The 2009 Will Rogers Award goes to...ABA Chief economist James Chessen


It's still early, but one man has already distanced himself from the pack in the race for the 2009 Will Rogers Award For Obviousness in Financial Insight. The award, which I just made up, is named for Will Rogers who once offered this bit of investing advice: "Buy good quality common stocks and hold 'em until they go up. If they don't go up, don't buy 'em."

"People have limited amounts of income," James Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association, told the USA Today. Well that was insightful! Take notes and maybe you too can become a chief economist. With trenchant analysis like that coming from the ABA's chief economist, it's absolutely shocking that the banking industry has collapsed.

Mr. Chessen was referring to declining credit card payments as the economy weakens. New data shows that Americans paid off just 16.1% of their credit card debt in November, a drop of 2.5 percentage points to 16.1%. Experts say that that is among the largest drops on record. Further compounding the problem is the fact that home equity loans and balance transfers are tougher than they used to be to get done.

But Mr. Chessen has cut through to the root of all our problems: limited incomes. How come no one thought of this before?

In fairness to Mr. Chessen, he is an employee of an organization that recently named disgraced Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis Banker of the Year.