At the moment, I'm glued to CNBC. These are such historic moments, with things changing so fast, that only real-time information will do. We've heard a lot about "Main Street's" point of view but at this moment, it feels like we're hearing more about the concerns of politicians who are up for re-election. It's an epic battle -- Wall Street vs. Washington, with Main Street as a bit of an afterthought.
As I write this -- and this conversation may be resolved at any moment -- the House GOP has floated an alternative plan based on a "risk management" approach to the mortgage mess (providing "insurance" rather than outright cash for mortgages that default). What caught my attention on the boob tube this morning was the sound bite from one of the congressmen touting the alternative plan. He said, "Main Street wants a 'work out' not a 'bail out'." I thought that was an interesting perspective. The idea he's promoting is that we let the parties who own these bad assets work out their problems between themselves (with a backstop provided by nationalized insurance), rather than having the American public buy the parties out and spread the pain out among all citizens.
Almost everyone commenting on this is saying that the time for a "work out" has passed. The markets want the cash. It's a position that reminds me of advice I've gotten from my mother -- a successful business owner in her own right -- during my own moments of financial turmoil. She says, "Forget what you've lost. Go out and make some more." I wonder if that accurately captures, in sound bite fashion, what the bail out vs. work out choice really is.
It seems to me like the counter point to "Main Street wants a 'work out' not a 'bail out' is my mother's advice, which is: eat the loss and let's get back to making more money.
I would love to know what Inc.com users, the backbone of capitalism, the pride of the American workforce, the private business owner, has to say about this simple choice:
As a nation, do we tell the parties to work out these debts and make sure they get allocated fairly to those who incurred them? (The house GOP plan.)
Or, do we all chip in -- ignoring all the 'moral hazard' issues--to cover the loss and then move on with our business? (The White House plan.)
What do you have to say about this choice?
LEWIS SCHIFF is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.
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