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« Heard the New Joke About Healthcare Reform? | Main | Unify South Dallas: Getting a Place at the Table »

Bailouts, Government Interventions: No Loopholes, Please

By Mikyung Lim
November 17, 2009

The words, “Too Big to Fail,” seem to be in every news media pages these days. Regarding this issue, Ms. Arianna Huffington at Huffington Post criticized the US systematic failure of punishing immoral financial business practices that legally schemed and robbed their victims or unjustifiably awarded their executives even after their failed businesses, letting these legal crimes and their players escape without taking responsibility. This systematic loophole in existing (or non-existing) rules and regulations that govern financial sector sets the foundation of recurring similar business schemes over and over.

Ms. Huffington cited two such cases. The first case was JPMorgan’s scheme on bribing the officials of Alabama’s Jefferson County to obtain billion dollar contract and then persuading them to switch from fixed rate bonds to bonds hedged with risky derivatives, which drove the County on the verge of bankruptcy. Another case was Merrill Lynch’s reward of $3.6 billion bonuses to its executives, without informing its shareholders, even after their $27 billion-losing-business failure and on the blink of being acquired by Bank of America. Ms. Huffington’s blog post on this issue is listed at the end of this writing.

My problem here is whether it is right to maintain the financial system that keeps allowing these vicious business schemes to be legitimate, let them secretly marry-go-around and repeat the pattern over and over. There have been intense public debate on bank bailouts and government intervention on financial, auto, health insurance sectors. No matter how many people love or hate these issues, government bailouts, economic recovery plan, and health care reform are the “Musts.” Without them, this economy cannot survive, can not stop its continuing downward death spiral into depression. If the administration had not implemented them, business failures and unemployment would have gotten further worsened that, on the other hand, would have restricted, reduced consumer spending (as more people continue to lose jobs or get scared of job losses, they would spend less and less), purchases of manufacturing and service goods more than current levels. Decreasing consumer spending, purchases means less production of goods and less hiring of workers by industries, which would cause further business failures and additional layoffs of workers. And the vicious cycle would go on and on.

The problem with people who opposed government intervention and bailouts, insisted on small government, and only worried about the high costs of economic recovery plan, bailouts, and health insurance reform is, they completely omit / ignore the real problem itself, the big picture of currently failing US economy. Instead, they just focus on a side, secondary issue of cost problem. It’s like cancer patients who refuse to take the necessary medical treatments, chemotherapy and choose to die in order to avoid the high costs of medical treatments. The mind setting of these people can be compared to that of conservative voters who voted for ex-president. Many conservative Christian voters’ single-minded choice of presidential candidate only based on abortion issue, a relatively minor, secondary issue in the whole spectrum of national political agendas, has led to the following outcomes. Nothing has been improved regarding abortion issue (as it has been just a catch phrase issue to get support from conservative voters during presidential campaign; this issue gets ditched from the winning president’s policy agendas right after the election is over). On the other hand, they ended up contributing to the current economic disaster, pushing themselves or their relatives or neighbors into recession, job losses. In the same context, the problem with people who focus on the high costs of bailouts, overhauls, and reforms is, they completely ignore the current conditions of failing US economy and its impacts on jobs and people’s lives. Without any government measures, job losses and business failures would have continued and driven the US economy into another “Great Depression.”

If we consider US economy in comparison to human body, the impact of the meltdown of financial and other sectors on the US economy may be comparable to the impact of heart attack or stroke on human body. Didn’t we hear that financial sector almost accounts for half of US economy? Imagine that when we have severe illness such as heart attack or cancer and hear that almost half of our body is about to shut down its function. Will we decide to get rid of the troublesome half of our body to stop the illness and control the costs of medical treatments? Or, will we do our best to save the half of our body despite the high medical costs?

I have tried to explain why government interventions, bailouts, and industry overhauls are unavoidable necessaries. However, these bailouts and reforms should be implemented without their innate loopholes. Loopholes in the financial system have allowed and will continue to allow the offending legal business criminals to repeat the same business schemes over time. Without closing these loopholes, all reform efforts will turn out to be less constructive, fruitful. What the current government interventions, bailouts, reforms are trying is to find the balancing points between businesses and people, so both of them can coexist, cooperate without harming each other. In the past and now, it’s the business people who endanger their customers’ finances and maximize their profits/benefits, and the government trying to stop their misconducts and bringing back the balancing point to the market system. Not the other way around.

Currently, the government succeeded in stopping the progress of recession into depression within less than a year of Mr. Obama’s presidency. And recently the domestic economy started to grow at usual rate of 3.5 %. But still it does not mean an ease recovery from high unemployment because people are still afraid of job losses and don’t spend money that limit industrial productions and hiring of new workers. No wonder why the White House recently announced that job recovery will take many many painful years to get back to the original level.

(To read Ariana Huffington's post, click here.)

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The blog post previous to it is titled "Heard the New Joke About Healthcare Reform?"

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