America Needs a Period of Pain
Recessions Vital Part of Capitalist System
The shoes Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw at George W. Bush had more courage and truth in them than all of America's fawning media. Al-Zaidi reminded the world that Bush, Dick Cheney and their helpers have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on their hands -- perhaps as many as one million.
In New York, fabled investment guru Bernie Madoff is accused of bilking clients of an astounding $50 billion while well-fed federal watchdogs snoozed.
Thanks to Madoff and Wall Street bandits, tens of millions of people have lost their life savings and retirement funds, and the world financial system is on the rocks.
Wall Street's big money con men, hedge fund Houdinis, and casino capitalists made a staggering $33.3 US billion in bonuses in 2007 alone by shady financial engineering and hawking fraudulent securities. Yet they have so far escaped prosecution. They get to keep their swag and $30-million South Hampton beach houses.
Worse is coming. Chrysler and Ford will shut plants in January. GM is next. In spite of the $13.4-billion auto industry bailout announced by President Bush last Friday, many plants may never reopen. As this column has long said, the U.S. auto industry closely resembles the old Soviet Union: Economically declining, bereft of new ideas, producing unwanted products, run by dimwitted careerist bureaucrats.
America produces the wrong cars, and far too many. The bloated auto industry must downsize. It has been selling cars only thanks to the steroid of cheap, easy credit -- in effect, almost giving them away. Now that the drug is largely cut off, sales have nosedived.
The U.S. economy has been running almost entirely on credit for a decade.
The U.S. national debt is twice America's net worth. Government and business encouraged a reckless credit binge to which the nation became addicted.
Manufacturing fell to only 12% of GDP. Finance -- the shuffling of paper -- became America's leading industry. Americans saved nothing and had to borrow $1.2 trillion from China and Japan to keep the orgy of consumerism going.
Washington's response was panic, then flooding the economy with freshly printed money in hope something positive would happen. Japan made precisely the same gamble when its bubble economy collapsed in the early 1990s. Today, Japan has one of the world's highest deficits and its economy remains dead in the water.
The U.S. economy must be weaned off credit addiction. Pumping billions and billions of dollars into the economy is like mainlining more drugs to a sick junkie.
The economy needs a period of cold turkey in which remaining credit bubbles, bad debt and financial distortions are purged. This is called recession, and it's a vital part of the capitalist free market cycle.
Without a period of pain, we can't restore economic health or sanity.
But panicky American politicians plan to spend $8.5 trillion to stave off this necessary, beneficial recession. Their misguided efforts risk igniting a future firestorm of inflation that will be far more dangerous and painful than any recession.
That is why the European Central Bank, with vivid memories of the terrifying 1920s hyperinflation in Germany when a loaf of bread cost 80 million marks, has resisted deep interest rate cuts and printing money.
The Fed's recent slashing of U.S. interest rates to zero is a sign of utter desperation and an act of folly. Once investors realize that Europe, Canada and Asia are far safer investments than the U.S., watch for the U.S. dollar to nosedive -- as it should.
The remedy for America's economic ills is not more money but patience.
Americans must relearn the old verity that one must save for purchases and rainy days; that gambling with your home is idiotic; that there is no substitute for hard work or manufacturing; and that it's always very risky to trust politicians or financial "professionals" with your money.
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