Friday, October 10, 2008

Is it a crash yet?

I'd been studiously ignoring the value of my 403(B) over the past week -- but with the close of the market today I said, "What the hell," and had a look. A share of my (you guessed it) "socially responsible" fund has lost about a quarter of its value since the start of the year. Since I wasn't planning to cash out any time soon, it doesn't bother me too much -- I'm one of that shrinking group of Americans collecting a defined benefit pension, and since I've been convinced that the market has been overvalued for the past twenty years or so, my 403(B) really never got all that large.

To tell the truth, I've actually been kind of upbeat as the market's tanked. It seems that Barney Frank and friends did manage to work a little wrinkle into the bailout bill that makes it possible for government to turn a profit on its rescue of the financial industry -- and, stranger than fiction, Henry Paulson is ready to avail himself of the power to do exactly that. Paulson is ready to intervene by buying equity in the banks instead of just buying the crap that's been clogging the toilets of the credit markets.

On NPR today, there was coverage of a McCain rally -- one of his "town hall meetings" -- where some pathetic supporter was ranting about how an Obama victory would send the USofA sliding towards socialism. I'm quite sure that's not Obama's intention, and even more sure it's not Robert Rubin's nor Paul Volcker's intention but, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick said, "History is a better guide than good intentions."

The last major capitalist meltdown, affectionately referred to as the "Great Depression," brought us "socialist" innovations like social security, unemployment insurance, and market regulation that worked fairly well (if not perfectly) until the Reaganauts and the minions of Milton Friedman tore it apart. There's good reason to hope that this latest meltdown will help us regain the ground that was lost to all the presidents who put their faith in Allen Greenspan -- and, if we're lucky, even make a little progress. National, single payer health insurance, for example, could do wonders for the bottom lines of GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

Hmmm.... where did I put that red flag? Oh! There it is!

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