Saturday, February 21, 2009

Taking stock of these whiners

I am getting more and more annoyed as the economy worsens and not for the reasons you might think.

Take, for example, this morning's article in the Charlotte Observer. Therein, we find a lot of bank stock shareholders whining. Things are so bad for them. One guy sunk $35K into a bank and he's nearly lost it all. And now there's this talk of nationalization... it's just not fair. He could lose everything.

Was I the only one reading the news a couple years ago, when the personal savings rate was below zero and debt was rising more than ever - even as incomes stayed flat, thinking "Golly gee whillickers, maybe the lunatics are running the asylum!"??

Because they were. Stocks were soaring. But built on what? I asked people who knew this stuff better than me at the time and they came back with nothing to reassure me. Basically, they said, "well, but growth is good!" They never said how we would sustain it.

Last year the Dow was up over 14,000. I remember Jim Cramer getting on his soapbox on CNBC announcing that the bulls were out to stay. Basically, those Bush tax cuts and the economic stimulus checks had worked, he would explain. The thing was, the only people who were helped were company shareholders, buoyed by their own willingness to invest.

Meanwhile, the rest of us saw a check in the mail and that was it... no sudden increases in spending power, nothing that would allow for the model profits of our economy to be sustained.

And now, these shareholders are whining because for the first time in this crisis, we're going to try to help the bulk of the citizenry slowly get stronger instead of handing already well-off shareholders more cash to toss into their own interests.

And they're fighting back. Saying they'll "revolt," that they won't purchase stocks anymore. Puh-leese! What a joke. These guys only see dollar signs. They change their minds the moment they can grab another extra dime.

They say that it's not their fault the economy is bad. Maybe so, but their signatures are all over the voting rolls that approved the mega-mergers that exposed their banks to toxic debt. They did get to vote on those after all.

Business TV has oversimplified the economy for most. Many channels carry the Dow in the lower corner of the screen during the day... a moment by moment scoreboard of the index. And the moment they tip down - that dubious deep-red down-facing arrow on the screen - the alarms sound.

Folks, your economy isn't the Dow. Many seem to think if the Dow is down, our economy will follow. That's not how it works. The Dow goes down because there are already economic problems.

But these days, it seems it goes down because we're seeing whiny investors who were only in the market to make a quick buck "revolt." They're pulling their dollars back when they never should have been there to start with. Investing, whether they like it or not, is a long-term deal.

So when I hear these folks complaining that they're hurting, maybe they should go trade in their BMWs and go get a Hyundai. Their lifestyles are turning out to be more precarious than they thought, but unlike a lot of Americans who are battening down the hatches and doing all they can to get by, the shareholders are whining that it's just not fair for them to have to do the same.

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