Tuesday, September 16, 2008

¡Money, Money, Money!

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed” Mahatma Gandhi
http://ndn.newsweek.com/media/25/71014_MoneyHappiness_vl-vertical.jpgNow, I’ve never claimed to be an economist. To be honest, I’ve never claimed to be much of anything except a debatably talented writer. I am, however, an ardent observer of all things—a trait necessary to become, I believe, a great writer, which I do hope to become someday. So I understand that writing about Our economy is wrought with potential pitfalls for me. Nevertheless, I feel it’s part of my responsibility to share my ideas about what's going on. After all, while many may not see me as qualified enough to write about these things, as I’ve recently lost my job, and my family’s retirement is tied directly to the stock market, I feel obliged to offer my perspective.

From what I’ve gathered, a lot of what has been occurring lately is a direct result of years of Conservative led deregulation. For those of you incapable or unwilling to check out the Wikipedia link I provided, in short, deregulation has been a trend taking place since the 1970s whereby the rules, regulations and laws controlling various markets have been stripped away with the idea that markets need little to no regulation as they will eventually correct themselves. I’ve always doubted how effective deregulation would be because while markets as a whole will eventually regain their balance (i.e. the tech market, which collapsed in the 90s and has since rebounded), deregulation does not take into account the collateral damage that occurs in its wake—and by collateral damage, I mean Our jobs and savings.

Let me begin with the easiest example I can think of: energy. Many of you may remember a time when energy utilities were ALL government run. It guaranteed that all those who required energy (ALL of Us) would have access to it, and that delivery and pricing would be consistent and fair. The ideas behind deregulating the Energy Utilities Market were solid. Private companies could run these utilities better and more efficiently, and it would open the market to competition, eventually leading to lower rates.

If you, like me, keep up with the news then you remember what happened with Enron, particularly when it comes to California’s Energy Crisis which, as it turns out, was more a result of the greed of companies like Enron and Reliant than it was about any real energy shortage. Even in markets like mine the competition has never arisen or is still overpriced, and prices continue to go up (about 70% in MD over the last five years).

So, what does energy deregulation have to do with today’s economic crisis? Well, the trend to deregulate all markets at all costs, the idea that markets could provide better oversight than government agencies, has led to the recent atmosphere of oversight so lax that we now find the country in crisis, not just where the real estate market is concerned, but in just about every American financial market. Every report I’ve encountered says that it will take at least another 18 months to finally see the light at the end of this tunnel. My wife called me today to let me know that her bosses IRA lost $8000 in value IN ONE DAY.

You may not be frightened. Maybe you’ve got more than enough to retire on. Maybe you’re doing well enough that you don’t need a retirement fund. I’m happy for you. But most of Us in this country will be feeling the ripple effects of this economic quagmire for at least the next year. And I’m not implying that we should go back to the 60s and re-regulate everything. However, we do need to examine what regulations are going to be needed to prevent the greedy who want to heat up their $10,000,000 salaries into $100,000,000 salaries even if the rest of Us are the ones getting burned—something else to consider when you make your choice at the polls

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