Opportunity out of Crisis

By Caomhin

The current financial situation is indeed a once in a century crisis that our nation can and will overcome.  I would like to preface this piece by wondering aloud where the optimists are hiding.  That may sound like an odd statement to make at a time like this, however, it is important to note that a portion of economics is based on self fulfilling prophecies and an ever larger portion is dictated by consumer confidence.  Lost amidst the current discussion of the global economic climate are people expressing optimism with regards to the future and some opportunities that have presented themselves in these difficult times.

With that being said I feel it necessary to relay to both my fellow citizens and of course our employees (the government) my views on the bailouts and seemingly endless run on tax money which is occurring in the name saving the economy.   First, I am adamantly opposed to the bailouts and have been since day one.  The government does not have to power or ability to solve our ills and they most certainly do not have the authority, but apparently have the audacity, to refuse to disclose where over $2 trillion dollars of money that American citizens have earned.  The Fed has refused to provide this information to Congress, and with only a few members of Congress pressing the issue, we the people, should be expressing a much greater level of outrage than we currently are doing.  It is shocking that any function of the government or any agency that comes into contact with tax dollars would refuse to provide answers or refuse to be held accountable for their actions.

In our democratic republic the government derives its authority and its power from the people and ultimately must be held accountable and provide transparency to the citizens.  This is a dangerous and outrageous precedent that must be addressed and I strongly encourage everyone to insist upon answers to where the Fed has directed these funds.  Elected officials must be taken to task when not performing their functions and egregiously abusing their powers.  Refusing to answer to the people of this great nation shows only a lack of respect, arrogance, and some elements of tyranny.

Additionally, we are now seeing our budget spiral dangerously out of control, surpassing $11 trillion in total, and upwards of, or greater than $1 trillion this year alone.  This is simply inexcusable. We must demand fiscal responsibility and fiscal conservatism from our elected officials.  One of the basic elements of a free market is that when we make investments and individually select how to direct such investments is that we are assuming risks by doing so.  You are directed to prospectuses for information, 10-Qs and year end statements are readily available, etc.  It is our responsibility to take this advice and research this information in order to make informed decisions.  If we are unable to do so effectively, this is why we have professionals in these areas.

I find it also imperative to mention interest rates on bonds.  While there are many factors that contribute to the bond market and determination of prices and interest rates, it is a fundamental truth that the higher the risk, the higher the interest rate will be to the investor.  This is why “junk bonds” pay rates far greater than that of the federal government; there is a larger risk of default.  The higher the risk on these issuances of debt, the higher the interest rate.  You are assuming this risk and it is explicit in the purchasing contract that this is so.

There is an ever widening myth that deregulation caused all the ills that are currently upon us but a myth is exactly what is, if not an outright lie.  Deregulation did not cause this.  The regulation of markets is of course needed to some extent, but too much or too little can be disastrous.  Those who believe in capitalism and free markets will readily agree that this is true.  However, the government’s intervention in the housing market, specifically by guaranteeing risky mortgages, was not a lack of regulation (though calls by some members of the Republican Party for more regulation were drowned out by Democrats) but an outright assault on the free market that had devastating effects.

Absent the guarantee from the government, high risk and toxic mortgages would not have been nearly as attractive as an investment and would have simply been a specialty market in which a far greater less number of buyers would have been present.   By direct interference from the government, investors feasted upon securities offered up by GSEs as they would receive high returns with essentially no risk since the government had pledged tax dollars to protect against default.

The bailout option is a never ending spiral that should never have been embarked upon.  By definition a recession occurs when two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth occurs.  During recessions many corporations become unprofitable and lose money.  It is an extremely difficult time financially and emotionally.  However, by pursing the options of bailouts the government has moved from a legitimate function of impartial enforcer of the rules of commerce into a role of decider.

The government, through the use of tax dollars, is propping up different industries, picking and choosing to whom they shall give money.  Companies and individuals that acted in a fiscally responsible manner prior to the start of the recession are the biggest losers from this aspect.  By behaving prudently and not exposing themselves to high levels of bad investments, their growth will be stunted greatly, which is precisely what should not happen as these are the companies who should be growing.  Secondly, the government by “investing” in private companies can by definition no longer be impartial in the marketplace; they have an incentive to see that firms they are funneling money to become profitable at the expense of their competitors, i.e., the responsible companies.

Another aspect to this is that the government will be taking an active role in deciding which industries are to be deemed as vital to the citizens of this nation.  Well the only way that can truly be determined is when the citizens have control, which we would have, if not for the bailouts.  We know what we need and we show it on a continuous basis every time we use our debit cards, cash, checks, etc.  What we purchase is what is vital to us; we make that decision not some bureaucrat down in Washington, D.C., Harrisburg, Trenton, etc.

One other thing I want to mention is that the decline of our deposits into financial institutions has created a situation where there is a limited amount of liquid wealth that can be drawn upon for legitimate sources of credit to be provided without risking extremely high levels of inflation that disproportionally impacts poor and working class people.  It is vital that we increase our level of savings.  As more money is printed, especially at the levels we are seeing today, inflation will be devastating for everyone who is not in the upper class, but that is precisely the policy that is being embarked upon and it will have a devastating effect if this is not addressed.  The American Dream is there for us to realize but pursing policies that puts the majority of citizens squarely behind the eight ball is a failure of leadership and failure to grasp even basic principles of economics.  In normal times of recessions, higher savings levels would have made it easier for business to invest in their infrastructure, this will not occur this time.  It simply compounds the credit crisis.  Instead, we pursued a dangerous policy of extremely low interest rates while not encouraging savings and raised the prospects of hyperinflation.

We must balance the budget and begin to pay off debt the way every individual does:  we must cut back spending dramatically and use a surplus to pay down the debt.  While proponents of big government argue the need for higher tax rates in order to pursue such a goal, they have shown time and time again that they will indeed increase spending up to the level of the total taxes being collected.  By using a surplus to being to pay down the debt we will be strengthening the dollar and restoring order to the government.  We must demand this.  With the ever mounting debt we cannot simply operate as business as usual.  It must be paid down.  It recklessly irresponsible to not pursue this objective.  We cannot simply keep passing the buck from generation to generation and expect everything to be ok.  It will not be if we do not tackle this problem.

How does this mesh with my talk of optimism earlier?  Well, should we accomplish these two modest goals, being to increase our savings levels and being to pay down the debt, great things will come.  We will better our economy, our nation’s long term health, and provide a wider avenue to lift people out of poverty.  We must commit to this as individuals and demand this out of our leaders.  We must remain committed to capitalism and the free market to provide future growth and true wealth accumulation while maximizing utility.  The need for accountability has never been higher and the time for leadership never been greater.  Each of us, every citizen of this nation, regardless of race, creed, or color, has the ability to rise to greatness and now is time for all of us to seize this opportunity.


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