One of the biggest lessons from Vietnam is simply this, fight the enemy and not the plan. Using WWII Company and Battalion sized conventional tactics does not win a guerilla war. A few adaptable men such as Col David H. Hackworth, Lt. Col Tony Herbert, and Col John Paul Vann knew this and succeeded in implementing their effective solutions, but were unable to cause lasting institutional change.
They fought the enemy, not the plan.
The current round of stimulus packages and budget fights leaves me feeling like a lonely grunt walking through a minefield because someone with rank on their collar decided the enemy was "thataway". No real idea of who I'm supposed to be looking for, (some guy named Charlie I guess) and no idea why I'm supposed to be looking for him...
If we were to break down the problems with the economy into definable "enemies" it seems pretty easy to see that the credit market is the core of the problem. Sure there are different branches of the credit markets that are in trouble but at the core they all relate back to people lending other people money and not getting paid back. Mortgage, credit cards, vehicle loans and all the alphabet soup credit products that paper pushers bought and sold to each other are all related.
So if credit is the problem, the "enemy", how do we fight the enemy?
I don't know of any "expert" out there that would tell someone who is near bankruptcy to "just get an even larger loan to pay off all your current accounts, so that you can continue to draw against those current accounts and maintain your lifestyle."
Essentially that is what the various rounds of "stimulus" packages are, one big loan to clear out the loans in jeapordy so that they can continue to be used in the manner that caused the problem in the first place.
The first step to financial recovery is a budget analysis. How much do you make, how much are your obligations. The very basic "in" and "out" of finance. This isn't double ledger accounting or anything complicated, it is making the "in" exceed the "out" and working out a plan so that the "out" can get smaller over time (or at least not grow larger).
None of the current "stimulus" packages even attempt to fix the problem. The "stimulus" is trying to stop the decrease of the "in" column by increasing the "out" column. It doesn't make sense. Kinda like writing a huge check to someone else, then writing an even huger check to yourself to cover the check you wrote to someone else.
I understand taking a massive loan to start a business, but none of the "stimulus" packages are trying to start a business, at best they are trying to put financial institutions and major employers on life support so that someday maybe they can pay back the "stimulus loan". And none of this is fighting the enemy, systemic bad credit, it is trying to say "there there now, don't fret, bad credit makes the world go round."
If you cannot financially recover, if your "out" column dwarfs your "in" column then the only thing to do is declare bankruptcy, allow the courts to liquidate your assets and try to move on with your life. Evidently when one person does this that's just too bad, but when 8,000 people a day do this it is somehow a national emergency that needs a lot of pork, because somehow pork is going to make the Smith's trying to keep up with the Jones's able to pay their bank note.
The vast majority of these defaulting loans are because somebody didn't examine their "in" and "out" financial columns before taking on more "out" in the first place, and financial institutions willing to make those "No Income No Asset" loans and sell the debt to other idiots.
If you are going to fight unwanted behavior, you have to have consequences. The abuse of the credit industry by those who were stupid at best or villainous at worst is not going to be fixed by taking away the consequences of their actions.
Fight the enemy, not the plan. The enemy is bad credit brought on by individuals and financial corporations. Taking away their consequences is not going to fix the problem, it rewards their bad behavior.
I know that all finances are connected, I know that innocent people will get hurt. But the "stimulus" packages hurt innocent people too, and deliberately.
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I don't understand the issues. But like John Paul Vann said, "we told a bright shining lie" referring to telling people what they wanted to hear instead of the bitter truth. The bitter truth (and consequences) would serve us much better now than the bright shining hopey changey lie. As a nation it would be better to go through another Depression, tighten our belts and come out the other side with a healthy "in" and "out" budget than try desperately to trim the coinage to prolong the supposed apex of a golden age.