Berko: Fixing U.S. economy is a trillion-dollar problem
By Malcolm Berko Taking Stock March 12, 2013 5:22PM
Updated: April 14, 2013 6:04AM
Dear Mr. Berko: Four years ago, I lost my job, and because I used your “100-Plus Ben Franklin Savings Ideas,” we were able to keep our household spending in order. That was a lifesaver. Thanks to you, it was simple. Why can’t the government discipline its spending as we did and get its house back in order? And where did the government come up with the platinum coin idea it had in 2012? A friend of mine, who is a lawyer for the Department of the Interior, can’t find anything in the federal law that permits the Treasury to mint platinum coins. What hat was this pulled from?
Dear FR: My daughter, Hilary, a lawyer (one of the good ones), is an expert at finding needles in legal haystacks. She tells me that in Title 31 of the U.S. Code, it states, “The Secretary (of the Treasury may mint and issue platinum bullion coins.” It was enacted into law in 1996 and is all the authority Timmy Boy (our man at the Treasury in 2012) needed. The Treasury secretary can mint any platinum coin denomination he wishes.
Of course, this would be disingenuous, but if the law were challenged, Hilary believes that the court would rule in favor of the coin. However, for some strange reason, the Obama administration decided against those trillion-dollar coins, which would have been deposited with Ben (our man at the Federal Reserve) so the Treasury checks wouldn’t bounce. Instead, the House Budget Committee chairman ingeniously approved a short-term increase in the debt limit so Congress has more time to work with the White House.
What a superfluity of stupidity! I can’t imagine a more stupid way to solve a problem than putting it in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. Many Americans would rather drink from a colostomy bag than from the same cup as their congressman.
I’m glad those Ben Franklin suggestions helped you. However, a household is not a metaphor for the economy.
You can shrink a household into prosperity by using self-discipline to reduce expenditures, but it’s impossible for most households to do it simultaneously. If a shrimp boat captain forgoes maintenance on his engine, the mechanic who does the maintaining can’t afford a shrimp dinner. The economy is not a household but rather an engine with a bad crankshaft, a cracked head, worn valves and a failing injection system. This engine doesn’t need a disciplinarian; it needs a mechanic. And that’s precisely how it is with our economy. Therefore, the multiple stimuli the Fed is using to fuel the economy are being consumed by a broken, inefficient engine that limps at 5 knots, as opposed to cruising at 25 knots.
Our engine needs a complete overhaul, and there isn’t a mechanic in the galaxy who can do the job. Three members of Congress whom I know well privately acknowledge they’re out of solutions, and there may be other realists in the House and Senate who have identical opinions. Even executives at our biggest companies and investment banks realize our economic engine continues to lose the horsepower it needs to drive the country forward without continued monetary stimuli.
So in order to maintain a semblance of social congruity and fiscal order, Congress postures various chewing gum, chicken wire and Rube Goldberg fixes that masquerade as permanent solutions. A few members of Congress and knowledgeable citizens recognize there are no cures for the national debt, “Obamacare,” entitlement programs, public education, illegal drugs, public pensions or immigration. They realize these problems will continue to fester like putrid yellow pus from an overripe boil.
Be a realist; recognize that these problems are beyond the pale and can’t be repaired. There’s nothing you can do and no one for whom you could vote who could repair the engine. But you can enjoy the future with a bodacious smile if you partake of the following wisdom: Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.
Address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.