The problem with immediacy

Mac Watson

Both the causes and proposed solutions to the current economic crisis are frightening because they show an increased capacity for selling the America of the future for individual, short-term success.
Not that the banking bailouts are necessarily against the American ideal, but they were rushed through Congress with breakneck speed compared to the automakers bailout or even the recent stimulus. The automakers remain accountable for their loans from the government, but somehow the banks are able to withhold how they spend their money not only from the American public, but from the Financial Stability Oversight Board as well.
Granted, in the Great Depression, the downturn was deeper and longer because of the failure of the banks, but saving ailing, profit-drunk organizations on their own terms may just be forestalling another crisis. The basic stipulations of Obama’s bailout plan only restrict banks that are receiving “exceptional assistance” with “tough and sensible conditions.”
The conditions are apparently not sensible enough to be exposed explicitly to the tax-payers/investors of our nation. Banks do need to be saved, but not only from the markets – from themselves. If they have the liberty to act as they please in the free market, they should have the freedom to fail as well. If corporations are to have the rights of an individual under the law (which they do) they should also have the responsibilities; access to funds under undefined stipulations is not something our government often gives individuals. Crisis is already upon us, and it could get much worse, but fear of depression should not let America subjugate the right and responsibility of equality under the law to the desire for a boom economy.
If corporate greed, public ignorance and poor government regulation hurled us into this mess, then it’s logical that they will not get us out. The American public should not allow themselves to invest in banks without having the ability to actually know where the money is going and how it is to be spent. The only information the Treasury Department has posted is how much money was given to which banks. Despite how trite the complaints over CEO pay and upper-level indulgence have become in the corporate culture of the banks, it is important for us to know just what the returns on our investments are.
The current stimulus bill also seems to be all about immediate assistance, and not about laying the foundation for a successful America in the future. There is to be an exciting increase in funding for education and scientific research in the bill purported this week in The New York Times, but the approximately 100 billion committed to education pales in comparison to the more than 280 billion dollars worth of tax cuts.
In a time where the Information Technology and Innovation Institute rates the once dominant United States as sixth globally in general innovation, should we really be dumping tax cuts on consumers who, for once, are spending within their means?
Maybe the problem with the housing market is that we built too many homes, not that we didn’t buy enough; maybe the problem with Detroit is that they make too many cars, not that we don’t drive enough. The health of our nation should not be determined by our intake of consumer goods, but by the education, health, and happiness of our populous, which can be facilitated through better infrastructure and quicker innovation.
In addition, changes in policy may end up slashing up to 50 percent of the Department of Transportation’s budget. In our last large economic mess caused by greed and irresponsibility, the Great Depression, the First New Deal was centered around banking and industrial reform, work relief programs and institutional changes.
Looking around Appleton, it is easy to tell by the architecture that many of the public buildings still standing were constructed under the New Deal. Lasting improvements should always come before the gratification of banks and taxpayers. The hopes for large short-term material gains enticed half of the American public to buy things they could not afford and the other half to sell it to them; it is time for us to put away dreams of material wealth in order to just get some nice schools, drivable roads and maybe even a responsible corporate culture.