They say militaries inevitably prepare to fight their previous epic battles, sometimes lacking an understanding of how geopolitics and progressing cultures change the dynamics of the next war. If sophisticated, strategically centralized military planners continue to find themselves flat footed entering new wars, it should come as no surprise to find that Washington, as designed by our Constitution to be at battle with itself and the states, is utterly unprepared to execute war on our unprecedented flailing economy. By continuing to battle this historic monetary implosion as if it were a really big version of previous recessions, Washington has not only failed to aid the job recovery of our economy, it has actually dug an even deeper economic hole and has obtusely bludgeoned the American people for failing to crawl out from it.
This economy is neither a periodic mismatch between demand and supply as in previous recessions or a simple absence of demand that can be fixed by additional stimulus, low interest rates, or even lower taxes and regulations. Therefore, both the antiquated prescriptions being followed by this administration and the prescriptions of a bygone era being proposed by the Republican Party to win the confidence of the American people in 2012 will not fix our economy but will instead mire us in additional debt and will continue to sputter the economy to false starts and dismal failures.
If only those that would lead our country had been Boy Scouts! Boy Scouts practice their motto of “Be Prepared”, learning important skills of survival such as how to start a fire. As a lad, I was sent by my troop to endure a three day ordeal of survival before induction into the Order of the Arrow. The first night, I was given a match, a raw egg, a canteen of water, and a sleeping bag and sent into the wilderness. Because the night had turned frigid, my first order of business was to build a lean-to and to create the life saving warmth of a fire.
Now with only one match, it is critical to be prepared. Scouts first learn the basics that fire requires more than one match to burn. It needs additional heat, fuel and oxygen. After being taught the simple basics, Scouts delve into the intricacies of one match flame ignition. First, the Scout must find a sturdy, dry and protected environment that will be the base of the fire. The heat from the match must be ready to then ignite delicate kindling such as the under bark of a dead, dry tree. This delicate kindling must be given additional small twigs that snap at the touch. The gently resulting flames must have ample air yet be protected from erratic winds.
The Scout must be prepared to feed the fire with larger twigs at a rate that expands the reach of the flames without burning out rapidly and without smothering passageways of air that will support the nascent combustion. Afterword comes the traditional stacking of small limbs that keep the heat of the flame close yet that forces the aspiration of fuel and air into the mixture. Finally, the logs that will sustain the flame are placed strategically so that a majority of the logs will sense the flames flickering around them and will support air rushing in underneath to stoke the fire’s growth.
If the Scout is to be successful with just one match, he must be prepared to simultaneously manage all aspects of the fire’s preparation, lighting and combustion, and he must be ready to feed the fire once it bellows its life giving heat. The lighting of our nation’s economy is something akin to a Boy Scout’s preparation, lighting, and combustion of a Scout fire. If the manager’s of our economy’s restructuring do not ensure that all required aspects of an economic re-start are present and well dispersed to intricately interact with all its elements, the economy’s new flame will surely sputter like that of an unprepared campfire starter.
Just like the fire must have the proper balance of all three elements of combustion, heat, fuel and air to burn brightly, the re-lighting of the economy must have all three of its critical elements; sustainable debt, sufficient credit, and decentralized demand in simultaneous and sufficient quantities. When the match of economic stimulus is applied to the economy to light new jobs, if new workers are drowning in debt, their new incomes will simply support existing debts and will not spur economic growth.
Even if new workers’ incomes are sufficient to both pay their debt load and to increase additional demand, the impact of stimulus will be muted if their existing credit ratings will not allow them to take on additional debt, thereby increasing America’s money supply and expanding the economy. For any economic plan to be successful at re-flaming the economy, not only must stimulus be applied but our nation’s overhanging housing debt must be immediately reduced and our business and consumer credit must be immediately repaired.
However essential these basic elements of economic recovery are to restarting the economy, just like the Boy Scout fire, their application must be intricately and simultaneously intertwined to affect a delicate combustion from just one match of stimulus. America’s stimulus must flow through the dry, ignitable kindling of the domestic economy and be carefully protected from the erratic winds of globalization. The nation’s housing debt load must be swapped with bank equity to stack small limbs of economic growth near the economy’s fire base. Damaged credit ratings must be given amnesty to expose the limbs to economic oxygen. And our nation’s unemployed must be dispersed throughout the domestic small business economy through job vouchers to intricately mix the decentralized combustible fuel of demand with the oxygen of new credit and the heat of new debt capacity.
Just like the fire must be ready to accept additional limbs to grow its flames, the economy must be ready to respond to the initial turnaround with a growth oriented, business friendly, economic environment. Re-investment of offshore and captive capital into the domestic economy must be incentivized. A fair and consistent internationally competitive footing must be created so that businesses that combust in the early stages of economic recovery will be fed the competitive fuel to thrive in America through measures such as tax and regulatory reform, resizing of government debt load, investment in business infrastructure and modernized education.
Finally, a Boy Scout learns that a fire must be continuously attended, stoked, fueled and protected from the elements if it is to continue to provide life sustaining heat. Our nation has left its economic fire unattended for too long and must resolve to carry on the tradition of Scouting if we are to thrive once again. America should adopt the Boy Scouts’ motto and “Be prepared”.