Oct 1, 2008

Why Are We Not Taking This Crisis More Seriously?

Partly because we have an election pending in the US and New Zealand, and partly because the problems are so macro that those at company level don't quite get it - yet. We don't pretend to have all the answers but we do know that, for the second time this year, the banks seem to have stopped lending to each other. This is a crisis like none that we have experienced in our lifetimes. Our parents maybe lived through something similar but they would have been young.
The bottom line is that you are foolish if you discount the likely impact on your business or personal well being.

We liked this article in today's New York Times because it sets things at the personal level. Does it ring any bells???

In 1929, Meyer Mishkin owned a shop in New York that sold silk shirts to workingmen. When the stock market crashed that October, he turned to his son, then a student at City College, and offered a version of this sentiment: It serves those rich scoundrels right.

A year later, as Wall Street’s problems were starting to spill into the broader economy, Mr. Mishkin’s store went out of business. He no longer had enough customers. His son had to go to work to support the family, and Mr. Mishkin never held a steady job again.
Frederic Mishkin — Meyer’s grandson and, until he stepped down a month ago, an ally of Ben Bernanke’s on the Federal Reserve Board — told me this story the other day, and its moral is obvious enough. Many people in Washington fear that the country is starting to spiral into a terrible downturn. And to their horror, they see the public, and many members of Congress, turning into modern-day Meyer Mishkins, more interested in punishing Wall Street than saving the economy.
All of which may be true. But there is good reason for the public’s skepticism. The experts and policy makers who so desperately want to take action have failed to tell a compelling story about why they’re so afraid.
It’s not enough to say that markets could freeze up, loans could become impossible to get and the economy could slide into its worst downturn since
the Great Depression. For now, the crisis has had little effect on most Americans, beyond their 401(k) statements. So to them, the specter of a depression can sound alarmist, and the $700 billion bill that Congress voted down this week can seem like a bailout for rich scoundrels.
Mr. Bernanke and his fellow worriers need to connect the dots. They need to use their bully pulpits to teach a little lesson on the economics of a
credit crisis — how A can lead to B, B to C and C to Depression.

Read the rest of the article....