The landscape has been transformed from dull, unrelenting, washed-out greyness to an impossibly lush expanse featuring every imaginable shade of green. The grass in our yard is a deep, fathomless emerald color, like the dense, verdant, waving stands of kelp found at the bottom of the ocean or a wet spot on the felt top of a billiards table. In the heavily refracted light of the early evening, the lawn looks thick and rich and irresistibly inviting, the perfect place to sink your tired feet, or to lay down, facing skyward, and let the cool blades caress the back of your neck and tickle your ears.
“Mr. Webner, this is one of your securities analysts over at the Treasury Department calling to discuss the status of your investments.”
I beg your pardon?
“Yes, this is one of your analysts over at Treasury. You’ll recall that we decided to invest $50 billion in tax dollars from you and other taxpayers in General Motors.”
Who is this, really?
“It’s the Treasury Department, Mr. Webner. Don’t make me read your Social Security number over the phone. I’m calling you today to report on the GM investment. You see, we’ve decided to sell our holdings of GM stock this summer.”
Okay . . . so, how did the investment do?
“Mr. Webner, I’m very pleased to report that, if we sell at current prices, we’re likely to lose only about $11 billion.”
Wait a minute — did you say we are going to lose 11 billion dollars?!?
“Yes, that’s right. It means we’ve only lost a bit over 20 percent of the investment! Of course, prudence compels me to point out that the loss could be greater if the share prices fall.”
How is the stock doing, then?
“I’m sorry to say the current stock price has fallen to below the initial public offering price.”
“Well, Mr. Webner, have you been to the gas station lately? With gas prices increasing every day, consumers surprisingly aren’t motivated to buy those huge GM pickup trucks. And during the first part of this year, GM had to offer big sales incentives and rebates to get people to buy those quality cars that your tax dollars helped to manufacture. Oh, and there’s been some management turnover, too. Of course, gas prices could go down before summer, Mr. Webner. And those Chevy Volts could start flying off the showroom floors.”
So, you are telling me that we are likely to lose even more than $11 billion unless gas prices go down and the Chevy Volt takes the country by storm?
“That’s about it, Mr. Webner. Now, can I talk to you about our planned investments in green technology companies?”