March 02, 2009
Bottom-up or top-down?
I spent last weekend with my cousin and her family. Also joining us were my parents, her parents, and several of our friends. 20 people in one (albeit big) house provided some lively debate, expecially about our economy.
My uncle and I both voiced our opinions about the stimulus package recently passed by Congress. He felt it was a big step in the right direction. "We've got to get the guy who wears the blue collar working again", he said. Pouring money into construction projects nationwide was a good start. Building a strong foundation will eventually put the white collar guys (accountants, sales guys, etc.) back to work. After all, you don't build a house by starting with the roof.
My argument was to decrease taxes so EVERY American citizen would benefit. I asked my uncle if he was going to directly benefit from the stimulus package as passed. He said he probably wouldn't. He also contended that decreasing taxes wasn't going to put people back to work, and that's where our 'debate' got a little more, for lack of a better term, LOUD.
My entire argument centered around the fact that the government has NEVER done anything right when they've interfered with the capitalistic process. Trickle down economics, where tax breaks to businesses (that employ most of us, by the way) allow for more job creation and innovation, has worked pretty well over the years.
This led to an even more spirited debate on how the fat cats on Wall Street seemed to simply take all that money for themselves. (I guess I should have known it was going to take this turn, because those guys truly are indefensible.) Even so, I was quick to point out that a Clinton Administration mandate in 1999 led to the majority of problems we are having today.
Fannie Mae, under the dubious leadership of Franklin Raines, decided they would ease credit requirements to "encourage banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans." (NY Times, Sept. 30,1999) Strangely enough, the economy went crazy for several years until the big bubble burst in 2006, causing the avalanche of delinquent and defaulted mortgages as fiscally irresponsible borrowers walked away from homes in which they had little or no real dollars invested. Hence my argument that government intervention in enterprise only makes things worse, never better.
After my little history lesson, my uncle and I essentially called a truce. We both had valid points, and we both admitted we didn't have all the answers. The discussion did provide a forum for both of us to learn a little about the other's philosophy. When all was said and done, it was clear that each of us has a responsibility for pulling our country out of this mess. For every person or company who feels entitled to a handout from the government, there are many more of us who are going to have to work that much harder to pay for it. We don't really have any other choice at the present time. After all, we elected the bozos who are currently bankrupting our future for the sake of the present.
Back to answering the question asked in the title of this blog. Bottom-up or top-down?...to which I will add a third option, and which is seemingly the correct answer...BOTH.
Make it a great day.
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