Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pervasive Stupidity

Decisions are being made that are wrecking US infrastructure.  Expert warnings are everywhere.  Decisionmakers remain oblivious.  People are drawing the obvious conclusions, and are hearing the voice of doom.  Charles Simic starts a recent essay by saying, "I can’t remember when I last heard someone genuinely optimistic about the future of this country."

A large number of financial experts are beside themselves.  There's Charles Johnson, former IMF official, professor of finance, co-author of 13 Bankers, in congressional testimony on TARP a couple of weeks ago:
the financial crisis produced a pattern of rapid economic decline and slow employment recovery quite unlike any post-war recession – it looks much more like a mini-depression of the kind the US economy used to experience in the 19th century.  In addition, the fiscal costs of the disaster in our banking system so far amount to roughly a 40 percentage point increase in net federal government debt held by the private sector, i.e., roughly a doubling of outstanding debt.
 Adjustments to our regulatory framework, including the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, have not fixed the core problems that brought us to bring of complete catastrophe in fall 2008.  Powerful people at the heart of our financial system still have the incentive and ability to take on large amounts of reckless risk – through borrowing large amounts relative to their equity.  When things go well, a few CEOs and a small number of others get huge upside.