Eighteen years after a far less furrowed Ayn Rand acolyte named Alan Greenspan took over the Federal Reserve, the inscrutable chairman marked his final appearance before Congress today. This amazing longevity -- consider that he held court before the first President Bush was President Bush -- is unusual in government (other than Supreme Court appointments and show-up-and-get-a-check civil service jobs). It is unheard of in the private sector.
Alan Greenspan has his indicators, but my economic barometer is based on what I like to call the "Tchotchke Index." If the economy is doing well, goes my reasoning, the quality and originality of trinkets that companies give away goes up. Take, for example, one giveaway I got at a launch party back in '99: A navy blue Polartec fleece hat with bright orange horns sticking out all over it. Warm and visually distinctive, I would give it a 9 on the Index.