May 20, 2024

Solution to U.S. credit crisis: Live within your means

We now have a new president and a significant Democratic majority in the House and Senate. We now have no excuse for forestalling efficient, swift government legislative action. After all, didn’t our new president promise nonpartisan, constructive interaction?

Predictably, President Bush is dragging his feet on the economy, the rescue of the auto industry and its 3 million workers dependent upon that industry. Predictably, the Republicans are carping and resisting any help for the automotive industry. Their actions are primarily partisan and anti-labor. Predictably they also are much more willing to throw hundreds of billions at the financial sector’s screw-ups. Why is obvious.

We have Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, an emeritus of Wall Street, doing whatever the Wall Street crowd wants him to do and the Congress was stampeded into compliance like wall-eyed sheep. We have Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke practicing the same failed policies as that self-confessed failure, Alan Greenspan. Mr. Paulson is an appointee of the Bush administration and a creature of the Republicans.

We need both of them, Paulson and Bernanke, to be pried loose from the federal payroll. We need to expose to the American people all aspects of any taxpayer-funded bailout-rescue plan and to have those plans hardwired to specific conditions that provide incentives for compliance with those conditions and harsh penalties for failure to perform efficiently and profitably and for the general welfare. Harsh penalties should include possible loss of rescue funding. This should apply to any industry on this taxpayer-provided dole, auto, financial, whatever.

As an example, any banking or brokerage institution or other industry that avails itself of taxpayer-funded assistance should discharge and replace the CEOs and CFOs and members of middle management that contributed to their corporation’s unprofitable and dysfunctional situation – swiftly. New executives should be subjected to the principles of a pure meritocracy for both job security and performance. This is no more draconian than the good old business principles that guided our industries when they were the most productive. Adapt or die.

The materialistic nature of our society long has put more of a premium on conspicuous consumption than on the exploration of how we are going to pay for our toys. We long since have decided that the equity in our homes is a substitute for genuine savings. When our equity is sharply undercut by plummeting real estate values, we are brought back to the unpleasant reality of no cash reserves and large credit card balances.

Savings as a percentage of income is near zero these days. The solution to the personal credit crunch is simplicity itself. Live well within your means or face our present recessive economy in a constant panic.

Finally, we need a few more T. Boone Pickenses and fewer AIG-type CEOs on the planet Earth. We have allowed the economic and ecological situations to reach crisis proportions, because we have acted stupidly and without discipline. Time to turn up our intellectual wattage and turn down our acquisitive greed.

Fred Mendel of Sherman is a retired general accountant.

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