It's just my opinion, but I have a feeling that others may share it, probably in better-articulated forms. And if there are enough who share it, I wonder what it portends for the United States I live in:
Yesterday, I went to the bank. I am retired and had saved a up a little over the years in the 401k plan at the newspaper where I worked. That sum took a 27% loss when the economy collapsed ... and I was forced to say I was grateful it wasn't a bigger loss. A woman at the bank I visited yesterday told me her 401k had gone down 40% and she had put her retirement on hold.
Anyway, I visited the bank because I wanted to take my 401k savings and put them somewhere that was both conservative and insured. I have to say that I am no genius about money, but given the banking and brokerage excesses of the past several years -- excesses abetted by the government and its agencies -- I guess my ignorance is not much to brag about.
I had spoken with the brokerage that handled the 401k and they were willing to realign the funds, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that having to rely on the telephone when seeking assistance was a poor idea. Ergo, my trip to the bank: Could they accomplish what I wanted? -- a truly chicken approach to the savings I had. The answer was, they could. And because they are five minutes away and I can put a face with the information I receive, I will put my money there.
But while I was talking with the woman at the bank, I tried to make clear both my ignorance and my desire to protect whatever savings I could on behalf of my family, I also said, with a force that surprised even me, that I didn't trust the government reassurances worth a damn. The recession might be lifting, but there was still 17% unemployment when you made an honest reckoning; the impact of the industrial real estate market (deeply in debt) has yet to be felt; and television advertising suggesting people ought to get back into the stock market strikes me as egregiously optimistic and pretty much based on the old saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." The president says that there is a lack of trust abroad in the land and I think he's right.
But why SHOULD anyone trust a government that refuses to address the mechanisms that put the country into a 'recession' in the first place? In order to regain that trust -- and 60-70% of the economy rests on consumer spending -- the politicians would have to say 'no' to some of their biggest contributors (banks, brokerages, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms, etc.) Since politicians want to get re-elected, I for one do not plan to hold my breath about any consequential regulatory change -- the kind of change that might inspire my trust.
How dumb do these people with buffed fingernails and finely-pressed suits think people are. Pretty dumb is the answer and they are largely right. Greed is not limited to Wall Street or Washington. But Wall Street and Washington do not bear a commensurate burden when it comes to admitting mistakes and feeling ashamed of themselves. Not to mention feeling the financial bite.
All of this amorphous and not very well-sequenced whining I found myself spitting out as I talked to the woman in the bank. My mouth ranneth over. And somewhere along my ranting path, she looked at me and said, "I agree with you. There is worse yet to come."
I guess "caveat emptor" is a rule worth applying. Let the buyer beware ... of those who sell sequins but fail to sell the clothing on which to sew them. And beware of those who feel no shame, who cannot admit their mistakes, and whose reactions to mistakes is simply to paper them over and get back to business as usual, suckers as usual.
If my crankiness is any indicator, I wonder where the country is headed.