(originally posted March 2008)
”Evolution can be mean, there’s no ‘dumb ass’ vaccine. Blame your DNA, you’re a victim of your fate. It’s human nature to miscalculate.” Those are some of the lyrics from a Jimmy Buffet offering named “Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling”.
Lately, I have often wondered when the concept of our government providing the ‘dumb ass’ vaccine became a fundamental truth of our way of life. Whatever the timing, I think that’s what is responsible for our current predicament. Take the current mortgage crisis as an example.
Banks lend people money when the interest rates are very low. They lend the money to folks who are not qualified for a loan, who don’t read the loan’s term and conditions, who don’t worry about what happens if they don’t make payments. Interest rates go up, payments come due, payments are missed, homes are foreclosed, mortgage crisis descends upon our nation. Our government steps in with the ‘dumb ass’ vaccine. We print some money to help the banks. The value of the dollar goes down. The price of oil goes up. Purchasing power of the dollar for other things we need goes down (remember we don’t make anything here in the U.S. anymore). Recession raises its ugly head. Layoffs are next. Stock market drops like 1000 points. We need some more vaccine.
Federal money managers lower interest rates. Federal money managers lower interest rates again. Now the interest rates are back lower than when the bad loans were made so the vaccine should work. People can start making their mortgage payments again. Right? Wrong! The homes are already foreclosed. Bear Stearns is sold for 1/15 of its value thanks to a credit line from the Fed (more vaccine) and others to follow. The managers of the failed institutions are given tens of millions of dollars severance pay for screwing up and the world watches the stock market vacillate like Obama’s position on the war in Iraq.
As I said earlier, it’s not clear to me exactly when the government began its role as the dispenser of ‘dumb ass’ vaccine, but it clearly believes that is the way to solve problems no matter what the cause. Usually the vaccine is dispensed in the form of money to the ‘dumb ass’ group. There are occasions when its administered orally in the form of a speech by a high government official. I don’t mind those as much because I don’t see it at tax time and I’ve pretty much learned to stop listening.
I guess the point of all this is that the government needs to get out of the business of cleaning up after ‘dumb asses’. We need to start taking care of ourselves. My parents would have called it “taking your medicine” or when they were most upset “you made your bed, now sleep in it”. I think most of my generation and certainly the generations preceding mine learned that no one would come in and clean up our mistakes whether personal, financial, or otherwise.
I want a government that doesn’t do much. You might argue that I already have that so maybe the statement should be that I want a government that doesn’t “try” to do much. I would be happy if they just focused on secure and free. If that’s all they spent our money and their time on, I have a feeling that we could take care of the rest on our own. Those who couldn’t – well, there is such a thing as the Darwinian Theory.