October 29, 2011

Visiting The Sins of The Fathers

Everyone was waiting for the big news this week out of the EU on how they were going to bail out their troubled economies--way too many: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland...and more.

Their debt is through the roof--Greece is at 164% of it GDP and Italy is saddled with 1.9 trillion euros with more than 200 billion of it coming due next year.

Unemployment is soaring...with Greek unemployment of 16.7%, topped by Spain's at 21.5%.

Economies are grinding to a halt: "Euro-zone economic data point to gloomy year-end...0.2% latest quarterly growth" (Wall Street Journal, 29-30 October 2011)

So news this week of a yet bigger (much bigger 4x or 5x) bailout fund of $1.4 trillion to backstop the losses, while sending the stock market soaring, left the pundits a little more than skeptical.

Why? Because where did the losses go...did they just disappear or is this a thoroughly massive shell game where the losses are spinning faster and faster under the shells of economic protectionism until they disappear altogether under the slight of hand of ministry of finance magicians?

I thought to myself this week--am I missing something? I wrote a friend--this guy is a genius--top of the class type, CPA, MBA and asked what he thought of the bailout? He too was baffled and said somebody just took a "50% haircut" referring to massive number of Greek bondholders who just took a huge loss--how is that a good thing?

And I thought what about the rest of the losses yet to be realized in the $1.4 trillion European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF)...by naming it "stability," does it actually make people feel more secure, better?

Then came the reports later this week--"Doubts rise about EU deal"--that the financial rescue plan is short on details, and as we all know "the devil is in the details." Moreover, it's just a plan--that's the easy part--words are cheap! The real test lies in whether the financial rescuers can actually execute this time or will we be back at the drawing board in 6 months time again?

Then I thought of the saying from the Torah (Bible)--Exodus 34:7 that G-d "visits the sins of the fathers on the children." Not in a malevolent way, but in an almost natural way--our actions have consequences.

While not limited to any individual, country, or continent, when we live beyond our means--when greed and gluttony surpass our ability to control our appetites for more, then a bubble builds and down the road, it eventually bursts--whether real estate, the dot com boom, stocks, commodities, or even tulips in the 17th century!

As we all know deep down, no shell game can go on forever--the hands tire, the players become more astute, and most importantly, the excesses of the past must be paid up--so that the next generation can eventually go on to a more stable and brighter future.

Both sides of the spectrum, the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street protesters know the same economic reckoning is coming--and even though not everyone can articulate the rising doubt and fear, we go toward resolution, hand-in-hand together.

(Source Picture: here and here)


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