Am I nuts, or was '92 a real bummer?


IS IT my imagination or was 1992 just like 1991 -- only worse?

Face it, it isn't destined to go down as one of our great years. I knew we were in trouble a year ago when a giant roulette wheel was brought into the White House situation room only days before President Bush presented his new-and-improved economic plan (not to be confused with that newer, new-and-improved plan presented last September).

Now we have someone coming in who looks like a canasta man. This could be a very interesting year.

But before musing about 1993 . . .

* The year's goofiest confrontation: The visit to Japan last January by President Bush and a delegation of U.S. auto executives.

The Americans had hoped for some easing of Japan's strict tariff policies, but the Japanese just kept chiming, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah." Best remembered for Mr. Bush's Maalox Moment during a fancy state dinner.

* Non-economist of 1992: Paul Tsongas. Ross Perot may have received all the acclaim for his slice-and-dice infomercials, but it was the former senator and presidential candidate who introduced Americans to the ballooning deficit, well before the whiny -- check that, I meant wily -- Mr. Perot ever made it to Larry King. Mr. Tsongas said he dropped out because of money problems, but I believe it was his connections to the Elmer Fudd family that did him in.

* Best impersonation of the Eveready "keeps going and going and going" bunny: Lee Iacocca. Just as Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did a few years back, the Chrysler Corp. chairman has been on a farewell tour since he announced plans last spring to retire. Rumor has it that he's now working on his 34th and latest autobiography to be titled: "The Pending Retirement Years -- Volume 1." Iacocca's last day at Chrysler was Thursday. But check this morning.

* Year's weirdest vote of confidence: The response by General Motors Corp.'s board to hot rumors about the imminent firing of then-Chairman Robert Stempel. "The question of executive leadership," according to the statement, "is a primary concern to the board of directors and GM is no exception. The board . . . continues to carefully reflect upon the wisest course for assuring the most effective leadership."

Translation: Maybe he'd be more comfortable as a Subway franchisee.

* Best impersonation of the Three Stooges: The California

legislature and Gov. Pete Wilson during last summer's state budget crisis:

Legislator A: I'm prepared to cut the budget by at least another $3 billion.

Legislator B: You nitwit! You lamebrain! You knucklehead! (takes out a mallet and bonks him on the noggin).

Legislator A: Wait a minute -- don't you realize that thousands of people are waiting for their checks?

Legislator B: (pokes Legislator A in the eyes).

Governor: Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

* Joke of the year: The recent declaration by a panel of esteemed economists that the recession was over 21 months ago. Considered the official arbiter of when recessions begin and end, the National Bureau of Economic Research based its conclusions on a surprisingly strong third quarter gross domestic product figure.

BULLETIN, BULLETIN: The Toronto Blue Jays have won the World Series and Bill Clinton still leads President Bush as the Nov. 3 election nears . . .

* Most embarrassing performance by a public corporation: Sears, Roebuck & Co. After first denying fraud allegations concerning its auto center operations in New Jersey and California, Sears ended up meekly settling with the two states. The settlements contributed to a huge third-quarter loss and the unfortunate bumper sticker, "I survived a Sears tuneup."

* Corporate executive who has received the most Christmas cards: Michael Eisner. After collecting $197.5 million in stock options, the chairman of Walt Disney Co. has become an even more popular guy than he already was. Word has it that folks all over Hollywood are actually pretending to be Mr. Eisner's friend or relative in a desperate effort to get his attention and a part of his fortune.

* Most coverage given to the most underwhelming event: The fifth anniversary of the stock market crash when the Dow inched up 14 points. I can't wait for the 10-year celebration.

* Most coverage given to the least understood event: The currency crisis in Europe. The pound drops in value, the mark gains in value and the traders have been going nuts. What does it all mean?

* Revelation of the year: I am Michael Eisner's long-lost brother.

Mark Lacter is a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News.

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