Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 9
It's not that I am hoping for the collapse of Western Civilization, but I am hoping that there will be a change in it after the subprime/derivative debacle that some of us have taken the time to notice in the markets lately.
It wasn't that long ago when credit in the business world meant "2/10, net 30", which is to say that a vendor expected full payment from a retailer in thirty days after delivery, with 2% off if payment was made in the first 10 days. This was actually a pretty sweet arrangement, with that built-in discount for acting early and getting the invoice off of the accounts-payable book sooner rather than later.
Now consumers have credit cards that pay back bonuses if the customer pays the credit card bill on time.
We generally refer to this as progress.
In preparing for life after the Crash, I can say that I no longer have credit cards, bank accounts, or an ATM card.
Actually, I haven't had any of those things for years. The summer internship I had with the Resolution Trust Corporation back when S&Ls were dropping like flies back in 1990 cured me of the need for banking of any sort. The year or so I worked later as a junior clerk/intern for a local Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee with 5000+ open bankruptcy files only reinforced the lesson.
I think one of the major lessons we can learn from the Crash of 2008 is that convenience has a price. We've all seen the Visa Card commercials where the world grinds to a halt whenever someone pulls out cash while standing in front of the register, as if the bewildered person behind the register was capable of making change without silently moving her or his lips.
Life for that person was simpler when the register was marked with logos of burgers, fries, and a shake.
Life for me has been a lot simpler without bank statements, credit card statements, or any of the other statements that are making people want to do themselves some serious bodily harm, like that didn't happen during the Crash of 1929.
Perhaps life will be simpler for those who find that they don't need new major appliances, new cars, or new homes after foreclosure.
One thing that convinces me there will be no real change is the view from the top. Every international jet-setting finance minister who came to Washington this weekend was on a mission to save what's left of the international banking system, even if we the people happen to be the necessary collateral damage in the saving of international banking as we now have come to know it. Credit must be eased, or more firms will go bankrupt, more employees of surviving firms will not get paid except in kind or with "warrants" and IOUs, and more coupon-clippers will see their dividend checks adjusted downwards.
This cannot be allowed to happen, as it would tarnish the image in the collective conspicuous consumers' mind of all those Visa commercials.
But if it did, then maybe we could get serious about rebuilding our economy into something that wasn't based on subprimality, derivatives, and other forms of hot air.
It's too bad that for bankers' sake, getting serious about our economy can't be allowed to happen.
At the same time, I notice a trend towards subversion of the system: see Don Bauder's blog on American consumers actually paying off their credit debt for the first time in recorded history (where anything that happened before 2007 is by Internet standards considered prehistoric). Also, there seems to be a lot more well-dressed people arriving in very expensive cars at the 99-cent store...