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Commentary Last Updated: Sep 21st, 2007 - 02:23:48

Helicopter Ben does it again
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Sep 21, 2007, 02:00

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Once more, Fed chief Ben Bernanke has sent his helicopter up to shower the market with money, this time a whopping one-half percentage point cut of its benchmark interest rate, from 5.25 percent down to 4.75 percent. His reason was to nix the chaos in housing and financial markets which could bring down the entire economy.

The credit crimp supposedly hit all but the safest home mortgages and supposedly cut the ability of private equity and hedge funds to borrow money at low rates. So now the Fed�s move could lower costs for mortgages and auto loans. That�s so we can come back full circle to where the problem started with too much borrowing and too little real collateral.

It�s also so we can continue to subsidize corporate greed with taxpayer dollars, or Fed dollars, which feel like they can be printed on demand. Still, someone, someday will have to pay the taxpayers back. And it will be us, the taxpayers, unless we�re totally broke.

Also, with this latest cut you will see the value of your savings and/or retirement plan evaporate a bit as the dollar supply increases. Your travel dollars to Europe and other places (if you�re lucky enough to travel) will melt before your eyes like an italian gelato. Or the prices of everything you buy, from groceries to gems, will slowly rise like helium balloons as you reach to get a grip on the shortened string.

What made Bernanke do this supposedly was the shock of the Labor Department�s unexpectedly crappy employment report for August. It showed the US had lost jobs for the first time in four years. I don�t know whose stats he�s looking at, but the US has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs to offshoring alone in the last six years, let alone the destruction of the auto industry, plus the steady attrition of the unemployed or aging not returning to the labor market.

This latest golden shower follows the quick half-point cut at the discount window in early August from 6.25 percent to 5.75 percent. That was supposed to be a quick fix to liquefy capital, having banks borrow for less direct from the Fed and slake the thirst of borrowers around the world. I guess they�re thirsty again. And the talk of a recession, like terrorism, sends shivers up and down the Fed honchos' spines, if they still have them.

But hey, that�s the American way. Remember when the stock market was in trouble in 2001, initially due to the dot-com bust or more realistically the inflated prices of dot-com stocks. It�s the same story. Now foreclosures are escalating and all forms of commercial paper, securities backed either by mortgages or credit card debt receivables, are being used as wall paper.

Ah well, what the hell. You can�t stop buying, right? But you could stop the war and save $4 billion a week. You could cancel those tax cuts to the rich and up your Treasury�s cash flow. You could try to start cutting down the annual budget deficit, the trade deficit, the national debt, weighing in at $9 tril. I mean, we could try to save money, or go without that third TV, that second car, that Ivy League college.

Arghhh, I�m talking treason here. Spend less, save, and redirect government and personal capital into industry and small businesses, not killing people. Stop letting the oil companies keep picking consumer and industry�s pockets or the defense industry fatten like a golden calf on the spoils of war.

The trouble with all these rate cuts is that markets explode upwards again and around the world, including the hedge funds, and the same mortgage lenders and credit card folks that got us in trouble in the first place. Does it have to be an all-out slam-bang depression that smacks us in the face and brings us to a catastrophic halt that wakes us up?

You can�t hemorrhage money in war and hope for prosperity�s peace of mind. You can�t let the economy degrade into being an importer not a producer/exporter of hard goods as well as services. You can�t create money solely from financial engineering, when you need real product engineering, real goods that can be sold around the world for real dollars.

In short, we can�t live in the various financial bubbles that are engineered for business sectors without paying for the overvaluations they produce in the values of their stock, their debt paper, and their products. We have to get real again. We need to rebuild infrastructure with government dollars, educate the young and upcoming, and protect the aged and ailing. We need to be a hard-working, realistic not just razzmatazz jive-ass economy.

We need to rebuild the working class and the middle class, and return to a progressive not regressive income tax. We need to be prepared to pay our dues to this economic system that returns so much to the most if it is allowed to. After all is said and done, we need redistribute wealth back to where it was, across the income board rather than hoarded in the pockets of the top 5 percent of the heap.

Maybe then, Helicopter Ben can come down from the sky-high lifestyle everyone�s yearning for and touch earth again. That will take a new set of economic values for everyone. We may have to turn off our televisions and ban commercials for a year. We may have to realize our economic finitude and enjoy our mortal eternity. Think about that one. How life goes on, with or without us, whether we�re rich or poor -- and how fragile life is.

And we have an increasingly volatile and dangerous economy waiting to fall on our heads.

Okay I�m through ranting. Have you gotten any of this? Does it sink in. Wall Street, Main Street, Elm Street and Grand Street? There is no free lunch, except what we give out of the goodness of our hearts from hard-earned bucks, not stealing from our neighbor�s table, what with all the slick hedge funds, money-laundering underwriting trading (even cheaper than the Fed) and all the financial shenanigans we indulge in every day, every way we possibly can. A criminalized economy just won�t do it. It�s time to go straight, get a job and pay the way. End of sermon, good night and good luck. And I hope I don�t meet you on the breadline.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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