10/10/2007 06:42 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dollars to Donuts

There used to be a time when the ultimate declaration of certainty was "I'll bet you dollars to donuts, I'm right." Those were the days when dollars were worth a dollar and donuts were virtually worthless. Now no one exactly knows what a dollar is worth but a donut costs 99 cents at Dunkin Donuts. "Dollars to donuts" has become an even money bet.

Earlier this month I was in the waiting room at my doctor's office. The delay was so great, the patients ahead of me so many, and I was so desperate for something to read that I picked up a Phillips Auctioneers Catalogue dated October 29, 2001. That's a few weeks short of six years ago-- after 9/11, but before the Iraq war.

The paintings were modestly priced, not old masters. But it was not their quality that captured my attention, it was the exchange rate. Back then $1.47 bought one British Pound, now it's $2.03. So, a painting attributed to Thomas Barker that was expected to sell for between £3,000- £4,000 ($4,450 - $5,600.) Today the same painting would cost $6,100 to $9,000, that's $1,650 to $3,400 more, a dollar decline of more than 45%.

estimates were also expressed in Euros. In that case, Americans bought a Euro for 92 cents--now it costs $1.41. That's a 53% decline in the value of the dollar. Brits and Europeans come to New York for Christmas shopping. That speaks for itself.

It is apparent that whether expressed in paintings or donuts the dollar is in some trouble. And neither the Administration nor the media seem much concerned about it. Everybody sees the upside, cheaper prices for American goods sold abroad; nobody pays much attention to what it does to individual Americans traveling abroad. To contradict, Horace Greeley, my advice to vacation travelers is stay home folks, stay home. And also, don't bet anybody dollars to donuts anymore. The odds aren't as good.