Sick of Hyperbolic Rubish

Includes: AIG, F, GM
by: Markham Lee

I have to say that I'm growing weary and tired of the maturity level of the conversations related to the economy, business and politics. Because as of late it seems like people just take in a piece of information, add some hyperbole, spin it to fit their own political belief system, and then run round screaming it from the rooftops as if it's the gospel.

It's not so much the Chicken Little syndrome as it is the "running round like a recently beheaded" chicken syndrome.

For instance:

Obama and the Markets

While it's no secret that I'm no fan of some of the administration's recent moves around economic policy, it doesn't change the fact that anyone blaming the market's recent travails on policies that haven't even been fully enacted yet is a fool. A fool because the markets were falling for over a year before the man took office, and are continuing to fall because of some very real problems within the economy, the financial sector and various other companies. The only way you can blame a budget proposal for the markets falling is if you mistaken believed the markets and the economy were fine until Obama took office, and that his policies caused all of the companies economic and financial issues to appear out of thin air after the inauguration.

On the flip side perhaps some people believed that Obama would magically make all of their problems go away once he too office, these people are fools too.

Either way it's an immature approach, and anyone spouting such nonsense should be summarily dismissed as either a partisan shill or the village idiot, or both.

If you want to blame the state of the economy on Obama you need to wait at least a year if not 2-3, because that's how long it's going to take for anything he does to have an affect on anything. For now Obama (just like the rest of us) is just dealing with the economic situation that was handed to him by the previous administration.

Borrowers and Responsibility

I'm not sure when this happened, but it's becoming readily apparent that there are millions of people in this country who think that homeowners/consumers/people who aren't rich don't have to take responsibility for their own actions. Because if anyone speaks out against the foreclosure rescue plan, brings up irresponsible borrowers, etc., the argument is that they're heartless, didn't care when AIG and the rest got funds from the government, only care about the rich, the banks, etc., etc.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores the fact that many of these borrowers were irresponsible and should have to face the consequences of their actions. Furthermore, it conveniently ignores the many very logical arguments around why the plans won't work, will only delay the inevitable and may even make things worse. In my view the focal points of the conversation should be: will foreclosure rescue work, will it bring bad consequences, should we help the irresponsible, and is this even the best thing for the borrower?

As opposed to merely making it a question of either being for homeowners or against them, or "why can't the homeowners get money if AIG did?" , as that approach is way too simplistic and ignores the many very real issues that need to be discussed.

You can't have it both ways: you can't say that only the lender was irresponsible and then paint the borrower as an innocent victim who needs our assistance.

The other issue is that funds being received by corporate bailout recipients have to be paid back, have resulted in the government taking significant ownership stakes, and in many cases required regular interest payments to be made soon after the funds were received. At the end of the day the last thing companies want is the government meddling in their affairs, so they're going to want to pay back that money as soon as possible. Whereas mortgage rescue is handing homeowners thousands of dollars in potential benefits on top of subsidizing homes they can't afford, with no provisions for the taxpayer receiving any of that money back even after the person sells the house.

The media really needs to learn to differentiate between a loan and a handout.

Wall St. vs. Detroit

This fatuous argument was trotted out time and time again when Detroit was asking for money after Wall St. had already begun to receive TARP funds. The idea was that the White Collar bankers were favored by Congress, while the blue collar workers of the Midwest were being looked down upon and ignored.

Here is the problem with that argument: the debate really should've been about the viability of Detroit and whether or not the requested loans were going to be enough to save the company. Because at the end of the day Wall St. mismanaged a model that works once you take out the stupidity and bad risk management, whilst Detroit was asking the taxpayer to subsidize a completely broken model that needs to be revamped from the ground up.

There is a significant difference between the two.

It wasn't an issue of classism it was an issue of whether or not certain companies had a realistic chance of survival if provided with government assistance.

At the end of the day if our nation is going to move forward from the current crisis we need objective, rational and calm discussions of the issues at hand. We have to face the realities we may not like, accept problems as they are and deploy the appropriate solutions. As long as we're mired in conversations that revolve around hyperbolic rubbish, we're going to have a hard time moving forward.

Disclosure: at the time of publishing the author didn't own a position in any of the companies mentioned in this article; the ideas expressed are solely the opinions of the author and shouldn't be viewed as financial or investment advice.