This is an excellent time to become alarmed about the economy. Tune in to the news almost any night, and chances are you'll hear Dan Rather announce that the dollar has once again plunged to a record low versus the yen. Or he might announce that giant Episcopalian moths are playing the cello in his bathroom. Dan has been under a lot of strain lately.

And he is not alone. These days when you look at the faces of prominent investors, who once rode high on the economic boom, you can see the worry in their eyes, and you cannot help but think to yourself: "Hahahahahaha." Because odds are you feel you did not benefit from the economic boom.

Odds are the only time you even NOTICED the economic boom was when you were stopped at a red light and you glanced over next to you, and there, inside a German automobile costing more than your house, was a prominent investor using his or her cellular telephone for God knows what economic purpose, probably to purchase a major airline, whereas the only thing YOU ever accomplished at a red light was the occasional nose pick.

So perhaps you are even feeling a tad pleased about these disturbing economic developments. Well, forgive me for gently pointing out here that you are a stupid idiot. Because these developments, remote though they may seem, affect YOU. As the old saying goes: "Nothing happens in a vacuum." Well, okay, SOME things happen in a vacuum. For example, in ninth-grade science class, Tommy Longworth put a fly inside a bell jar and pumped out all the air and the fly actually exploded. So perhaps we should change the old saying to: "Flies explode in a vacuum." But that does not affect my central point, because I HAVE no central point. Which is why I think it is so important at this time that we address the disturbing economic situation.

The essential question is: "Can U.S. businesspeople compete in the world economy?" The answer -- and I must get somewhat technical here, for there are many complex issues involved -- is: "No." This answer is based on a careful analysis of TV commercials, which give the strong impression that U.S. businesspeople could not compete, head to head, with wax fruit.

The essential problem is illustrated by the series of fake-slice-of-life commercials for Nissan, a Japanese car manufacturer. In these commercials, a mandatorily interracial group of hip youngish California-style individuals who allegedly work for Nissan sit around a table and "rap" about the CONCEPT of this car. It sounds like this:

FIRST PERSON: Because this is more than a car. This is ...

SECOND PERSON: Yes. We're talking about human beings, and it's ...

THIRD PERSON: Exactly. It's not just transportation, it's, you know, it's ...

NORMAL PERSON: What the hell are we TALKING about?

Of course I made that last part up. There is no normal person in this group. There are just these unintelligible Californians, and every time I hear them I want to leap to my feet and scream: "STOP IT! Over in Japan, they are actually DESIGNING and BUILDING these cars, and over here WE CAN'T EVEN MAKE COHERENT STATEMENTS ABOUT THEM!"

We also cannot stop fretting about our business telephone systems. This is why Mr. John Naisbitt, the bearded business guru who wrote the humongous best seller "Megatrends," is receiving large dollars to appear in a series of commercials wherein he strides purposefully through corporate offices, never slowing down for a moment, while various businesspeople tag along like yappy little dogs, babbling breathlessly at him about their telephones:

BUSINESSPERSON: John, we have a telephone system manufactured by whatever giant corporation is paying for this commercial!

NAISBITT (continuing to stride): Good. Where is the bank?

And, of course, you have the commercials where savvy businesspeople get Ahead by using their Macintosh computers to create the ultimate American business product: a really sharp-looking report.

Do you see what is happening here? It used to be that the people who acted like cretins in commercials were consumers -- The Housewife Who Becomes Nearly Suicidal Over Kitchen Odor, The Man Who Strikes Up Conversations With Near-Strangers About His Hemorrhoidal Tissue, etc. -- but today we are seeing equally ludicrous commercial behavior from business role models. I think we need to be alarmed about this. I think we need to take action before our nation is destroyed by the vacuum of unemployment as the air of international trade is pumped out of the bell jar of the economy by the Tommy Longworth of foreign competition. I think we need to change the channel.