Monday, September 29, 2008

Who knew?

Who knew we might have avoided this economic crisis with more bridges to nowhere. Or somewhere. There are certainly lots of places that need new bridges or repair of old bridges. It is called an investment in our infrastructure.And the United States has not been making any. Has not made any for the last eight years at least. Thirty if you look at our interstate freeway system.

We are all focused on instant gratification: the big screen TV, the new Hummer, the larger and bigger house, the war in Iraq. But our failed economy is not just the people with the bigger and better house they cannot afford without the fancy but vaguely illegal mortgage, or the huge credit card debt (some accumulated no doubt because of the instant gratification of Exxon). Who knew how quickly instant gratification would mean a tank of gas so we could get to work.

There is an ever dwindling middle class. Their incomes have not risen in proportion to prices. And not since 1928 has the United States seen such a huge concentration of wealth. The top 1% has a full 20% of the income. In 1980 that 1% only had 8% of the income. Incidentally, those are the people GW Bush and John McCain do not want to tax.

But it is not just the people (and politicians) that have been short sighted in this. The United States has made no "investments" in its schools, infrastructure, health care and alternate energy sources. Earmarks put people to work. And, said this one panel of economists, the oil companies have blown it too, choosing to try and force a relaxation of EPA standards on new refineries instead of taking the money they had (more than adequate) and just building.
The same can be said for many industries.

I have made a huge investment in my infrastructure with the studio (admittedly because of a cheating contractor it was bigger than it should have been) and there is more I could do if I had the money - like stain the whole house, build that deck, etc. But at the moment I am more focused on the "immediate or intermediate gratification" like firewood for the winter and a shed to keep it out from under the snow because those top holders of wealth are holding back on spending (including art). Which points to the "emotional" and psychological reasons for the bailout which may be the whole reason on some level. Investment companies were in mid-panic. Sp is the government.

I think because of this bailout we are all being forced to "rethink" our economic plans. And the government needs to do that too. And not in pulling back and not moving forward on health care and infrastructure. To put people back to work it needs to invest in infrastructure. The $700 billion bailout would have built 4,500 bridges to nowhere. I am sure we could all think of places we would like to see those bridges - could use those bridges or a new road or an adequate school or a working train/rail system for transport. And friends in the construction industry that could use the work building them. Then we would have money to invest in our personal infrastructures.

So the key here for the fat cats and companies and for the government is not to pull in on your spending but refocus your instant gratification (the war in Iraq for GW) to investment in the United States. And the long term view of your company's and our countries needs.