In his speech last night at the Republican National Convention, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pinged folks who are pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy, calling them "economic girlie-men."
On a personal level, I thought it was a pretty funny line, and there's certain comedy to the fact that Arnold gets to spoof a line that was used on Saturday Night Live to spoof Arnold.
Here's the exact line: "To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: 'Don't be economic girlie-men!"'
But you know what? I'm pessimistic about the economy. I'm afraid that the Federal Reserve has backed itself into a corner. I'm afraid that lending discipline among mortgage companies has completely collapsed. I am concerned that low interest rates have been used to entice the American consumer to clean up a recession borne by an irresponsible corporate spending binge by going on one of his own. I'm afraid that the $200 billion-plus that Americans have cashed out of their houses has been spent, and the next drop in interest rates won't be concomitant with a rise in prices; rather, it will be because of a full-fledged financial emergency.
So fine, I'm an economic girlie-man. Here's another thing: I'm not someone rooting for things to be worse. I'm a four-alarm, full-fledged laissez-faire capitalist South Park Republican fiscal conservative. I don't think people can get rich by buying houses from one another for ever more money. I don't think that the path to ultimate financial success is to borrow more; it doesn't work on an individual level, and it sure as heck doesn't work on a national level. I think that the most exceptional thing about America's economic performance is its historical willingness to allow the successful to succeed and the failures to fail. The failures, of course, can jump back up, try again, and THEN succeed. But the talk of how many jobs some president has created or lost (as if) turns what is great about America right on its ear, because if I know one thing about economics, it is this: There aren't a few smart folks in a room somewhere controlling things. In fact, the more smart folks try to control the economy, the more things tend to get screwed up.
To borrow a phrase from Berkshire Hathaway's
If believing that makes me an "economic girlie-man," well, so be it. I'll just take this opportunity to test just how big that "big tent" really is.
There, I said it. I feel better.
Bill Mann owns shares in Berkshire Hathaway.