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by Doug McIntyre | Los Angeles I have an eye on a couple of businesses down the block from my house. I'm not rooting for them to fail, but I've pegged them as my personal canaries in the coal mine. One is a bead shop; the other, a mobile dog groomer. I'll know the economy has truly tanked when the bottom falls out of the bead biz and Fluffy and Snowball get their bath the old-fashioned way - by licking themselves or being blasted by the garden hose. It's none of my business what you do with your money, but sometimes it's hard not to wonder who shops in some of these places. How bad could the economy really be when the Topanga Mall has something like 15 jewelry stores, including a Cartier's and a Tiffany's? So the rest of you can watch Jim Cramer scream his lungs out while the Dow plunges, but I've got my gaze fixed on the bead shop and doggy salon. When the "For Rent" signs go up, I'll know the economy is down, and sanity has returned to the marketplace. We really have been buying like fools for years. We shopped till we dropped and in the process dropped logic and basic common sense. "No payments until January 2020!" "No money down!" "Easy Credit!" "No Income Verification!" What universe did we think we were living in? I think it was ol' Herbert Hoover whose campaign wanted "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage," but I doubt Hoover ever thought that car would be a Mercedes 500 or a Porsche SUV. (The chicken, by the way, is organic and the pot hand-forged from titanium by Swedish supermodels.) Yes, we've lived the good life so long we've turned into veal. It will be hard to explain to future anthropologists how in 21st-century America the rich are thin and the poor fat and how the average American feels put out because the airlines now charge to watch the crappy in-flight movie. It wasn't that long ago we had to dig out of 25percent unemployment and the Dust Bowl and fight the Germans and the Japanese. We had scrap-metal drives, rationing of butter and gas, and a universal draft that hauled 11million off to war. In 1961, JFK issued the challenge to Americans: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, we were told to go to the mall. It was our patriotic duty to shop. Today, we're faced with economic gravity. What goes up always comes down. If you don't believe me, two words: Pamela Anderson. We've been pretending the universal principles of markets no longer apply. That somehow we have grown so smart, in addition to so beautiful, that economic downturns can be fixed by the Fed with a whack of the interest-rate button. For 20 years we got away with it, just as major league ballplayers got away with HGH shot into their butts. We have been fattening ourselves for the Wall Street slaughter on a steroid economy. It's belt-tightening time, and I wonder if we are psychologically prepared for it. It's hard to imagine today's America signing up for Civilian Conservation Corps jobs. Soon we'll have a new president and a fresh start. He'll make a wonderful speech promising a new dawn and a new day. For a few weeks, there will be a honeymoon. Both sides will pipe down and root for the country rather than a party or, at the very least, grumble quietly in the corner. The new president will face many challenges, awesome challenges, none larger than reintroducing a spoiled nation to a traditional American concept - the delay of gratification. When you have ice cream after every meal, do you even recognize a treat? CRO first appeared at L.A. Daily News copyright 2008 Doug McIntyre Doug McIntyre, former television scriptwriter, is a popular talk radio host for Los Angeles' AM-790 KABC

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