Opinion

The Great Debate

Bonds swamped in fair weather or foul

May 29, 2009

James Saft Great Debate – James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Come good news or bad, the U.S. treasury market is taking a sell now and wait for inflation later strategy.

Since May 21, Treasuries have been battered, sending the yield on 10-year bonds up by nearly 40 basis points to 3.53 percent, an enormous move in bond market terms.

This is where the real action is, not in speculation about whether credit ratings agencies will cut the U.S. AAA rating in a year or two; by the time they get around to saying what everyone already knows is true, the damage will have been done.

The U.S. is in the process of reflating, really re-leveraging its economy, but this time using the public purse and printing machine to replace private demand.

This may be necessary, it may even work, but what it is without doubt is risky. The Federal Reserve’s massive direct intervention in credit markets will have to be unwound if and when it works, with unforeseeable consequences, and the government’s funding needs are in the meantime intimidating.

Investors in Treasuries rightly fear the risks of inflation and of being left, eventually, holders of what the Fed is selling rather than what it is, at least for now, buying.

Stephen Lewis, of Monument Securities in London believes the surge in prices of things the Fed was buying was by definition short-lived:

“Investors quickly realised that, unless the Fed intended to be a permanent holder of the securities it had bought, or of an equivalent amount of similar securities, the favourable shift in the supply/demand balance would be only temporary,” he wrote in a note to clients.

“Sooner or later, it would give way to an unfavourable shift as the Fed unwound its holdings. More than that, even the cessation, or diminution, of the flow of Fed asset purchases might leave the prices of those assets high and dry…The prospect then would be of a sickening plunge in market prices.”

The irony on Tuesday was that bonds were hit hard even despite a successful auction of $40 billion of 2-year notes, with performance getting worse the further in the future the bonds are due for repayment. But a further series of tests are upcoming, with another $60 billion being sold this week and more to follow as far as they eye can see.

An optimistic gloss on the bond sell off on Tuesday is that better than forecast consumer confidence data had touched off a rally in stocks. Happy days, fill your boots with equities and sell those bonds. A steepening yield curve is supposed to be a sign of a recovery, right?

TREASURIES WEAKEN, OTHER VARIABLES CHANGE

That analysis is tough to reconcile with recent events. Last week, bad news and a fall in the stock market coincided with bonds tumbling. Britain was put on warning by Standard & Poor’s that it could lose its AAA rating, supposedly sparking a read-across of the same implication for the U.S., the jobs numbers looked a bit ropey and, hey presto, bonds and stocks, well really U.S. assets, fell in concert.

Moody’s on Wednesday said the U.S.’s AAA rating was stable, but strangely the rally on the back of this was not forthcoming.

But to understand why bond markets aren’t pleased with the U.S. fiscal situation, you don’t need to read-across from the British model, just read the Congressional Budget Office data.

The CBO predicts nearly $10 trillion of new debt in the decade from 2010, which will leave it at more than 80 percent of GDP. These are just astounding numbers, and while we can’t be sure, the real risk is that the bond market is telling us this is unsustainable, unfinancable over the long term.

The data may well be looking up, and I do think a tepid recovery in the second half of this year is on the cards, but surely not a recovery that is worthy of inspiring a 12 percent plus move in government interest rates in 10 days or so, and not while the Fed is busily doing its best to keep rates artificially low by buying debt directly.

The central scenario is probably a volatile bond market, a jittery one which sees inflation behind every tree but in the end keeps faith with the U.S. and with its ability and resolve to manage the economy.

The tail risk is that the bond market loses faith, and in some combination with a falling dollar begins to not reflect events but dictate them.

It is a small risk, but the bond market could be the story of the summer.

– At the time of publication James Saft did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. –

Comments
22 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I’ve just had a brilliant idea, why don’t they sandwich some of the other debts into a package with the AAA rated bonds on top?

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive
 

The future then is hyper-inflation, I must say that is real change.

Posted by Craig Coal | Report as abusive
 

That which the Treasury cannot unload on some sucker with deep pockets it will sell to the Fed. Inflation is unavoidable. Already in the past week the dollar lost 7& to the euro and pound sterling. Oil and gold predictably are up. Unless other nations continue to print more money at the pace we do, the dollar will slide driving up the cost of all the imports we depend on.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

The largest foreign holder of US debt, China, is systematically shifting their holdings to 2 year notes at the longest, with most being one year.

They have changed their policies to allow Chinese corporations to spend dollars overseas directly rather than having to swap dollars earned through trade for renminbi.

Their actual dollar reserves are being converted into stockpiles of oil, iron, copper, gasoline, and disel fuel.

If there could be a a clearer vote of no confidence in America’s economic future on China’s part, I don’t know what it could be.

Posted by SNS | Report as abusive
 

What my thoughts are regarding the recent debt issuance by the US Government is that it will likely raise interest rates for all loans. Almost all lending rates are tied to US Government bond rates, we’ve already seen increases in mortgage rates.

Posted by Brian Bigelow | Report as abusive
 

The US government presntly seem to be buying alot of assets that have dubious vaule ie GM, bank shares, and now US treasuries. Don’t worry they are prnting the money that they are using to buy these assets so they are a STEAL !

Posted by gd | Report as abusive
 

To any who might have any interest in this, these are closing arguments from a discussion I was having on another issue which I think speaks to this one:

In the declaration of independence of 1776 it is written,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”,

http://www.law.indiana.edu/uslawdocs/dec laration.html

Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. If you look around you in this country today, you can see that the promise of this declaration has yet to be fulfilled for every American. Many Americans don’t have much in the way of a life. Many don’t have much in the way of liberty. And many more yet, are so oppressed by the conditions in this country that their only “happiness” lies at the bottom of a bottle, or the end of a needle.

A close examination of the problem shows a common thread. And that thread is money. But not just money itself. The problem comes from the profit motive, which changes money from a medium of exchange to a medium of control.

Just look around you. Read the headlines on this site. You’ll see right away that I write truthfully. Whether the problem is attributed to CDS, credit liquidity, poor regulation, etc….
The problem revolves around money, and quarterly profit reports.

I advocate for the automation of the treasury and federal reserve. The reason is simple. The people who run those bodies come either from wall street or Washington. As a result, they will implement policy that protects their own interests first. The sole job of the treasury/federal reserve is to maintain a consistent supply of money, and to maintain the value of that money. This resource (money) must be kept in limited supply. That’s why simply printing more causes inflation. The accumulation of this limited resource for its own sake is called profit. And when money is constantly drawn from the system to the tune of billions every day, then eventually a deficiency develops.

And if you look around you today, the deficiency is tremendous. And our government has decided to add to the debt in order to “fix” the economy. Now all of this is well understood by many and to a much greater depth I’m sure, than I understand.

But what puzzles me has been the idea that this should some how mean that human beings should suffer because of this. Our money has no real value whatsoever. It’s not even attached to the gold standard. The value of our currency is based on the “good faith and credit of the United States Government”. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have little if any faith left in our government. And our credit is terrible.

But considering that our money is worthless, why not simply divide GDP across the board equally to all adult citizens?

Most of the time the reaction is one of knee-jerk fear or disgust. But if one looks at the free open software movement, one can see that great productivity and innovation flourishes in an environment where access to the building blocks of production are accessible to everyone. Linux started up in the 90’s, well after Microsoft and Apple had become established. And in recent years (the past ten or so), Linux and open source software have become major players in the marketplace despite Microsoft’s efforts to keep them out. Open source and Linux don’t depend on the profit motive, so lack of money is only a side inconvenience because programmers have to have other jobs in order to pay their bills.

Code is not locked down as intellectual property to which no one else has a right. Instead code is shared and given away. This allows young would be programmers to get their hands on real code and create applications that are useful and help them develop their skills free of legal or financial encumbrance.

Open source software is important because it demonstrates that allowing the building blocks of production to be available to all without restrictions, encourages innovation and forward thinking.

In our economy the building block of production is the medium of exchange. If you are unable to exchange resources, you can’t provide for your needs, let alone your wants. In our society money is printed by the government. Our declaration of independence grants us the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Money is needed in this society in order for any of those things to happen. And since our currency is not attached to a gold standard but is simply printed on government presses and set with an arbitrary value, then that makes the dollar public property. The government is a public body. The money it creates is public property.

Divide GDP amongst the citizens. And this way the gifts and talents of all Americans are given the means to flourish. As of yet I have had no logical arguments that speak to any flaws that can be examined. I have gotten arguments saying that people must work for money. But the idea I bring to the table is a complete departure from this philosophy. Any attempt to understand this idea from the work=money perspective will be impossible.

Yet the very idea I bring forward is applied in our capitalist structure already. It’s called investing. “It takes money to make money”. And so even though the idea I present has been called socialist, it is actually much more individualist and capitalist. It is simply capitalism of a much higher order. Money can’t cure AIDS. But it CAN pay to educate the young mind that will. Money can’t solve the energy crisis. But it CAN finance innovators that have the technological solutions.

Dividing GDP equally actually gives every American a truly equal opportunity to live the American dream of life liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The question should not be one of “should we do this?”, but rather “How do we do this?”

Thanks for reading.

 

I mostly agree with Benny Acosta’s comment especially with regard to the Declaration of Independence 1776. I find it interesting that at this time America had forced a break with the monarchies of Europe to endeavor to make a better life for all people (although there are ticklish issues such as native Americans and slavery), not just the ones born into power.
What I also find interesting is the sure but steady creep of the same power structure infecting not just America, but many other places too. Personally I think it is a shame that any of the European monarchs survived WW1, and that was a mistake. They have by stealth managed to rebuild their pyramid power structures up again, as have many of the companies who survived and thrived from this same period in history to the present day and the common people have been too busy watching their favourite team playing with their balls to notice.
What worries me is what is going to happen when the sides of the pyramid collapse under the weight at the top, as I believe we’re seeing now. I have a nasty feeling it could be worse than anything humanity has seen before… but am optimistic enough to also believe it won’t be the end of humanity, just the end of the world as we know it.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive
 

In the absence of further comment, I will make an attempt to offer a possible solution.

The federal government has the responsibility of protecting the boarders, enacting and enforcing law, and providing for the general defense (please forgive me if I missed anything).

Any social programs should cease to be funded by the government. Instead, the money that would normally go to such programs should simply be divided up and distributed equally to every adult citizen. This has the effect of establishing a financial safety net for every citizen. Other implications are,
people would not be forced to stay in jobs they no longer wish to be doing out of economic necessity. Businesses would no longer have a union/management conflict because every individual would have their own safety net to fall back on.

In real world terms the idea would be to have the government collect its taxes (under a simpler system), and then allocate 40 percent for its functions and the remaining sixty percent is then distributed back into the citizenry.

When people know that they have a safety net to fall back on, they are more inclined to take risks and innovate. And when you know that failure won’t result in poverty, you have more of an incentive to innovate and put your efforts forward.

More innovation results in more industry. More industry results in more tax revenue. More tax revenue results in a stronger safety net. That in turn further encourages innovation and we have very sustainable growth.

Institute a national sales tax of two percent on all transacted sales, across state lines or not. This wouldn’t apply to some one at a yard sale or something similar. I’m talking about retail operations.

Two cents of every dollar profited goes to the government for its operations. Of that tax revenue the federal government can keep forty percent and give the remaining sixty back to the population. Rich or poor, every American gets the same size piece. This way, the rich get richer, and the poor get richer too. In a system like this, the failure of GM wouldn’t be a problem because there would already be a safety net in place.
Businesses wouldn’t have to kick in for retirement plans or health care packages. They wouldn’t have to worry about giving paid time off or a minimum wage. Because the government skims two percent of this profit off the top and gives sixty percent of that back to the people.

And people with really good ideas would have the same ability to compete in the market place as any other business.

This solution would answer the republican requirement of smaller government and putting the people’s money in the people’s pockets. And it would also answer the democratic party’s requirement of a level playing field in which every American has equal access to the opportunities to succeed in life. And at the same time the solution favors the citizen by assisting them in achieving the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I offer this in the spirit of finding a solution the current problem that will produce a better result that what we now have.

Thanks for reading.

 

It’s a shame there doesn’t seem to be the same forward thinking Benny Acosta is demonstrating from the governments of today, who seem to be looking for a way to bring back 2006. Without going into the detail of your suggestion I applaud your search for a new way of tackling the economic model, which no-doubt has its roots deep into history. I personally view as being a direct descendant of the WW1 economic solutions which were cobbled together under great duress, and probably not intended to be the model for the future, just a way to get through an armaggedon type event. I found this very interesting article you may wish to peruse, where-as I don’t agree with its entirely I am thinking of printing it out and sending it the various political parties finance spokespersons to encourage new thinking. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?c ontext=va&aid=13702

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive
 

Benny has certainly put a lot of time into his dreams for a new socialist America.

It would be interesting to see what grounding, if any, his ideas have in contemporary economic theory.

Has he spent some time researching his ideas at a university? Does he have any economic or financial qualifications?

If he is going to pull a new economic system out of nowhere, one would expect he at least knows the basics of the system he intends to replace.

Posted by Anon. | Report as abusive
 

Anon.

Our system needs to be replaced. So why bother trying to understand something that needs to be removed?

You ask about my qualifications. But isn’t that question more appropriately asked of those that currently lead our financial system? I’d really like to know what kind of thinking has gotten us in the mess we’re in now.

And if this system is the best Harvard and the likes can produce, then why bother paying them to educate me?

Anon, if you have questions about the merits of the plan I put forward then ask them. But asking about my education just seems like an attempt at dismissal without putting anything useful forward your self.

I welcome a discussion. And if you don’t like the idea bring forward then tell me why you don’t. If you don’t think it will work then tell me why. But don’t ask me about contemporary market theory. You explain it to me. Tell me what it is I’m missing.

 

Anon,

If you take issue with the idea I bring forward then state your issue. If you think the idea won’t work then tell me why.

Asking me if I’ve read an economics book sounds like you’re looking for a cop out answer that makes you look smart but does nothing to contribute to the discussion.

Trying to mock me won’t change what I’ve put forward. And it won’t help you argue against it any better. If you want to show how much you know about this issue then put something forward that can be examined.

 

It was a simple question, which you seemed to take offence at. Your refusal to answer was the only cop out here.

If you do not understand the system you intend to replace, then how can you even understand how your own system will replace it?

The flaws of your system are as follows:

1. You start with the assumption that the current system needs to be replaced. Do you have the qualifications ability to make such an assessment? Recessions are part of the natural economic cycle, and if anything proves that economic theory is correct.

2. The idea of government taking all the money and redistributing it evenly among citizens reeks of socialism. I still wonder why you fail to see that.

3. Your system does not cover the idea of business, markets, banking systems, share markets ect. All these things fuel the economy, and are in turn fueled by profit. Your ‘system’ operates in a vacuum.

4. The removal of profit removes the incentive for economic growth. And that in turn removes prosperity, employment, efficency and development from the private realm. This is all basic economic theory, and has been proven in real life countless times.

5. Your analogy on software code is exactly that, an analogy. Applying such an analogy to real life is a different thing entirely.

6. Investment is when you put money into a choosen venture and maximise your return. Do you ever see someone buying a single share in every business on the stockmarket? Or betting on every single horse in a race? The result is the same.

Now all of these things have been said to you by other people already in the last week. Your response to date has been to simply say ‘I disagree’ and continue on as if nothing happened.

That is why I asked you if you have any economic knowledge. Because if you don’t, then your reasoning is potentially flawed.

If you are going to reject the critisism of others, you must have a logical reason for it.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

I know absolutely nothing about programing.

But I have an idea that we should start storing our data in crystals. Crystals look nice, while circuit boards are just ugly. So by logical extention, crystals are a better choice for data storage.

If we started using crystals, we would be able to store many gigabits more data. And we would also be able to write code which contains more electricity. And that would make the computer run faster.

Some people have tried to explain to me that I know nothing about programing or engineering, and that my ideas don’t make sense.

But I have dismissed their arguments. My crystal idea is revolutionary, and any attempt to understand it from traditional engineering concepts are impossible.

And as my crystal idea is already perfect, and just waits to be applied, there is no need for me to understand the system it is intended to replace.

Have I made my point yet?

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

Anon.

Thank you. You have given me much to consider. And will consider it well.

I have no doubt that you are a well meaning individual. But so am I. And I offer my idea as a citizen of the United States that is concerned with the fact that my elected representatives don’t seem to be, nor have they ever seemed, to work in my interests or the interests of my fellow citizen.

You are in fact correct that I have no such education. And I understand you wanting to speak with someone more qualified. But that education only serves to explain the process of this failure. It does nothing to address it.

If you have a solution that addresses the issue of a non existent social safety net, and the use of money as a means of control, while still allowing for industry and innovation, I welcome your offering. This is a forum where solutions should be offered, and fleshed out. Other wise what’s the point of just milling around and pointing out the obvious?

I know the system is broken. And trying to re-inflate the economy back to the bubble years, when home prices were on the rise and credit was easy to come by is a fools errand. But we still let the government take our tax money to keep broke banks alive. Banks that have then turned around and demanded higher interest rates on the debt that You, “owe them”. Never mind the fact that your tax dollars and mine went towards keeping them alive. Now we have to pay out of pocket as well.

And God forbid the government give us more stimulus checks. American families might do the wrong thing again, and start paying down debt and putting money back in savings.

Didn’t the banks argue against another round of residential stimulus because they’d loose profit?

American consumers are the backbone of the economy. We are in fact the root of the economy. No consumer, no industry. Period.
Being that the consumer is the root of the economy, it would have made infinitely more sense to invest that 700+ billion dollars into American families by bailing them out directly.

But, because banks and Wall Street didn’t want to give up the interest they could make by dragging this thing out, they convinced Washington to give them cash IV’s. And then comes the march of companies asking for (And Getting) money, while the American home owner/family go up in financial smoke.

Do you have the qualifications to address these issues yourself?

Oh, and please tell me what socialism is. I thought I knew what it was but someone told me that I don’t. If I’m going to be associated with it, I would at least like to know what you consider it to mean.

Please understand. I really do just want to find an answer. And if you really want to find an answer too then we should discuss towards that end.

 

The diabolical conundrum with the simplistic assertion that capitalism = good / socialism = bad (often punctuated with exclamations of “you’re Anti-American” if you mention anything vaguely “socialistic”) can be illustrated by the inconvenient happenstance that the USA – the beacon of capitalism, is being bank-rolled by China – the beacon of socialism (and the mono-product monarchies of some oil-nations – the beacons of feudalism).
I’m certain what the west needs to do is learn from it’s past mistakes rather than to repeat them in the sanguine expectation that they will get a better result next time.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive
 

Anon,

As you know, I am not educated in economics. And so I will respond in language that is more familiar to me.

A. “The flaws of your system are as follows:
You start with the assumption that the current system needs to be replaced. Do you have the qualifications ability to make such an assessment? Recessions are part of the natural economic cycle, and if anything proves that economic theory is correct. “
B. I am a human being. I am more than a potential source of profit. I am more than a demographic. I am more than an employee. This system demands that I serve it. This is qualification enough to replace it. This system forces by economic necessity that I subjugate myself to the will of another. Without money I cannot develop my gifts and talents. The wealthy among us have the money to invest in their children. The poor do not. This system requires that this inequality remain consistent. What reasonable human being would agree to be on the loosing end of this “deal”?

A. “The idea of government taking all the money and redistributing it evenly among citizens reeks of socialism. I still wonder why you fail to see that.”

B. For the sake of clarity I will explain again. Government has only a few honest functions. It provides for protection of the borders, the general defense, and maintaining our system of law. Please forgive me if I missed anything. But the list is short. In addition, the government also attempts to run social security, Medicare, Medicaid, the US Department of Education, etc…
Instead of letting the government pick and choose who it gives this money to. They should simply divide it up equally across the board for all adult citizens. This would be a far more effective social safety net than the programs currently in existence.
Other implications are the elimination of an elected official’s need to please any type of special interest group and earmarks can be done away with. All individuals would have their own economic safety net. Elected official’s could focus solely on those duties that government is supposed to focus on. The safety net would also eliminate the union/management struggle because quiting or loosing your job won’t result in poverty.
Our “free” market is actually a closed market. If you want to be a major player you have to go through the investment banks and the corporate sharks. Everyone has to have a piece of you before you go to market. And real innovation can be, and very often has been killed in our market place.
My earliest memory recalls Microsoft squeezing Netscape out of the browser market by using it’s operating system as an advantage. IE was and still is an inferior product. But market conditions made it possible. The idea I put forward, gives innovators and would be entrepreneurs the financing they need to get off the ground without any outside sources.

A. “Your system does not cover the idea of business, markets, banking systems, share markets etc. All these things fuel the economy, and are in turn fueled by profit. Your ’system’ operates in a vacuum.
The removal of profit removes the incentive for economic growth. And that in turn removes prosperity, employment, efficency and development from the private realm. This is all basic economic theory, and has been proven in real life countless times.”

B. Industry would indeed change. Businesses would be formed by people who actually want to achieve a result. When individuals know that they have a steady stream of income to fall back on, they can take risks and innovate. That’s why George Bush Jr got the opportunity to start a couple of businesses and run them into the ground before embarking on a career in politics. His family was wealthy enough to invest in his future. When everyone has the same ability to invest in their futures, and their children’s futures, we will see people of much higher caliber than mister Bush emerge into leadership.
As far as profit being an incentive for economic growth, which fuels prosperity and employment, just look around you. It would seem that the growth you speak of is more likely a cancer.

A. “Your analogy on software code is exactly that, an analogy. Applying such an analogy to real life is a different thing entirely. “

B. The open source software movement is a real life movement. It’s not fantasy. I’m posting to you from my Slackware Linux box right now. I paid nothing for it because Patrick Volkerding and his friends produce and maintain Slackware for the sake of contributing something positive to the community. http://Www.slackware.com. And Slackware is far from the only distribution.
The analogy speaks to an underlying principle. And that is the principle of openness. Code is needed to produce software. Money is needed to simply produce. When code is accessible innovation takes place. When money is accessible innovation, production and profit take place. I’m advocating the idea of actually investing in the one resource that makes industry and economic prosperity even possible. The human being.

A. “Investment is when you put money into a chosen venture and maximize your return. Do you ever see someone buying a single share in every business on the stock market? Or betting on every single horse in a race? The result is the same.”

B. If even one share in the billions out there would produce the cure to AIDS, the end of world hunger, or the energy crisis, then the resulting gain would far exceed the expense. And yes it would be wise to buy every single share, knowing that you will eventually get the one that solves these problems.
Considering that every human mind has the potential to rise to such heights and higher, it makes sense to invest in all citizens across the board. The benefits far outweigh the costs. And if the cost is simply worthless paper, then so much the better.

 

The only real issue I have is this:

You can argue against capitalist theory, or against socialist theory. But you cannot argue against economic theory.

When Russia collapsed, it was not because capitalism was ‘right’, or that socialism was ‘wrong’. It collapsed because the rules of economics caught up with it.

China is a socialist nation, conforming to a capitalist global economy. It is successful in business and poor in liberty. But the rules of economics apply to it regardless.

This financial crisis has it’s origins in capitalist America. Every single aspect of the crisis can be quantified, understood and explained by economic concepts.

And whatever idea you wish to replace capitalism with, it will ultimately have to exist according the rules of economics. Otherwise it will fail.

So if you have no knowledge of economic theory, then I urge you to read some. Even a high school textbook would be enough to start off.

It is not an insult, or an implication. Just a suggestion.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

“This financial crisis has it’s origins in capitalist America. Every single aspect of the crisis can be quantified, understood and explained by economic concepts.
And whatever idea you wish to replace capitalism with, it will ultimately have to exist according the rules of economics. Otherwise it will fail.”

Anon,
Again I thank you. You show insight. And I greatly appreciate it.
I agree that an economy will have to abide by economic rules. My argument goes to this very root. Our economic theory is based on the idea that profit in and of itself is the only motivation needed for a prosperous society. And indeed the profit motive has proven very effective at providing incentive for innovation within small pockets of society. But the idea of profit alone as the only acceptable reason to be in business is the very reason we’re choking on our own debt right now.

Profit as a motivator, by necessity excludes the human being. Production is only a means to an end. And the end is profit for its own sake. This thinking causes the ideas of quality, real value, responsibility, sustainability, etc… to be secondary or tertiary considerations if they are considered at all. The prevailing economic conditions can speak to this far more effectively than I can.

The idea I put forward was an attempt, to illustrate how a human centered approach might take shape in our economy. I don’t claim to have all of the answers. But I do understand quite clearly that the direction our system is taking is the exact opposite of where we should be going. Any attempt at suggesting that the citizenry be directly invested in is often met with negativity.

But in fact this is what a government that is founded on the rights of the individual, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is supposed to do. Our current economic model can only be “fixed” by removing profit as the motivation for commerce, and replacing it with human development.

In other words, work for excellence in your chosen field. Work to solve real problems instead of working purely for profit. And when money is not an issue, then you are free to do just that. The doctor can practice medicine. The lawyer can practice law. And the elected official is free to genuinely pursue the task of serving the people.

What ever economic system we use, must be human centered or it will fail just like this one is failing now. If you have ideas on how a human centered approach could be instituted by our government, I would very much be interested to read them and discuss them.

Our leadership is not working for our interests because of thinking that they just can’t seem to get away from. But the citizen is the fourth branch of government. And collectively we decide what gets done. But we can only do that if we speak with a common theme. No one has to agree with my offering. All I ask is that something be brought to the table that can address and correct the problems we face today. And perhaps we can take that to Washington and tell them to do it. The Internet gives us the ability to do this. We should do it.

 

I agree with Anon that I should get more educated about economic factors. I do read books on economics, but haven’t had much in the way of an education on the subject.
I would like to think, as a citizen, that the government would have a full deck of economists working for the good of the citizens they represent. It seems to me that this isn’t the case, and there is only a small set of industries being looked after by the governments. In the UK, where I’m writing from, our Chancellor of the Exchequer (or finance minister in plain English, I’m not certain what the American’s call theirs… probably “the dude who sits on the money”) needed to use an accountant for his own tax returns! I’m sure he’s a busy man, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence in him.
On the plus side, despite not being economically educated I did pull my money out of the scare market in mid-2007 making a small profit. I won’t be buying any bonds.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive
 

It’s sad to think that the only thing I’ve gotten in terms of a discussion on the idea of investing in the American citizen is to be told that I should read a book. My idea “reeks of socialism”(with no explanation of socialism), and that people must work for money period.

There have been no justifications for these arguments that stand up. And none of them have been able to point to any deficiency in the logic of the plan I put forward. I was hoping for an earnest discussion on how the current problems might be solved. But all I’ve seen is complaining, fear, and resignation.

I can only go by what I see. And so far I’ve seen on these forums only that Americans are content to sit at home and live in fear of what might happen, while hoping that their leaders will do something to save them. I was raised to believe that such behavior was beneath an American. It saddens me to see that more of my fellows weren’t. No one person has the answer to everything. But we all know that hanging the American family out to dry is wrong.

What is it about the economy that government is trying to fix? They want to fix the credit markets. Credit is just another word for debt. That’s it. They want to fix the ability of the market to allow you to go further into debt. Debt is what is eating away at the value of your house right now. So allowing you to go further in the hole is NOT a good idea.

We are told to invest in the markets. We’re told we should invest in government social safety nets (taxation for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc..). We’re told we should invest in the economy by consuming. But we are the back bone of the economy. Who is investing in us? If your money is going to investing in everything else, then who will invest in your children? No one will. Because in United States of America the citizen has to earn their money.

How nice is that? As a worker you should invest in all these businesses and government programs, but it would be down right dishonorable for you to accept an investment in your future on behalf the country. No. You must earn your keep.

Can anyone see how absurd this is?

In this glorious country of the United States which is founded on the idea of free citizens individually contributing their greatest gifts and talents to the betterment of their fellows, it is only right that the government guarantee the right of every citizen to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, by investing in the American citizen directly. It is from you that innovation and industry comes. And it is upon you that innovation and industry depend.

The everyday average working American is the essence of our greatness. We come from everywhere. We bring the wisdom of our cultures, and the insights of our pasts. There is no one face to the American worker. We are the potential of greatness that waits for the smallest spark to ignite its glory. Ask yourself why someone should have such a fierce objection to you as an individual having a financial safety net that you can depend on to pay your bills? Why should someone begrudge you an investment in your future? How is it okay for the government to take money OUT of your pocket, but not okay for them to put it IN your pocket?

How is it okay for the government to give the tax money that is supposed to go to your social safety nets, and to you and your children’s interests, over to the banks, when in fact it was their responsibility to give it back to the American workers from which it was taken. Wall street has eaten more than seven hundred billion dollars in tax money. I’m not going to do the math. It’s a pretty safe bet that if that money had been divided across the board equally and given back to the American consumer, our debts would all have been paid and this bubble would have come down a lot sooner and a lot safer for the American family.

And regardless of the argument against it, the government’s first responsibility is to the citizen. From business owners, to ditch diggers, the money should have gone back to the consumer. Instead your tax money is keeping the banks in business long enough to make “payment arrangements” on the debt you still owe to them on your credit card or mortgage etc…

How sweet a deal is that eh? You are paying the bank to bill you for and charge interest on, your debt. And it’s all being done to fix the economy so that you can go back to being in debt without loosing your home. You can just hock your children’s future. Buy now pay later. :-)

This will break us if we don’t correct it. It won’t take things getting much worse before a major war becomes something of a possibility. Tell the government do away with their programs and return sixty percent of the tax revenue back to the people so that they can pay down their debts and meet their obligations. The people of the United States will then have a one hundred percent stake in themselves. But giving businesses money so that they can stay alive to continue taking money from your pocket is a ridiculously stupid way to do things.

Those who choose to accept it deserve every bit of the suffering they will endure as a result. The sad part is, if enough people choose not to communicate with their leadership and voice their concern over this, even those of us that do, will have to suffer right along with you.

 

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