Friday, October 3, 2008

Greed & Corruption...on Main Street

It seems our country has a really hard time taking responsibility for its actions. While I'm hardly happy about the current economic situation, I'm not sure this proposed $700,000,000,000 "bailout/rescue" plan is such a good idea. Has anyone considered that this "crisis" isn't so much a problem to be avoided as a logical consequence to be endured?

Yes, banks are failing and consumer confidence is down. That's to be expected — banks made stupid choices that effectively and appropriately destroyed their trustworthiness. Yes, investment values are plummeting. They call that "market volatility" — every investor is told up front that there's just as much potential for loss as there is for gain. Yes, oppressive mortgages are forcing foreclosures. That's what happens when people attempt to live beyond their means. Why is anyone surprised by this turn of events?

No doubt we need to rescue the economy from total collapse. More importantly, something should be done to prevent dishonest scoundrels and greedy people from destabilizing the global economy again. We should prevent banks and investment firms from overextending credit and recklessly gambling the public's money. We should ensure that investors are properly educated about the risks inherent to the stock market. We should eliminate predatory lending. But we shouldn't slap the most expensive band-aid in history on the consequences of a broken system and expect everything to be sunshine and rainbows again.

Rather than (rather stupidly) spending money we don't have to fix a problem we created by spending money we didn't have, let's take the opportunity to think long and hard about how we got here. This is no time for scapegoats. I know it's never popular to blame "the people", but we're foolish to point fingers at "greed and corruption on Wall Street" without considering our own contribution to the crisis as well. I suspect there are very few innocent. Regardless, we're all in this together now. And there's no easy way out, bailout or no bailout.

I, for one, hope this crisis hurts everyone a little. In fact, I hope it hurts some people a lot — I hope our government makes it a priority to trim its own fat, I hope mismanaged banks and businesses are forced to restructure and reevaluate, I hope the CEOs and managers at fault lose their positions and the respect of their peers, and I hope overextended middle class people realize the need to downsize and cut back.

I hope that doesn't sound harsh. My point is, I think we all stand to benefit from having our world shaken up a bit. We've grown accustomed to having whatever we want, whenever we want it, whether or not we can afford it — and still grasping for more. Until now, we've been cushioned from consequences...and now they've caught up. If we face them, we just might learn from our mistakes. A gigantic Federal bailout, on the other hand, only reinforces bad behavior...and delays the inevitable reckoning.