x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Latter-day Maoists cannot save your nest egg

Stepping back from the massacre that was once a financial market, it is intriguing to consider the skepticism on Main Street about the White House plan to bail out Wall Street. Allowing bankers to drown in the morass they created may have some appeal to those who envy the fat paychecks and bonuses they earned over the years. But, really, this sort of schadenfreude is the luxury of a nation or a nitwit with no savings.

Stepping back from the massacre that was once a financial market, it is intriguing to consider the skepticism on Main Street about the White House plan to bail out Wall Street. Allowing bankers to drown in the morass they created may have some appeal to those who envy the fat paychecks and bonuses they earned over the years. But, really, this sort of schadenfreude is the luxury of a nation or a nitwit with no savings. Anyone who has managed to sock away a few dollars, i.e. just about everyone but those of you right out of college and most Americans, realizes that whatever their faults those greedy bankers are sitting on top of the world's collective savings and, unlike death, they can take it with them when they go. College graduates and congressmen hoping to get ? or keep ? a salary paid for by those with savings should consider that. Destroy their portfolios and you're likely to be stuck with a baby boomer whose dreams of retiring were dashed. Worse, you can't take the job they vacated and the money they lost is now money they need to save rather than spend.  Anyone who's been through one of these financial crises - Japan, or Southeast Asia, or Russia, or Latin America - knows that the failure of a banking system doesn't do anyone any good. So, yes, provide some relief for homeowners, figure out which bankers broke any laws, if any, and throw the book at them. And brace yourself for the inevitable spate of endless hearings and over-regulation (Sarbanes-Oxley anyone?) that will come in the wake of all of this. But it would be an insane irony if Congress were now to reject the kind of remedy that Washington has prescribed so many times before to other bankrupt Third World countries. Suck it up, soak the taxpayer, and shore up the financial system before your economy turns into Zimbabwe. Once gravity has been restored, we can all put on our Che Guevara T-shirts, puzzle out a way to create a decent social safety net, marry the profit motive to social equity and send all the bankers to re-education camps. Until then, neo-socialism is about as useful to the situation as teats on a bull.   Americans need to consider that even if the $700 billion bailout goes forward, the impact on the US dollar is going to be deep and lasting. Just as the Asian financial crisis was to some extent the result of a shift of manufacturing investment from Southeast Asia to China, so the demise of America's debt-dependent lifestyle is the consequence of the East's having achieved a level of wealth that has pushed commodity prices above what America can afford.

warnold@thenational.ae