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Spending our money, Round II

Fri, Jan 30th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

It might be a stretch but it seems to me that the economic situation we now see around us is similar to being attacked by an unseen enemy. Like the 9/11 disaster, seemingly out of nowhere comes an unimaginable catastrophe. Sure, we know now that there was information available to our leaders clearly stating a 9/11-like event could and most likely would take place. We also know now that there were warning signs about the possible, almost inevitable, collapse of the housing market and the consequences that would follow. And, like 9/11 these signs were ignored or at the least discounted. Now faced with another catastrophe we (our government leaders) seem surprised once again.

The questions before us are how to deal with job loss, home equity collapse, severe stock and bond market retreat, bank collapse, and lack of funding for loans. The proposed solutions, like most that come from government involve money. Whether it's spending money to fund a war or money to stimulate the economy, it is money, always money. With these expenditures there must be easily understood policies of implementation and policies of accountability. To date it appears that the original billions given to Wall Street banks, insurance companies, and others have not produced the results that were supposed to happen. Most people assumed that some portion of the given money would be made available by the banks for loans. And, that these loans would help the average person with their mortgages. However, recent press reports have stated that no directions were given on how the money should or must be spent and little to no required accountability of how the funds were used. It has also been reported that very little of the money has been used for loans or mortgage relief. Instead, some of the banks have used their money to pay off a portion of their debt, secure the positions of their stock holders, and to buy other banks. In defense, some say that had we not done what we did do things would have been much worse. But how does one know this for sure?

The economic stimulus plan (it's not longer called a bailout) now seems to be one of tax relief and government spending. This, I suppose, is probably the only way government can come to the rescue of its people. The hope is that the plans once implemented will be effective, take hold in a relatively short time, and restore confidence in all sectors of the country. As with any government program there will be some who wish to make the programs larger, some who wish to make them smaller, some who want to change the focus, or whatever. Regardless, paramount is the need for a thoughtful, careful review of the proposed solutions. As with any risk management, the ramifications and potential consequences of the proposals must be identified and analyzed before implementation. There must be a clear set of rules, a clear set of expected outcomes and an ongoing monitoring of the process as the funds are made available.

Can the government do this? Let's hope so. We certainly cannot afford more waste.

Alan Lipowitz lives in Peterson, MN and can be contacted at

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