This spring, I reminded readers about a 2006 column of mine. That original column warned that America was headed off a cliff with its commitment to a bloated housing market, and that the mortgage industry would come tumbling after.
In March, I amplified on these themes with the suggestion that the real-estate slowdown had started. I offered that the impact on the financial world might stretch far beyond U.S. borders.
Piddling underneath the dark clouds of this gathering storm has been Congress, with its endless train of investigations into everything from the U.S. attorney general to “the sport of wrestling.”
President Bush, meanwhile, is so obsessed with Iraq that he might as well move there.
Those outside the insulated bubble of Washington, D.C. — remember us? — nevertheless recognize the real issue for the 2008 elections.
It goes something like this: Am I about to lose everything I gained from those days when Alan Greenspan reversed the Fed’s policy of instituting multiple hikes in interest rates?
You remember: The interest-rate increases Greenspan implemented to “cool off” the economy, the increases that triggered a recession.
We recovered from that Greenspan blunder only after the Great One reversed engines and started cutting interest rates as fast as he had raised them.
The trouble is that this monetary finagling created a gold-rush mindset among Americans. The nation was informed that the only lasting wealth was land ownership. Land, that is, that many purchased with the bank’s money, upon which borrowers then borrowed again to use as a giant credit card to pay for the good life.
Now we’re seeing that the underpinnings of the American economy aren’t as stout as thought. Greenspan’s wild ride has left his Fed successors and government leaders with a big fat mess.
Mark it: In the coming months there’s a strong likelihood that a full-blown economic panic will grip this country.
How can the economy be strong when we have lost manufacturing to other emerging nations, when we’re taxing our citizens to pay for the well-being of Americans and everybody else in the world, when we have citizens with negligible personal savings, and when we have an aging population that thinks early, lavish retirement should be an entitlement?
Trust me. We’re in a five-alarm financial mess. Anybody who thinks the situation is limited to the so-called “sub-prime lending” world is crazy. There are plenty of standard loans out there with borrowers worried sick about making payments — on their properties, yes, but often on home-equity loans.
And neither political party has the slightest concept of what to do. The Republicans have committed to endless war with endless costs, all the while giving huge tax breaks to oil companies.
From the Democrats come repeated calls to repeal tax cuts “for the wealthy,” which would only punish those who make just enough money to buy goods or provide jobs to others.
Unless we create a special “you’re-too-darn-rich” tax that forces those like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros and Oprah Winfrey to pay taxes at an 80 percent rate, any tax hike on the “rich” will only accelerate economic decline.
Newt Gingrich blasted President Bush this week, saying that Bush and Congress should return from vacation and pass a bill that expatriates illegal aliens who break the law.
That’s fine, but not enough. Gingrich is aiming to hit a hot-button issue the public cares about. But he and every other politician who’s a slave to Washington consultants and pollsters don’t realize that while the public may be angry about immigration, they may be becoming terrified over the economy.
Deal with what really matters, guys. One thousand people this week alone lost their jobs when a non-sub-prime lender went bankrupt.
Consumer spending and confidence are about to crash. The stock market is now artificially supported by infusions of federal cash printed so rapidly that the ink hasn’t dried.
Want an issue to bring Congress and the president back from vacation? You just found it.