Have you ever been to the doctor, and the diagnosis that you received was just flat wrong? It may not have even been the doctor’s fault. You could have neglected to tell him about key symptoms. You could have been overly dramatic about smaller symptoms. But the point is that you were misdiagnosed, and it significantly delayed your complete recovery. How could your doctor help you unless the both of you actually knew the problem? The truth is that you can’t fix a misdiagnosed problem.
Don’t look now, but our nation’s financial troubles are being misdiagnosed. And what is even more disturbing are the cures that are being prescribed. We are sick nation that has been plagued by many financial afflictions: debt, a crashing market, joblessness, and a general lack of discretionary income. Now that we know our symptoms, let’s examine the diagnosis and then the proposed cures.
The Diagnosis (The Media’s Take)
We are overspent. Americans were allowed to borrow obscene amounts of money from institutions that were (forced or otherwise) loaning money that they shouldn’t have lent. Then other financial companies were backing these bad loans, and they got left holding the bag (except the bag was filled with the stuff that you end up with at the end of a walk with your dog). Then as Americans defaulted, banks suffered, and stock prices dove. Portfolios suffered, and people lost fortunes. People were laid off, and credit became tighter than ever before. The diagnosis: the economy is stagnant. There is negative growth (yes, negative growth), and now credit is tighter than ever before. People are having trouble surviving because their credit cards are maxed out, and they don’t have jobs.
Pete the Planner’s Diagnosis
We are suffering from a giant case of stupid. What other economy produces such wonderful things like Christmas death? Christmas death? Yes, Christmas death. Our world is a world that encourages a frenzy of crazy spending that results in a general disregard for our own financial futures, but also our fellow humans. Last week a Wal-Mart worker was killed as we tried to “spend our way out of spending problem”. I don’t know if I have ever (seriously) felt worse about humanity than I did when I heard that news story. Our affliction is…a giant case of stupid. We want stuff, and stuff is what we want. End of story. We will run over a poor guy in order to get our stuff.
The Solution (The Media’s Solution)
Make credit available. Allow companies that have lent irresponsibly to loan irresponsibly. Once credit loosens, then stupid people will continue to stimulate the economy. Corporate America will continue to stoke the fires of consumers. The American dream of owning a home, and a couple of cars will persist, and we can begin competing with our neighbors again.
Pete the Planner’s Solution
Leave credit alone. Those that can borrow now, are those that should be borrowing. Credit only needs to be loosened for those that can’t afford the loans that they are seeking. Since when is the cure for obesity, more food? It’s not. Please don’t assume that I am not thinking this through. I understand credit, and I understand the financial institutions’ stance on stimulating the economy, but they have stimulated our economy for the last 10 years. And this is where we are. Consumption is not the answer. The solution is to teach people to live within their means.
Do you ever sit back and think about the history of this great nation? At one point in time it made sense to a majority of people to keep women from voting. At one point in time it made sense to make black people drink out of a different water source. At one point in time it made sense to suck down two packs of cigarettes per day. All of those things have been proven to be ridiculous. I almost get the chills thinking about how wrong we have been. Is this credit situation the next great mistake? I think so.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.