Many of my friends on the left side of the political spectrum will ONLY focus on the greed on Wall Street in causing the Great Recession. They argue that deregulation of the banking system was the sole reason we got into this mess. Meanwhile, my right wing compadres will insist that it was the greed of homeowners who bought homes they could not afford who were at fault. While there is a grain of truth (perhaps) in both arguments of varying degrees, everyone seems to be missing the entire basis upon which a free market (one that works, at any rate) is built: Risk.
When banks suddenly started giving out ridiculously risky loans, people should have asked why. Why would a bank that previously had checked people out before approving home loans and such change their policy so drastically at the turn of the century? Banks aren’t in the business of making risky loans. Think about it. Why would they give out a loan to someone they were almost sure wouldn’t be able to pay for it? Certainly the 1980s and 90s had seen immeasurable prosperity and economic indicators were that it would be endless. So buy more. Be a good consumer. BUY BUY BUY. Accumulate debt. YOU CAN AFFORD IT, they said.
To answer my previous question, Why would the banks loan money to people they were pretty sure wouldn’t be able to pay it back? one must go back to the 1990s, and a policy called the National Homeownership Strategy. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. This legislation was no exception. A centrepiece of President Bill Clinton’s fight against poverty was this little gem. For the government’s perspective/propaganda on the issue, read this: http://confoundedinterest.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/nhsdream2.pdf.
It seems like a good idea, right? Who doesn’t want people to own their own home? When it comes to nearly every government initiative, especially ones in the United States, one must dig a little deeper and ask the fundamental question of Who Benefits? In this case, one of the stipulations of this legislation was that very simply if this grandiose program didn’t work out, the government would step in and back those mortgages that people couldn’t afford to pay. But that would NEVER happen. America was in prosperity mode, drunk on credit cards – the uber rich knew it would never last, but that’s not what the told the rest of us when they knew they were ripping us off. There was no risk for the banks. Their asses were covered. Either they would make a killing or they’d get a massive bailout to cover their losses. Meanwhile, thousands would lose their homes. Doesn’t sound like much of a sweet deal anymore, does it? Thanks, Bill.
A system cannot survive when different groups of people (especially ones divided by income) are allowed to play by different rules – or worse, when one group gets to MAKE the rules. That is the essence of a dictatorship: a society that rejects the rights of individuals and sees people only as members of groups with varying influence based on the size of their wallets.
The banks own this country. They make the rules that benefit them, and we have to live within those rules and accept our fate – an increasingly smaller piece of the pie. But never fear, my interesting free market friends, all of this is artificial. The causes of our economic problems are not a natural result of free market principles, but of manipulation by an elite group of people who rig the system for their benefit. Deregulation doesn’t tell you the whole story.
RISK will tell you everything you need to know about our current fiscal difficulties. The rest of us take it when we make an investment or buy something, while the real power-brokers, the banks and corporations, live in a different world free of such inconveniences. Thankfully for them, WE take on that risk for them. The debt accumulated at each government level falls not on the people who benefit from such government policies, but on you and I. If we did this, we’d be in jail. No doubt.
In closing, here is some food for thought. When the stock market comes back after a recession, the leader and his government are praised by the media and we are led to believe that this is a good thing for all of us. A recession does not end because rich people start to make more money in the private sector or when people are back at work, being paid 1/2 of what they were before the crisis. The stock market is very deceiving. Don’t be fooled. This current recession isn’t over by a long shot.