States Visited

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Iceberg - getting bigger...

On my way in to work this morning - working Saturdays does suck, but at least I have a job - I was listening to a podcast where a report by the Congressional panel responsible for oversight of the bailout citing the lack of government regulation and increasing de-regulation as the source of our current depression was being discussed. My first thought was why should anyone listen to a panel so inept and incompetent that it has failed in its only purpose - to know where the bailout money has gone?

My second thought was that they found the answer, although they don't know it. The panel is correct - the vast majority of the responsibility for this mess lies squarely with the government. We can argue about the merits and demerits of particular regulations, we can discuss the greed and avarice of people from Wall Street to Main Street that fueled the repeated bubbles, we can discuss the roll of the plain stupidity of the American consumer and our debt driven effort to keep up with the Jones'. We can debate these things and dozens of others ad nauseam, and we will never find the solution. We are trying to cure the plague by the letting of blood.

This is a first run through this analogy so I may have missed something, but I wanted to throw it out anyway.

The Learning Channel (possibly Discovery Health?) recently aired a show about a man so fat that he was unable to get out of bed - yet he consumed around 30,000 calories a day. There is something pitiful about seeing a man eat himself to death. I feel for him and he clearly needs help. But, there is something absolutely horrific about watching the people that are supposed to love and care about him help him do it. Enablers. This man cannot consistently eat 30,000 calories a day without significant amounts of help - one man cannot consistently eat 15 times a normal diet without lots of financial and physical assistance. This is a pretty good analogy to what the U.S. has become, only instead of consuming calories we consume ever increasing amounts of debt and dollars.

Just as the man eating 30,000 calories a day bears responsibility for his own eating habits, each American is to blame for our own greed, ignorance and bad decisions. However, we cannot, in a free society, legislate ourselves out of greed and into good economic thinking any more than we can legislate ourselves into healthy eating habits.

Overeating and obesity, at varying degrees, are almost inevitable in a free society. However, it requires help to become grotesquely obese. One cannot weigh 1,000 pounds and eat 30,000 calories a day without other people or organizations helping make it happen. Greed and avarice, at varying degrees, are also inevitable in a free society. Similarly, this country cannot have gotten in our current condition - financially, grotesquely obese - without significant 'help.' We can be greedy, we can make bad investment decisions, we can be economically ignorant, but you cannot fail on the scale in which we have failed without LOTS of 'help.' We cannot consume the financial equivalent of 30,000 calories a day without our government to be there as an enabler, bringing us plate after plate after plate of money and debt. Nature will prevent a man from weighing 1,000 pounds and consuming 30,000 calories a day without help - he will quickly become immobile and unable to gather that much food for himself long before he reaches those levels. A true free market, with a sound currency, will not provide the levels of debt and money required to gorge the way we have, we will have market corrections and bankruptcies that prevent it long before we reach these levels. It only becomes possible when a government interferes and enables it to happen.

For far too long we have listened to politicians that proclaim their love of the country and their love of the people even as they delivered plate after plate after plate of debt and money, all while actively encouraging us to eat and eat and eat. For all of the change Obama promised, all he has brought is more of the same. The government is doing everything it can to encourage people to eat: monkeying around with bank reserve requirements, trying to force banks to lend, artificially lowering interest rates, pumping the money supply to astronomical levels, etc. Even now, as the people are stuffed to the gills and no longer hungry, the government insists that we eat. If we will not take it voluntarily, then they will force-feed us with "stimulus." The government is, in effect, trying to help the 1,000 pound man lose weight by increasing his calorie intake from 30,000 to 50,000 per day.

I am not excusing the greedy bastards on Wall Street, particularly Goldman Sachs, for the things they have done, but I am starting to think they figured out, long before anyone else, just how inept and incompetent Washington really is and set out to make as much money as fast as possible before the entire system collapsed.

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