Friday, October 3, 2008

Time to Work on Plan B

Weekly initial jobless claims continue their rise, overall unemployment stays flat to last month, Congress just passed the "bailout" which the President has signed, so now what?

I have heard the statement "From Wall Street to Main Street" many times recently on the local and national news when reporters or "experts" are referring to the current economic crises. Just because we have an economic rescue package does not mean that the economy is going to quickly turn around. It is going to take a while for the impact of this economic "bailout" to help aid the economy. The main purpose is that it will remove the "toxic" assets from banks' balance sheets so they can start to lend money to other banks (at lower rates than the recent record high rates), small businesses (many that use short-term loans to make payroll) and ultimately to consumers. These economic crises took a while to develop. I was emailed an article this week by a senior manager in our organization that was from the New York Times in September of 1999 that reads as though the author of the article has channeled Nostradamus' predictive powers. In the article reporter Steven A. Holmes wrote, "Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits." Later in the article he declares, "In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's." Maybe I could call Mr. Holmes to find out when my beloved St. Louis Rams will win their first game!

Congress has taken a positive step in aiding the prospect of financial recovery, although it will be a while before we start to see the effects of the bailout make its way down to "Main Street." Congress should continue to work to find additional ways to help those on "Main Street." I read an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal today that was a letter from the CEO of Interactive Brokers Group, Thomas Peterffy, in which Mr. Peterffy recommended that the "bailout" be "fixed" so it would simply pay the first $250 of every home owner's mortgage in the US for the next five years (at a cost of about $10 billion monthly). I find this idea very intriguing. You would think that it should have at least hit the radar screen of CNN or Fox News? In the advertisement Mr. Peterffy points out that his idea is "progressive" and would cover a larger portion of the mortgages for those with "modest homes" verses high-dollar estates. Maybe Congress will be wise enough to continue to work on this issue and develop contingency plans in case our economy continues to slip, even in the face of passage of the "bailout." Let's hope we do not have to go there, but it would be refreshing, reassuring, if we knew that Congress was hoping for the best but planning for the worst. Plans such as that put forward by Mr. Peterffy need to be examined and considered when it comes to putting together the proverbial Plan B.

How do you feel about the "bailout" package, and do you see it as a positive or negative move by our leaders in Washington?