Thursday, February 12, 2009

Can the stimulus package and the bailouts really help?

Re the stimulus package and the bailout, as of February 2009

I have bad feelings about these things. I haven’t looked into the details, or into all aspects of them. But on very general principles I am inclined to think it will not help pull us out of the bad economic situation we are in. I dearly hope I am wrong.
My reasoning is that neither have much to do with increasing the actual wealth of the US economy. Taking money from the taxpayers---or worse yet printing more money---and doling it back out to the taxpayers seems to be at best a null action, and at worst a step backward.
I suspect that the real problem is that we tend to be too light in terms of production of goods; that is, I think we lack sufficient activities such as manufacturing and invention of new tangible products, which together really constitute the substance of wealth. True, we have an active service sector, which generates a lot of paper products---a few years back in a Dave Barry column he cynically (but insightfully) referred to “that great American product, the polished final report”-----but too much of this seems to be in the realm of government and defense related areas, not in the commercial sectors where it might count the most.
It is true that Americans seem to have become, in the last 20 or so years, the workaholics of the western world, but it is not clear that the kind of work we tend to do contributes much to tangible wealth, but rather is often paper shuffling and services of dubious desirability or worth to the average consumer. Perhaps way too much of it is “white collar” work either aimed at government markets, or aimed at persuading or convincing the general public to buy things that they probably really do not need or want. Perhaps one might say that we have too many MBA’s and lawyers, and not enough people willing to roll up their sleeves and do real work.
Today all companies emphasize growth, but too often this seems to be achieved by shuffling departments around and reorganizing in ways that seem to reduce to value of the service or products to the customers. There is only so far that such cuts and structural redesigns can go toward attaining growth of profits. Eventually gains made in such ways must run dry.Perhaps the deep problem is the decline of the work ethic and true commercial spirit of our nation. All nations rise and fall in time, and perhaps we have passed our zenith. As I said at the start, I certainly hope I am wrong, and that our economy and spirit will bloom once again.

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