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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Banking as Child's Play

As America wades its way through the financial muck, you can be sure that media pundits will be doing everything they can to point fingers and assess blame for what is widely perceived to be the meltdown of the richest country on the planet. Rumors of the meltdown, by the way, are greatly exaggerated distortions of the truth. They're not even close to the truth. Because the real problems facing the financial markets have little to do with finance. The real problems go much, much deeper.

If you're a loyal reader of this blog, you may recall a recent post of a similar nature, in which I pointed out how the price of gasoline had absolutely no relation to the supply and demand of oil. I'm happy to report that within a few short weeks of that post, the price of a gallon of gasoline in America dropped from almost five dollars a gallon to roughly three dollars and change -- presumably with less gasoline on hand. Duh. Clearly, there are other effects in play here. And just as with the price of oil, the current financial "crisis" is due to the very same problem:

Our country is being run by children.

Make no mistake, these kids are all in their fifties and sixties, but that just means they're bigger kids with grayer hair and more wrinkles than your garden variety little leaguer. If you take a long, hard look around, you'll see what I mean. Try finding a reporter who asks pointed, important questions along the lines of Edward R. Murrow when he took on red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy. In fact, try finding any reporter that asks any kind of piercing, intelligent questions that haven't been vetted by his teleprompter. These aren't reporters. These are kids playing on television.

But that's not the worst of it. They say that thirty is the new twenty. Boy, have they got it wrong. It's closer to the truth to say that forty is the new twelve, with supposed adults acting like children: Pursuing their own selfish goals without giving any thought to the public good. You want to know why there are no good, worthy leaders? Because leaders understand the concept of greater vision. They're able to take the long view for everyone's benefit, rather than immediate self-gratification.

Want to really get freaked out? Ask anyone today why they'd run for public office and more often than not, the answer you'll get is "it's a great way to make business connections." Mind you, given the meager pay of most public servants, I have no problem with serving time and then reaping private benefits. I have a problem with serving public time to get the private benefits.

The kids are invading every nook and cranny of our lives. And the scary part is that as real adults die off, these old kids are moving into positions of real responsibility. They're piloting your airplanes, judging your court cases and as all of America is painfully finding out, destroying your banking system. Pity poor Hank Greenberg, the man who spent forty years building AIG, watching his billion dollar net worth evaporate over the course of a few weeks. When Hank left AIG, his fortune was intact. But once he left -- under a murky cloud of circumstances, it's true -- the kids stayed at home with no babysitter to watch them. And they did what kids do best: act irresponsibly.

Well, America, you don't demand accountability, you don't get accountability. What you get is lots of kids, caught with their pants down, pointing blame at one another. Real adults don't do that. In fact, real adults have enough wisdom, foresight and discipline to understand their responsibility to current and future generations.

I've been saying it for years, but nobody has been listening. So now, instead of listening, everyone can feel the pain. Grow up, America. Realize that you can't fight terrorism with loud, fast jets. Understand that oil prices rise because they're driven by market makers. Wake up and smell the coffee -- if your parents will let you drink it.

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