By Pater Tenebrarum
Experts Agree: It Is Not 2008
If someone were to ask us what year it was, we would probably politely answer that it was 2016, curious to find out whether the inquirer was a) very confused, b) had only recently awoken from a coma and was still unsure of his when-abouts, or c) was a time traveler who got temporarily lost.
In the unlikely case that we should find ourselves unable to remember the year with sufficient precision to ensure a reliable answer, we'd probably consult a calendar. We recently found out that a great many people actually seem to be uncertain about what year it is. Or at least many mainstream media appear to think so, as they have launched an intense awareness campaign.
Specifically, numerous people seem to think it is still 2008. Wish that it were so - we'd be eight years younger. It all started on 24 August 2015, when two publications apparently discovered independently of each other that is was no longer 2008 and decided that this information should be urgently imparted to the rest of humanity. It all started with marketplace.org admonishing its readers to engage in mnemonic exercises so as not to forget:
Photo via marketplace.org
On the very same day, NPR noted that a number of economists agreed: it was indeed no longer 2008. Incidentally, this was actually a correct estimate, as it was clearly 2015 at the time. It was presumably good though that some reassurance on the point was provided by experts - that is apparently helpful with averting panic attacks:
However, these efforts were evidently insufficient: general confusion about the precise year we are in must have promptly resurfaced in early 2016. In the interest of keeping the general population in the date-loop, USA Today had the following information on its January 8 front page:
Inside, the paper assured its readers that once again, "pros" agreed with this assessment. Phew!
It turns out that not everybody realized this at once. One day later, the National Interest felt it had to bring its readers up-to-date as well. In hindsight, the photograph it chose to mark the occasion seems somewhat inappropriate:
It took another three days for CNBC to catch on, but they needed a Mr. Mather from PIMCO to tell them (PIMCO seems to be running a sideline as a time-keeping company):
Another three days later, editors at the Wall Street Journal began to entertain doubts about the perception of time and date prevailing among the paper's readers. Better safe than sorry, they must have thought. Someone's got to tell them!
Click to enlarge
The headline seemed to indicate that they even knew why it was no longer 2008. But the sub-header betrays that there were still some uncertainties. As you can see, it says there: "US economy and financial system are in a very different place now". Wrong! They're in a different time. Oh well.
By now you're probably wondering where Bloomberg was while all of this was happening. Did Bloomberg's editors trust that its readers were aware of what year we are in? It seems they were waiting for an expert study before making a firm pronouncement on the matter. Such a study was finally forwarded to them by Citigroup on January 20:
Click to enlargeInstead of urging readers to remember what the current year is, Citigroup seemed to prefer for everybody to forget 2008. This is no surprise, as the bank reportedly suffered a severe dancing accident in 2008. This was rumored to be due to problems with the CEO's hearing aid. What he erroneously took to be music was actually the sound made by bankers and hedge fund managers falling past his window on the way down.
On the very same day, Business Insider finally decided to consult an expert as well. None other than the famous Nouriel Roubini! If anyone knows for sure what year it is, it is surely he. Not only that, he even had the presence of mind to make a very useful suggestion as to what needed to be done to help those who remained confused - although it should be noted that he himself seemed actually slightly confused about the flow of time:
Click to enlargeRoubini appears to believe that the universe has begun to contract - how else are we to interpret his assertion that "it's not 2008 yet"? Fortunately, his unerring statist instincts still seem to be in perfect working order: Governments will save us!
To make 100% sure that its readers really understood that time had moved on, Bloomberg offered additional commentary on the topic on January 22:
Click to enlargeGood news! At least we know now for sure that there's no time machine hanky-panky involved. Nothing has traveled back to 2008 for a visit. The time-line is safe! No need to call the time cops - they can stay in the 29th, resp. 31st century for now.
It took about one more week for Barron's to decide to bring its readers abruptly into the present, which it did on January 30:
Click to enlargeIt appears from this that Barron's has also discovered why exactly it is not 2008. We have our own guess actually (don't take our word for it, do your own due diligence - we could be wrong): the most likely reason is that eight years have passed since then.
It took almost another week for the good news to travel all the way to South Africa, where a local paper advised its date & time-challenged readers on February 5 to keep calm in the face of this monumental discovery:
Click to enlargeOr as it says on the cover of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy": Don't Panic!
Finally, on February 10, Citigroup analysts felt sure they had at last found out what year it actually is and immediately informed Bloomberg of their theory. You will recall from further above that they previously were merely certain that it wasn't the year of the Mazurka accident. Unfortunately, they haven't gotten it quite right just yet. Perhaps someone should mail them a calendar?
Click to enlargeCloser, but still no cigar. We are slightly baffled that no-one at Bloomberg thought to tell them that it isn't 2011 anymore. If you look closely, you will see that Bloomberg itself is evidently aware of what year it is.
The whole thing is a bit of a head-scratcher to be honest. We feel pretty sure that it is 2016, but with so many different papers desperately hammering home the same message, one has to wonder a bit what is going on here. However:
It's Actually True
A friend has provided us with evidence yesterday that shows convincingly that it is indeed not 2008. The experts have it right! Below you see a chart of the performance of major European bank stocks from the beginning of this year compared to their performance in the same time period in 2008. Clearly, it must be 2016:
European bank stocks, performance in 2016 (dark blue) vs. 2008 (light blue), via Thomson Reuters.
Normally we try to carefully avoid the following phrase due to the costs it reportedly tends to involve, but here goes anyway:
This time is different!