TEXT OF STRAIGHT STORY
Tess Vigeland: Our economics editor Chris Farrell is here for the audio op-ed we call The Straight Story and Chris, the bad news just does not end my friend. I mean…
Chris Farrell: No.
Vigeland: …Bank earnings: Bad. Housing market: Bad. Economy: Bad. What’s next?
Farrell: Well, I think there are more bank failures — bad — and you know Tess, I’m in the camp that says look, the Fed, the Treasury, they’ve been taking all these actions to shore up the financial system and I say bravo. I really do believe that they staved off a financial collapse.
Vigeland: But what are we doing counting on the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department to bail us out?
Farrell: Yeah, that’s worrisome. You know, I think what we’re seeing is the consequence of actions that have been taken over the past three decades: the shredding of the social safety net. Now let me just tick off a few highlights: Fewer people have health insurance; Health care plans: They’re a lot less generous than they used to be; Pensions: They’re full of holes, so here’s the straight story: Workers and their families, they’re now absorbing most of the cost when money goes bad and the economy spirals down and that means we’re more dependent than ever on the monetary authorities to bail us out.
Vigeland: What does that mean for us that we are now relying on the federal government, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury Department to fix all these problems?
Farrell: I don’t like it. You know, we can say, “Don’t take on debt and you need to save more.” Well, you know what? The way our economy has evolved, you are on your own. You need to be more risk adverse. You need to be more conservative. It’s not just the function of the downturn in the economy and this is disturbing that I’m fairly convinced that the risk of losing your job, the financial consequences of losing your job are greater today than they were three decades ago.
Vigeland: How did we get to the point, Chris, where we all have seemingly accepted less health insurance, health insurance that costs more, pensions that are full of holes, I mean, all that stuff that you said you know there’s no big hue and cry within the American population to fix all of this?
Farrell: I think we’re at a turning point, but you’re absolutely right and the reason why there hasn’t been a hue and cry is we’ve become a wealthier society and we took on a lot of debt, but what’s happening now is a lot of that debt is going bad and we’re not getting wage increases. We haven’t been getting them for a long time but now we’re not getting them and we can’t borrow. And so my sense is that people are increasingly upset about the way their pension plans are being managed and the risks that we’re taking. I mean, is it really good public policy that we’re making decisions about how much should I be in equities? You know, how much international stock should I own? And I’m making decisions and you’re making decisions that will have implications for your living standard 30 years down the road. Is that what people should be doing? And it’s this downturn in the economy that’s sort of ripping apart and showing how vulnerable we all are.
Vigeland: Alright, our own Chris Farrell with a little perspective on what’s going on with the government bailout of this economy. Thanks so much Chris and we’ll talk to you later in the show.
Farrell: OK Tess.
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