It’s odd, but I’m starting to look at the disaster that has befallen Wall Street like something akin to a person having a stroke or a heart attack. Sure, the symptoms are most dramatic during the acute phase, and it’s the acute phase that’s probably going to kill you, but it’s important to recognize that what a stroke or heart attack means is that this person has been sick for quite a while. Coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease don’t just develop over the course of a week. It takes years of unhealthy living to get you to the point where you are vulnerable to having a heart attack or stroke.
And while we’ve got acute interventions like angioplasty, stenting, and emergent bypass, all that’s going to really do is keep you from dying. It’s not going to actually cure the root cause of your problem. Once you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, there’s no going back to “normal.” You had your chance at normal over the course of probably the last 25 years, but you never exercised and never fixed your diet. You can exercise and eat healthy now, after you’ve had your heart attack or stroke, but even that isn’t going to actually reverse any of the damage that has already occurred.
So that’s kind of where we’re probably at with this Wall Street crisis. Years of deregulation, corruption, and sheer incomptence have rendered our economy vulnerable to disaster, and now the chickens have come home to roost. This $700 billion blank check is just like stenting or bypass. It’s going to keep the economy alive. But it’s not going to fix any of the damage that has already been done.
In other words, our economy is still going to collapse, unless we start restructuring it so that things are actually sustainable.
And just like how lots of cardiac patients generally fail to exercise or change their diet, I fear that most Americans are not going to change their spending habits or the way they manage risk.