Friday, November 21, 2008

Our Economic Crisis in Detroit: Some Heretical Proposals

The issue of a bailout of the big three Motor companies continues to cast its long shadow over the stock market. Already in my neighbourhood, private charities whose compassion was fueled by prosperity are finding their wells running dry. The shrapnel of the financial crisis are already hitting the working poor.

I can not see the wisdom of “letting the economy run its course.” The economy is us. It is millions of people every day putting their money where they think it will do good. There are conservatives who are speaking up for laissez faire capitalism. Please…. Unregulated capitalism has not existed for decades.

There are two critical issues at stake in the argument over a congressional bailout. One is the fact that millions of workers depend on the auto industry. Parts suppliers, dealers, repair shops and banks all constitute a part of the auto industry. I do not want to see any of these people standing in bread lines. Our economy exists for our people. Morally, I care more about who my vehicular choice supports than whether it is the best design.

The second issue is strategic independence. We live in a nasty world, full of people who want to push us into the gutter. I do not want to face them with an industrial base that we have let fall into ruin.

I have written about abortion as a steadfast opponent on religious grounds. It would be the height of hypocrisy to oppose abortion and support economic policies that take bread from the hands of children. Sanctity of life extends from conception to the last breath of the elderly infirm. Being “pro-life is a comprehensive commitment to revering every moment of the human life cycle. It does not only mean charity, but also giving dignified ownership of one’s daily bread to workers through offering work.

I feel an urgency to “cut to the chase” about this critical problem. Working people are lining up for food in my neighbourhood at food pantries run by religious groups. These are real people they are G-d’s children. I care about facing their Creator. My bottom line is that I don’t give a damn about any economic ideology, just making our money work for the people in a way that benefits all.

I feel Congress should immediately declare its intent to stand behind our “big three” auto companies as a social and a strategic necessity. Creditors should be urged in the strongest way possible to take no steps that would endanger the solvency of the auto companies. It should be made clear that all interested parties are being called to the table for proposals and sacrifices.The money invested by government should be “smart money”.

I once worked for a company that took a long slide into bankruptcy. We had meetings, both group and private. Everyone had the same idea. It you have to cut back 10%, then cut hours, not individuals. It is better for the many to lose pay than the few to lose their jobs. We ultimately got a few more months of employment and the self respect that comes with knowing that we did not sell each other out. It was not by any means the best job, but the fight we put up to survive was one that was waged with honour. I would like to see that same spirit in negotiations to save the big three and ultimately the industries that depend on them.

There is another possible solution that reminds me of the “stone soup” fable. In it, someone asked the inhabitants of a village for ingredients to cook a communal stew. No one had anything to offer. The woman said “OK no problem. I will make stone soup. She threw a stone into a pot of boiling water, and suggested various ingredients that could make the soup[ better. One by one, the villagers stepped forward with a carrot here, an onion there. Eventually the smell from the pot spoke with even greater eloquence than the woman herself. At the end of the story, every bowl of the woman’s stew that was shared by the villagers had chunks of good meat and potatoes. The stone lay at the bottom of the pot. although forgotten, it was the most important ingredient.

I have a recipe for “stone soup” that could be relevant in the current crisis. I feel that there should be, under supervision, “National Recovery Mutual Funds”. These would be mutual funds that would target troubled industries that are receiving government aid or protection. Different funds could focus on different sectors of the economy. With proper backing and promotion, economic experts with a reputation that inspires confidence could be brought on board. The government could even sweeten the pot by making such “National Recovery Mutual Funds” tax exempt.

The board of the NRMFs would have as their mission the advocacy of fiscal growth and prudence. As representatives of stock holders they would have a right to speak at shareholder meetings. In addressing other shareholders, they would have the weight of their role as an advocate on behalf of the American people. This role would give the National Recovery Mutual Funds a persuasive power beyond their numbers If these NRMF’s were adequately promoted, they could bring millions of individuals who have no stake in the stock market into play. Those who are investing out of patriotism might “graduate” to other investments. There is vast economic power ought there that could be marshalled towards a sensible economic rescue. We need not be spectators. Americans want to do their part in coming to our country’s rescue.

It is shocking how emotional the stock market is. Calming voices from Congress and the Oval office, if backed by concrete commitment and sensible remedies could bring about the collective temperament in which recovery can proceed.

I hope that Congress and our President elect project the confidence and commitment called for at this critical juncture. Marshaling the economic power of America’s workers as a force for recovery is a plausible and obvious solution to our pressing problems. Concern and compassion for all classes of society are what drives this proposal. Working together with G-d’s help we can overcome our economic difficulties. Sphere: Related Content

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