The Fire Next Time: Can We Build a Recession-Proof Economy?

plan aheadAs we climb out of the recession, which we clearly are and were before the freshmen Republicans in the House took their oaths of office last week, it’s a good time to remember we are not all on the same page about how we got into an economic mess, nor about how to go forward from it.

There are people out there who believe, thanks to FOX News and Rush Limbaugh, that the whole housing market collapse was because of groups like ACORN trying to help people who couldn’t afford them buy houses.

Keefe: ‘We can either summon the collective will to invest in our common future or continue to stumble along hoping the next asset bubble temporarily bails us out while entering into a period of long national decline’

There are others, like me, who witnessed the mortgage crisis from closer to the inside and know firsthand that the wealthy led the way into economic ruin with such instruments as no-money-down mortgages, interest-only mortgages, five-year balloons, and other highly creative arrangements dreamed up for folks who wanted to make even more profit by flipping second and third and fourth houses than they were by investing in shaky stocks.

Most of those in the latter group were just one slow-selling property away from bankruptcy and foreclosure, which we all got to find out together. Of course, most of them will just wait out the seven or so years it takes to clear one’s credit record if one is of a certain income bracket, and go forth to sin again.

And since we’ve never collectively gotten straight about the causes, why should we expect to agree on the remedies? Sadly, we shouldn’t.

Joseph F. Keefe, president and CEO of Pax World Mutual Funds, says we can’t fix what’s wrong in this country, or in the world, by looking for the next boom. (Emphasis that follows is added.)

…our nation still lacks a coherent national energy policy and has made little or no progress on curbing carbon emissions to address climate change.

Under the circumstances, it seems fair to ask whether we have learned any lessons at all from the great financial crisis of the past few years, or whether we are ready to address an ongoing sustainability crisis that includes not only climate change but issues of resource scarcity and ecological imbalance that truly threaten our planet’s future. We seem increasingly incapable of addressing our most urgent national priorities—from financial reform to energy to the national debt to a host of other critical issues. These things matter. They matter to the economy, to people, to investors.

We are at an inflection point. We can either summon the collective will to invest in our common future or continue to stumble along hoping the next asset bubble temporarily bails us out while entering into a period of long national decline.

…Still, the question remains: where will the leadership come from? Let me humbly submit that we, as investors, have to share this burden of leadership. No one’s going to fix the economy for us. It’s ours to fix.

And the next economy clearly will need to focus on real, long-term value creation rather than continued short-term profits derived from asset bubbles, financial engineering and hyper trading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *