We Must Learn From Our Failures

The American economy recently has been on a sugar high due to stimulus spending.  

However, all sugar highs are followed by inevitable crashes.  Skyrocketing prices for housing and many commodities that are driving an equally skyrocketing illusion of wealth are politically useful because they temporarily mask the devastating economic damage wrought by government policies that have crushed our lives.  When active financial manipulation and media cheerleading can no longer levitate the marketplace, all the slap-happy bubbles will pop, and the investors who survive the crash will stampede to join those rushing toward the next heaping spoonful of sweet market speculation.

The next hot investment opportunity might put a jingle in some pockets as the herd chases a new and overly-hyped bubble du jour, but it unfortunately contributes little to creating the vibrant and sustainable economic growth that America and Americans now need as the fevered policy failures of the Covid-19 pandemic begin to mercifully end.  

Any country where people are actively dissuaded—or absolutely forbidden—from living their normal lives for over a year is going to have all the vim and vigor of your average comatose patient.  Pent up demand will obviously be a boost in some economic sectors, but we still must deal with the blowback of being protected right to the very brink of national insolvency.

If not for the massive infusions of borrowed Federal money that have provided relief but not renewal, we would be able to more clearly see just how deep a hole we are in today.  Subtract those trillions of dollars of acronymic aid programs from the bank accounts of businesses and individuals, and we now would be smack in the middle of the second Great Depression.  However, it does not logically follow that continued stimulus payments are the best course of action.  No nation in history has been able to borrow its way to prosperity, and we need to honestly reckon with the true economic damage of foolhardy public health policies that were driven by politics and panic rather than science and reason.

Although every desperately ill patient wants to hear that a magic pill will make them healthy again, sometimes the grim reality is that major surgery followed by years of painful recovery are necessary.  I realize that politicians are terrified of the volcanic national rage that would result if foreclosures, bankruptcies, and evictions were allowed to run their courses—and rightly so—but continuing to promise a painless cure will ultimately not provide any healing.  Moreover, if government officials are unable to own up to the mind boggling idiocy of their actions over the past year, we will be denied the treatment that our nation needs in order to regain its economic health.

Failure on such a monumental scale is not the fault of any one individual or government agency; we have, in fact, been subjected to destructive groupthink on a scale that was impossible to imagine before our world became one interconnected hive mind thanks to the internet.  The global echo chamber of craven bureaucrats and paralyzed elected officials has been a sad study in the self-reinforcing foolishness of elite consensus.  Graduate students will be happily writing their dissertations about the factors leading to this colossal leadership disaster for decades to come, but there is little advantage to be found for the rest of us.

Nonetheless, we need both an accounting and some accountability—and we need it now.  This will not be a pleasant process for many self-styled heroes of the pandemic who will see their lucrative futures wither under close examination.  There will be a ferocious resistance from advocates of Big Government who will, quite rightly, suspect that their cherished plans will be forestalled.  Critics of government will be gleeful, but their joy should be tempered by a responsibility to seek truth rather than retribution.  Partisanship must be set aside so that a careful examination of the deeply flawed decision making that put us in this awful situation can be moved swiftly forward.

Government officials should get smart about finding targeted interventions that will cost-effectively relieve some measure of the economic distress now afflicting Americans—and large scale money dumps must be abandoned.  These efforts can run concurrently with the dispassionate bipartisan investigations that should begin immediately in order to both uncover the reasons for the massive errors of the past year and hopefully assist with preventing such catastrophes in the future.

Delay and dissembling will, of course, be the natural reactions of those whose actions will be subjected to difficult—but necessary—inquiries into the wholesale destruction of our nation’s economic strength during this past year.  In January of 2020 America was enjoying some of the lowest unemployment rates in our nation’s history.  That prosperity seems a very distant memory today.  If we hope to avoid the kind of frightening anger that can tear a nation apart, it is time for us to join together and ask the questions that must be asked today.

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