29 September 2009

Cash for Clunkers Will Go Wrong, But Not For the Right Reasons

If I were to design a stimulus plan, Cash for Clunkers might be among them.

The target of the plan was to incent the public to trade in gas guzzling 'clunkers' for more fuel efficient, safer cars. It provided a spark of buying at a time of serious economic recession.

This is a classic case of promoting an economic and societal 'good' while providing a stimulus to spur economic activity. This is precisely the type of program that Big Business and its demimonde of commentators like when they are the primary beneficiary. Let's say, in a program of tax incentives to promote useful capital expenditure spending. And what many of the private individuals who complain about the program like when it benefits them personally, such as the deduction of mortgage interest.

So why is this likely to fail, at least in part?

That is because the Obama Economic Team, under the leadership of Larry Summers, is grasping at stimulus and aids programs like bank capital asset subsidies that as part of a total package might be useful, but as remedies applied to a sick system do not promote a cure, but merely serve to mask the symptoms.

Stimulus and aid programs do not work when they are merely poured into a system that is broken, or worse, broken and corrupt.

And it cannot be reformed by actors who have been and continue to be willing beneficiaries of its flaws, such as the transference of wealth from the many to the few. Congress and the Administration have to take themselves away from the trough and start acting for the greater good of the people whom they represent, rather than the special interests who give them campaign contributions and fat, overpaid jobs when they leave office.

What we are experiencing is a collapsing Ponzi Scheme, as Janet Tavakoli describes so clearly and yet so well in Wall Street's Fraud and Solutions for Systemic Peril.

This is why we say that the banks must be restrained, and the financial system must be reformed, and the economy brought back into balance, before there can be any sustained recovery.