Thursday, February 26, 2009
Cleaning The Garage
I spend some time each week at a legal clinic where my professional services are provided pro bono. In the past two weeks, two separate clients have come to the clinic because they are being sued by financial entities for failing to pay agreed-upon monies for material things provided to them. One of these clients purchased a used car from a local dealer, drove the car for seven months. and then abandoned the automobile and stopped paying on the note. The other client ran up $33,000 on a credit card and, quite simply, has not paid a penny on the obligation. To be candid, I am unfamiliar with the attitude that says "I can take something of value from you, but do not expect me to hold up my end of the deal." Stepping back, these local incidents are but a small part of a big picture nationally in which everyone seems to be expecting someone else to pick up the tab for material excesses. We hear about the threat of deflation arising from the basic human desire to preserve one's assets. Apparently, deflation is caused by people who stop spending money, thus causing a chain reaction of non-events; I don't buy that new TV so TV sellers lose business and they cannot order new stock., TV manufacturers cannot replenish the stock of the sellers so they cannot make new TVs. Because they cannot make new TVs they have no money to pay their workers so their workers become unable to buy new TVs. A circle of life, indeed. What all of this feels like to me at the moment is a cleaning of the garage. Like most people, we accumulate "stuff" in our garage. Month after month a variety of items pile up, dust and dirt accumulates, and finally, we get fed up and clean out the garage. We throw things out we do not want or need and we promise to ourselves for the umpteenth time that we will never purchase another widget which will be used once and then placed somewhere on the shelf behind the can of once used bug spray. Lending institutions have their dirty garages too, full of garbage loans and hollow promises of payment. Contraction of our economy is good and necessary. Sending billions of dollars to GM only postpones the inevitable if the net result fails to provide cars that are worth buying. Let's eat at home tonight, tuna sandwiches and a bowl of soup, then play scrabble, turn the heat and the lights down low, feel the warmth and comfort of those close to us. Let others do the same. Let's clean the garage.