and that BOTH incomes should be counted. So after many years of petitioning it came to pass and the FHA rule was changed.

    The result was rather unexpected: within a few months house prices across the country went up by about 60%. For a few months two income families had the boon of qualifying for better homes, But the economics soon shifted, and the 2.5 ratio was turned around so that houses suddenly adjusted to balance the new availability of money.

    The winners were a few of those 2 income families that bought early and overreached. Other winners were people who already owned houses and saw a sudden increase in asset value. But the big winners were the brokers and agents whose commission RATES stayed the same but their commission INCOME increased because the asset value (that the commission is proportional to) increased greatly. Suddenly the failed Stereo Salesmen who had resorted to the stodgy real estate market out of desperation were making Real Money.

    Everybody else was a loser. New buyers in the market suddenly required two incomes. Commission costs rose dramatically for everyone. Many traditional one income buyers suddenly found they had to buy in to the house market at a far lower level than they expected. Money costs took a bigger chunk of the downpayment because they were proportional to selling price.

    Of course, this resulted in ever-increasing house prices as real estate operators realized that their own incomes were proportional to selling price, so they increasingly rigged things to raise that multiplier from 2.5 to (what amounts to) 10 for many modern home sales. They became rich.

    So that’s how we got here.

    But, of course, those very 2 income families eventually got screwed too, since now purchasing a house REQUIRED 2 steady incomes, so if one failed there was no slack in family finances. Before 1974 if a family breadwinner was sick or laidoff they had some slack because the (usually) wife could get some kind of work to pay the mortgage. Now, that slack was gone. And with ever increasing purchase multiples the die was cast for the current housing crisis.

  • Bliffle

    “Stop reading the Krugman types and read thinkers that actually know what they are talking about – Murray Rothbard.”

    I read Rothbard with great interest and enthusiasm. probably before he became a rightwing hero. I also read Ricardo (when he was considered a dangerous radical by the same faux ‘conservatives’ that later used him to justify their new international business models). I read Schumpeter when he was almost a forgotten man. Also Strauss, Hayek, and too many others to list.

    The problem with most of the old economists is that they have a very narrow view and put too much importance on small interactions. Reading them is like looking into a room full of facts through a small keyhole.

    I could recommend some modern economists except for two things: (1) generally they require facility with mathematics, even calculus, and (2) if you dislike them you will probably denounce them as Krugman-like leftists. So, no purpose would be served.

  • Mark,

    Bernie Madoff’s name is made for punnishment – and the stupid fool has now made himself the foil of thousands of unskilled punsters like me. He is lucky as all hell to be inside a jail. The real punishment for this scoundrel (m’nuvál is the Hebrew term for this scum) is to set him free with no money, no cell phone, no car, and just his ID on him, a few miles in from US 19 near Cannon Falls, MN in winter time (right after Christmas, when it turns into a deep freeze there). He wouldn’t last a week, but he would suffer terribly before he died from exposure to the cold, and in that week, he would understand from that suffering what evil he had done.

  • Glenn,

    The poor have been getting poorer. The price of everything is outrageous. I think we had this discussion before.

    A family in Jersey City, in the 40s & 50s could rent a cold-water flat and manage to have a car, tv, 3-4 children, dental care, doctors, toys and treats, food, and family trips to the seashore on the salary of one longshoreman, ice cream vendor or other unskilled laborer.

    It just cannot be done now.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy and Ruvy –

    I think you both said the same thing, but in different ways. And I have to admit that your points are stronger than mine. I may be partially right, but both of your points are stronger than mine.

  • Glenn, I could write an article of my own on the Ruvy Standard. It has only three elements to it. I guess I’m just lazy.

  • While the above comments are all very perceptive, they do (except for Ruvy’s) have rather the ring of the oldster who boasts about when he was a lad and you could go out on Saturday night, fill up your tank, watch a movie, buy soda and popcorn, have a three-course dinner afterwards and still have change left from a dollar, blahblahblah…

    Thing is, that was then. What’s to be done (not that ‘Ol’ Jug Ears’, nor indeed McCain or any other potential president, can do squat about it) now?

  • the ring of the oldster who boasts about when he was a lad and you could go out on Saturday night…..and still have change left from a dollar…..

    DD, I don’t remember ever getting by on just a dollar for a night out on the town; subway fare was 15 cents when I was a teenager, it went up to 20 cents in 1967 or 68; movies were at least a dollar or two; a cup of coffee was at least 10 cents; a malted was at least 35 cents, pancakes (in New York and Brooklyn) were at least 75 cents (in 1970 they were 40 cents in the Pokonos).

    Five dollars was more than enough to do me for a night out, though; ten dollars for me and a girl. Maybe, I’m just too young.

    As for what your sitting government can do now? Heh!! There is very little they can do at all. And your president has guaranteed that pancakes, instead of costing 40 cents in a diner, will cost 40 dollars – or more.


  • Clavos

    Hah! The last time a stack of pancakes cost 40 cents, Kennedy was President, and maybe not even then.

  • Bliffle

    Kenns maladroit aricle begins:

    “As of this month, California is insolvent. It does not have enough money to pay its bills and has resorted to covering its expenses by issuing IOUs to creditors”

    That’s the solution of a republican governor and a (minority) republican legislature who REFUSE to raise taxes to cover the very expenses they have incurred.

    They refuse to raise taxes because Grover Norquist has pesonally twisted the arms of every repub legislator (and the Governator) to NEVER vote a tax increase. At the same time as other rightists have insisted on huge expenditures for their personal hotspots.

    One of the most errant of those is the “get tough on crime” mania and “three strikes” insanity that has swelled CA’s prison population from 25,000 to 175,000 in the last 10 years that has resulted in a prisons cost of over $10billion per year!

    All that to lockup a lot of marijuana users and anybody who runs afoul of the weird 3 strikes laws.

    But they can’t break out of their own trap because the Correction Officers Union has them over a barrel. So much for the rightists anti-union principles, immediately dispensed with when their own fans want supreme power. Hypocritical, as usual. The CA correction officers are the highest paid police officers in the nation.

    10 billion dollars per year!

    That’s about $60,000 per year per prisoner.

    At the same time, the old Prop 13 property tax freeze is still in place, and what it has done is shift more of the tax burden to individuals and reduced corporate taxes. Most personal property that individuals own have been sold and bought which brings their taxes up as they receive current valuations.

    But there are corporate properties that have been bought and sold many many times without any property tax increase! How do they do it? By

  • Bliffle

    …. (continued after BC grabbed my partial comment for no good reason)

    The corps form a holding company to own the property, and then never change the title holder so that the property is never revalued. They sell the holding company and the name on the county property records never change, so some are still paying a 30 year old tax!

    Just another one of the abuses inherent in our vicious corporation laws that victimizes ordinary citizens by shifting tax burden from the corp to the individual.

  • Bliffle

    My mistake in 6 – Bliffle
    Jul 12, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    “That’s easy. The dollar is the best of a bad lot. Ever since James Madison we’ve always paid our debts,….”

    I mis-remembered. It wasn’t Madison, it was Alexander Hamilton, as I correctly recalled when I scanned it days later.

    It’s demonstrative of the poor scholarship and incurious lack of inspection that 4 days went by with NO BC commentor picking up the mistake.

    BC commentors should study more before venturing their naive opinions.

  • Bliffle

    And in order for the Grover Nyquist suborned CA repubs to keep handing out expensive tax favors to, among others, high-paid corrections officers and major US corporations, they have to ILLEGALLY take money from CA education funds (which are required by state law to be at certain levels) .

    Grover Norquist isn’t even a California resident!

    But he has a LOT of lobbyist money behind him and he can reach out across the country to suborn politicians. Even the mighty Terminator kneels to his power.

    Having broken STATE law by cutting the CA schools budgets, these bozos are now breaking federal law by cutting salaries of many university profs who are on federal development contracts within which their pay is contractually set and the money PAID by the federal agency. Thus, they are stealing federal education money to support predation by the repubs favorite corporations and corrections officers (among others).

    Fortunately, some of that illegal activity (felonious violation Federal contracts and misappropriation of funds) has been detected and acted on by some of the smarter UC profs (i.e., the ones in the science and engineering schools) and frustrated the administration in it’s thievery.

    Wake up folks! Stop believing the lies and propaganda that is endlessly put out by the purchased and dominated misinformation outlets in the newspapers, on TV and on the internet. Talk to people who really know, who have daily acquaintance with this stuff.

    You’ve got to go to primary sources.

    Don’t believe me. Talk to a CA real estate lawyer and probe him hard on Prop 13. The first response he gives you will undoubtedly be the candy-coated lies that they always put out to the public. Because those lies benefit THEM!

  • Clavos

    It’s demonstrative of the poor scholarship and incurious lack of inspection that 4 days went by with NO BC commentor picking up the mistake.


    Or maybe it’s demonstrative of a lack of interest in reading your comments.

  • Bliffle

    You seem to have been interested, why didn’t YOU pick it up?