Forget "trickle down" economics, the Consumer Price Index and Guru Greenspan. I've discovered a new and more accurate way to gauge the economy. I call it "Max's Big Bang Theory."
Sure, the physicists and astronomers have already claimed "Big Bang" as their explanation for how the universe got started and eventually led to such important things as Puff Daddy, nose rings and "Survivor."
But while I have solid evidence for my theory, the astronomers are just making wild guesses based on so-called "evidence" like "quasars," which we all know are '70s-era TV sets, and "black holes," which is how I think of my Visa card.
Here's my Big Bang theory: Every Fourth of July, some of the people in my Salt Lake County neighborhood, known as Willow Creek, celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by re-enacting, via fireworks, various moments in the republic's glorious history.
For example, in past years they've staged the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Custer's Last Stand, the shelling of the Alamo and assorted Civil War battles — this year it seemed to be Gettysburg.
Some years — and here's the economics angle — the local fireworks pageant is weak, uninspired. I can always tell when people are worried about the economy because they limit their patriotic demonstrations to some sparklers, a handful of bottle rockets, a box of those bouncing things that make black marks on the driveway and three or four cones for the "grand finale."
On those Fourths, you know people are feeling pretty insecure about their finances. They spend a few bucks at one of those strip mall fireworks stands and call it good. When that happens, you know the stock market is in trouble and you can forget about selling your house in less than six months.
But not this year. Independence Day 2000 will long be remembered by me and my neighbors — and our dogs, who are still in therapy trying to recover from the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air.
Thanks to cooler temperatures and an end to the strong winds that had helped turn Red Butte Canyon into an inferno earlier in the week, the Willow Creek Battalion failed to reduce eastern Salt Lake County to scorched earth on July 4 . . . but not for lack of trying.
Sadly, on July 5 the fireworks fusillade continued with only slightly less gusto, and two of my neighbors to the east saw their homes go up in flames, although it's unclear whether fireworks or a carelessly tossed cigarette was the culprit.
Undeterred, some folks continued shooting off their rockets and firecrackers even while the firefighters were battling to save the homes. And so many other fires were raging around the valley that the TV crews hardly knew where to aim their cameras.
A lot of people must have made a run to Evanston to buy pro-style, "Stadium of Fire" fireworks this year. These devices, known as "the good stuff" by do-it-yourselfers, are illegal in Salt Lake County, but this particular law seems to get the same respect as the 65 mph speed limit on I-215.
I estimate that the economic equivalent of Paraguay's GNP exploded over my house last Tuesday night, and if that's not a sign of prosperity, I'll eat my autographed copy of Howard Ruff's "How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years." Unfortunately, the prosperity is also pretty scary when your house backs onto a hill covered with dry brush, as does mine.
But the real test will come two weeks from today. Did the Willow Creek Brigade shoot off only half its arsenal on July 4, saving the other half for July 24? Will it make yet another fireworks run to Wyoming or Idaho this week or next? Should we sell our stocks and put the cash into money market funds? Should we increase the insurance on our homes?
Max's Big Bang Theory will reveal all. Meanwhile, if anyone needs me on the night of July 24, I'll be in the back yard manning my garden hose.