I‘m no economist, so I’m not going to make the mistake of pronouncing one way or another on the proposed $700 Billion Wall Street bailout that is currently being discussed in the U.S. But I’ll say this, if economists Marcus Alexis of Northwestern University, Jeremy T. Fox of University of Chicago, Matthew Kahn of UCLA, Steve Pejovich of Texas A&M University, and Caroline Fohlin of Johns Hopkins University – along with almost 200 other academics – feel it’s bad enough to sign this online petition against it, then maybe it’s not such a great idea.
Doomsayers claim they’ll fall into another 1930s-syle “Great Depression” if the banks are not bailed out. People who are sick and tired of corporate welfare and backroom shenanigans between Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue say they should stick it to ’em and let ’em sink.
Nobody wants to see the economy fail, but the real question seems to be “what would make the economy fail?” Given the extraordinarily high profits the major banks have made year after year over the past decade, will it really crush the economy if they have a bad year? Maybe; but I’m not an economist, so how would I know?
But what else could you do with $700 Billion? What if they said “screw the banks, let’s invest that money in America?” This MSNBC article proposes seven better uses for $700 Billion, and my inclination is to believe what it says over what a bunch of guys in blue pinstripe suits say.
According to the article:
- The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it would cost $180 Billion to fix the various bridges in the U.S. that are in need of repairs. A month ago, $180 Billion seemed like an astronomical amount. Now, compared to the Wall Street bailout, it’s chump change.
- The American Society of Civil Engineers also estimates it would cost $185 Billion to bring the U.S.’s rail infrastructure up to speed. The U.S. is a big country, and getting around by rail will likely become a more popular option for both people and cargo as flying becomes less and less viable (due to high fuel prices and overzealous and misdirected airport security). The basic infrastructure is there, but it has faded and degraded over time as the almighty car and the almighty jet plane have taken over. But we’re in the midst of a sea change in how stuff gets around. Rail is already there; doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of it?
The article goes on to talk (unfortunately briefly) about other ways to spend some of that $700 Billion, such as investment in renewable energy and reduced-consumption technologies, investments in health care and education, and even national security (hopefully, in a way that makes sense).
One big advantage to that kind of $700 Billion spending is that it provides a good return on investment. These are all thing that really must be done, one way or another, and best of all, they create jobs. It’s not like those bridges are going to rebuild themselves.
But what do I know? I’m not an economist. Hell, I’m not even a U.S.er. Whatever happens, it’s going to be expensive, and I hope that the money is spent in a way that strengthens the nation and its people, and not just the Wall Street economy.