I view the Great Recession through the prism of my medical training. One must make the correct diagnosis to choose the proper treatment.
Individuals irrationally expected housing prices to continue ever upward, assuming mortgages they could not afford should historic norms return. Mortgage brokers made enormous profits no matter whom they qualified. Banks and mortgage lenders unloaded their exposure to sketchy loans by selling them.
Investment bankers made money on the transactions and encouraged more questionable mortgage activity. They repackaged the loans to “unsuspecting” large investors. These banks were abetted by rating agencies, which over-rated subprime mortgages as AAA. The raters thereby kept the billion-dollar business of the investment banks who purchased their prestige.
When the housing market made its inevitable correction, many “liar’s loans,” adjustable rate mortgages and interest-only mortgages were defaulted. The house of cards collapsed, bringing down with it the investment banks and the U.S. and world economies.
Then-Treasury Secretary Paulson administered the emergency room treatment to prop up the financial sector. Further infusions of cash were needed to keep the sector and the economy alive.
Greed, lack of transparency for the exotic securitized mortgages, lack of understanding and lack of power by regulators, insufficient knowledge by investors and lack of adequate reserves by financial institutions are the disease.
Human greed is probably incurable. The cure for the rest is reinstating the separation between commercial and investment banks, lost when Glass-Steagall was repealed, by regulating banks more effectively, and by removing the possibility of banks “too big to fail.”
Republicans are advocating gutting the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill passed early in the Obama administration and defunding Obama’s Consumer Protection Agency. They are crying for further deregulation of the banking industry. Those steps are clearly malpractice. A relapse of the disease would be inevitable.
Vote Democratic to get a better doctor, but you had better keep an eye on who pays the bills, so that we can get a full cure. But that is a subject for a later date.
Something not mentioned by advocates of the the Silt grocery store project – and the tax dollars being diverted to fund private development – is the very real cost to the state, our schools and taxpayers.
In 2010, $156 million taxpayer dollars were diverted to private development with little or no accountability. The state of Colorado had to fork over $71 million – 46 percent of the total – because it’s on the hook to backfill those revenues diverted from school districts.
Our schools are suffering from underfunding – classrooms are overflowing, books are outdated and districts were forced to mill levy to make up the difference – while our self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives promote these projects across the state. Where’s the taxpayer accountability to protect our schools, while we continue to fund private development with public funds?
The argument we always seem to hear about giving tax breaks and giving public money to private developers is that “it’s good for economic and community development.” But how do we know? Most towns and cities, such as Silt, don’t have any reporting requirements for tax increment financed projects.
Reading about some of the development projects that have qualified for tax money makes me wonder: What exactly are we getting for our money? Service jobs maybe, but not a lot of middle class, living wage jobs.
Further, Silt’s current population doesn’t support the consumer numbers needed to break even for having a grocery store. Where’s the sustainability on this project? How many jobs will this project create with limited store traffic? Who picks up the tab, when the revenues don’t provide a return on the investment?
I’m not convinced this is a good use of our tax dollars, but if developers had to provide a proposal and follow up reports, at least we’d know for sure. We need transparency and reporting to ensure our money is being used wisely. Otherwise, this project seems more like a “Peter robbing Paul, so Harry can make a profit” proposition, using public funds.
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