10/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So-Called Experts: How To Read Yourself Out Of Economic Misery

Here's something that I missed with the unfolding Sarah Palin fiasco belching its syrupy goodness all over the internet. In yesterday's Washington Post, Frank Ahrens put together a high-toned listicle in which he asked various "experts" on what books they'd recommend we read as a means of surviving the current economic malaise:

We asked a number of smart people -- inside and outside economics and finance -- to scan their bookshelves for answers. Though there is no single book that can sum up and explain the current conditions, we asked each of our contributors for one book they would recommend to their neighbor, their daughter, their aunt, their barber, priest, rabbi or best friend to help them gain some perspective on these volatile times.

This is not a waste of page one of the Business section! Not at all!

Inexplicably, one of the experts who contributed to the effort was none other than Franklin Raines, the former CEO of Fannie Mae who was forced into "early retirement" amid a large accounting scandal that involved accusations that Raines had "abetted widespread accounting errors, which included the shifting of losses so senior executives, such as himself, could earn large bonuses."

In other words, if Franklin Raines hands you a book, make sure you're wearing a pair of oven mitts, because he probably cooked it!

Raines' recommendation? Robert Draper's Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, which Raines touts as a "probe inside the mind of the president and his gut-instinct decision-making process," and recommends you read alongside Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team Of Rivals. What any of this has to do with surviving the down economy is anyone's guess.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is generally regarded as a crazy person, probably gave the most honest answer to this dumb question: "I don't think there is such a book. In my humble opinion, people who actually believe they can understand all the issues are the ones that got us to where we are today. In reality, there are so many variables and so little data, it's all a guess. I don't think a book exists that can explain it. Is there a book out there called 'No One Has a Clue What Is Going On and the Whole World Is Guessing'?"

At least two of the experts, Nell Minow and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recommended David Copperfield, both specifically citing Micawber's famous advice to David: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." Why isn't this quote "nailed above the door of the Oval Office and the doors leading to both chambers of [Congress]," as Gates recommends? Oh, that's right. They are all a bunch of crooks.

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