My son Josh, who is younger than I am, told me about something called “bitcoin” years ago. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now — but if I’d displayed any confidence in what he told me back then, I’d be a very rich man today. Of course, it’s understandable that I didn’t take financial advice from someone who also used to try and get me to believe he routinely finished all his homework on the bus ride home. Especially since he walked to school.
Back when the boy first mentioned this virtual currency, it was virtually worthless — a value of less than one cent. But as of three seconds ago, one bitcoin was worth over $19,000 US dollars. That kind of exponential growth is the equivalent of going to get one of those mylar balloons inflated for a party, and walking out with something roughly the size of the moon. But then you’d have to figure out how to get it in your car, so there’s that to consider.
I have a friend who lives in the Seattle area, who told me years ago many of his co-workers were investing in a startup called “Microsoft” — and at the time he thought it was a dubious prospect. Today his long-retired co-workers are all millionaires, but he comforts himself with the knowledge that there are no greater riches than the love shared among members of one’s own family. Of course, no member of his family has spoken to him in the decades since he failed to turn them on to this stock tip.
You hear stories every now and then about someone who renovates a house and discovers a box stuffed with cash hidden behind the sheetrock, or finds out a painting purchased at a garage sale for five dollars is actually an Old Master and is worth millions. The only thing I ever found behind the sheetrock when renovating a house was mold and a huge bee colony. It cost me the small fortune I didn’t find to get it all fixed.
But back to this bitcoin… I still don’t understand how one acquires a bitcoin, or bitcoins, or a fractional amount of a bitcoin, or even how to balance my checkbook. Like most kids, I went through a coin-collecting phase, hoping to come across a wheat penny or a Franklin half-dollar. I actually had a few dozen silver dollars, some dating back to the mid-1800s, but cashed most of them in when I was a high school freshman and wanted to take an older girl out on a date. I strode into the bank, swinging my sack (of silver dollars; come on, now… As Sarah Sanders says, only someone with their mind in the gutter would think what you just thought), and asked the teller to exchange the collectible silver dollars for some spendable paper ones. She looked at me for a while and then asked, “Are you sure you want to do that?” I nodded in the affirmative, quite certain I was making the correct, lust-driven decision. I took the girl to the movies, purchased our tickets with a sure-to-impress-her crisp $20 bill, and somehow managed to throw the considerable amount of change I got back into the trash. We went to get our popcorn, candy, and sodas and when I went to flash my wad (tut-tut, people!), I had nothing but thirty-seven cents in change in my pocket. It may not come as a surprise to you that this lissome lass was never seen in my company in public again.
Anyway — needless to say, I am not a bitcoin billionaire today. I, like most not-to-the-manor-born folks, am struggling to understand how the seemingly inevitable passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is going to impact my finances. I keep seeing (largely already wealthy) GOP folks on TV who keep claiming it’ll be a boon to the middle class, saying “just plug in the numbers” to see how much of a tax break we’ll get. Plug the numbers into what? A wall socket? Where’s the prototype of the postcard-sized 1040 form that Paul Ryan keeps pulling out of his baggy suit jacket, that I could use to quickly calculate my hypothetical tax relief?
I think this so-called “great Christmas gift” the Prez and GOP want to give us is as illusory as that postcard. And, just like with bitcoin — I’m not going to bite.