Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Economics 102

Let’s get this straight: Business, as a class of American society, wants the government to allow the free market to operate. True capitalism is messy, they say, but it works in the end. People will lose their jobs and houses, college educations may have to be skipped, retirements gutted by lost pensions, but the general trend will always be upward if business is left alone to let things shake themselves out. The better and stronger ideas will, eventually, overcome the lesser and weaker.

Until it’s them with their tit in the wringer.

Now we can see what it means for the government to keep its hands off business. It means business is free to do what it wants, take what it wants at whatever expense to the general welfare, then run to the same government it vilifies when its unsustainable greed comes around to treat them as it treated all the others who constituted collateral damage when times were “good.”

It is said the institutional investors can’t afford to lose too much of their investment in Bear Stearns. The stock’s fifty-two week high was $159.36; the buyout is for $2. The stock lost 99% of its value, and we’re going worry that California’s pension fund will go broke over the last one percent?

We can’t afford the ripple effects on the rest of the economy? How about the people who have already lost everything? What are we to tell them? I’ve said before, people who got into mortgages they couldn’t pay don’t deserve much sympathy. How much do the people who wrote them deserve, or, more to the point with Bear Stearns, how much sympathy is due those who based their securities packages on mortgages they never bothered to verify were liquid?

The stockholders – and taxpayers, for that matter – should have recourse to sue the hell out of the Bear Stearns managers responsible for this. They’ve banked their hundred million dollar packages and bonuses. They’ll get by if they’re fired. Still advocate reduced tax rates for fund managers? Why? They appear to have no risk. Take any chances – Bear Stearns’ culture demanded it – and walk away with however much you can carry before the music stops, in case you’re the guy without a chair.

September 11. Iraq. Katrina. Now this. Will January 20, 2009 for Chrissakes hurry up so there will be something left to hand over to the next guy?

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