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Global Crisis: There is an App for That
Dear reader, I am feeling optimistic today that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for our global economic crisis. To be sure it is not going to be straightforward or easy but it does show us a way out. Before I relieve your angst regarding the global economic crisis and share the change that will guide the world into a new economic renaissance, please indulge me and allow me to explain how I uncovered this optimistic vision of our future.
This is going to be ugly
The day that I received my economic epiphany started out quite badly. My bank had contacted me and explained that they had reviewed my file and felt that I was heading for my own personal fiscal cliff. The bank indicated that they wanted to meet with me and review the actions I might take to avoid stepping into the abyss. I felt a little queasy at the thought of having this conversation with my bank. The dialogue always seemed to revolve around spending and borrowing behaviors that I should modify. I always felt that lower interest rates, debt forgiveness and smaller payments would be the path to my financial salvation. Today's meeting, I suspected, was going to be ugly.
What would a banker do?
As a financial professional I knew that I should be prepared. I powered up my laptop and prepared my personal financial statements. They looked grim. However I asked myself, "What would a banker do when confronted with such unappealing financial data in their own financial statements?" The answer was obvious. I revisited my balance sheet and modified the numbers to reflect Financial Account Standards Board [FASB] approved 'Mark to Make Believe' values rather than the more reality based 'Mark to Market' values that made my financial statements so appalling.
It seemed like a good idea at the time
By doing this I could, for example, show my Facebook shares, that I had bought for $45/share, not at their current value, but at their anticipated future value of $628/share. [Yes dear reader, I admit I was the 'last guy' who bought Facebook shares that day at the high of $45.] In my defense it seemed like a good idea at the time. Applying 'Mark to Make Believe' standards to my assets increased my net worth to a more impressive $3.8 million from the previously gloomy negative net worth of ($432,000) that 'Mark to Market' accounting had dictated.
Governments do it. Why should I not do it?
The second modification to my financial statements related to the cash flow. Using the time honored techniques of governments around the world I spread my cash flow statement over many years, in my case 50 years. I assumed, as governments do, that my revenues would dramatically increase. Governments usually assume that revenues will increase in 5 or 6 years [after the next election cycle] based the arrival of new economic nirvana that is the anticipated result of their current deficit laden fiscal stimulus. Projections always show that budgets will be balanced in the 5th year of a government's 4 year mandate.
I learned how to be an accountant on Fantasy Island
Similarly, my cash flow, no doubt, will significantly improve based on the inevitability of my winning a Pulitzer and/or a Nobel Prize for my writing. This stunning increase in revenue would allow me to pay down my debt in a methodical fashion starting in year 15 of my analysis. Over the full 50 years of my cash flow analysis, similar to proposals by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the US, my plan would increase revenue and reduce my spending by the astounding amount of $5,000,000 over 50 years. While not quite the 4 trillion dollars the Democrat or Republican plans would save the US, it was a very impressive number. What I particularly liked about the plan was that, like most governments, the real reductions of debt and of spending did not start until year 15 of the plan. Dear reader I realize that you might feel that my plan [or those of all G-20 governments] were prepared by accountants who received their training on 'Fantasy Island' .
Extend and Pretend is like a hangover
I would remind you that your knowledge of high finance may not include an understanding of the complex concept of 'Extend and Pretend' .
Well Fiddle dee-dee, Tomorrow is another day
Extend and pretend, in simple terms, is similar to the circumstance felt by any individual who has ever awoken with a hangover. With a hangover one can choose to endure the pain and resolve not to drink that much again [Plan A]. Alternately one can start drinking again and one postpones the hangover for another day [Plan B]. Society, its leadership and yours truly can choose a similar approach to the debt problem. They can endure the pain and resolve not to make that debt mistake again [Plan A] or they can borrow more money and roll over current debt. They can twist, ease, stabilize, sanitize, and ring fence, their debt. In other words, they can extend and pretend. This will postpone the denouement of the financial crisis for another day [Plan B]. My affinity for whisky and good times always made me choose Plan B when I was confronted with a hangover. I would reach for a bottle of Jack Daniels and make the pain go away. As the great philosopher Scarlett O'Hara said 'Tomorrow is Another Day' . Similarly governments, and I, opt for Plan B when it comes to economic and financial matters, 'extend and pretend'.
You are an idiot
I went to the bank and presented my revised financial statements to the Bank Manager. Imagine my shock and dismay when her only comment after a cursory examination of my financial statements was to indicate that I was an idiot. She informed me that I would be hearing from the bank's lawyers. Clearly she did not understand high finance . I thought it was unfair that my plan to reduce the rate of increase in my spending by 10% per year over the next 50 years did not meet with her approval. Dear reader, as I left the bank, I realized my mistake. It was not that I had borrowed too much money; my mistake was that I had not borrowed enough.
The David Crisis
Had I owed the bank $50 billion and had my debt been covered many times over by Credit Default Swaps , governments and banks around the world would be tripping over themselves to come to my rescue and throw money at me. There would be summits every month to discuss the 'David Crisis'.
I sipped my enhanced latte
I left the bank feeling understandably depressed. I wandered into the local Starbucks and ordered my usual mocha-frappucino latté with foam and sparkles [$6 plus tax] and contemplated my unhappy reality. I looked around and reached for my flask and poured the remainder of its contents into my latte [The content of the flask, was of course, Jack Daniels , Whiskey to the Stars.] As I sipped my enhanced latté and contemplated my bleak future I could not help eavesdropping on the animated conversation taking place at the table beside me.
There is a way out of our crisis
Dear reader your patience will now be rewarded. It was this conversation that led me to believe that there was a way out of our global economic crisis. There were several young people discussing their business ventures. Clearly I was sitting beside a group of young entrepreneurs. Their ideas and business ventures were discussed in rapid succession. Their ideas would revolutionize e-commerce, industry, education, and the delivery of government services. The individuals whose conversation I was now privy to were all part of 'Start-ups' that would save the environment while improving the process for manufacturing everything from cars to 'Swizzle Sticks' . These entrepreneurs's discussion covered the gamut of business challenges from regulation to finding investors for their respective ventures. It was obvious from the conversation that they were part of a much larger movement of young people who were not locked into the current economic paradigm where prosperity is determined by lopsided, egregious, management compensation, massive civil service payrolls, and generally living off the government as a consultant or contractor. They had no desire to get a guaranteed for life, high paying job, working for the government or working for a company that lived off the government.
Making money the 'New Fashioned Way' they earn it
Their vision was to make money in a 'new fashioned' way. They intended to earn it. They intended to change the world, create jobs, contribute to positive social change, help society, and earn lots of money at the same time. Clearly Entrepreneurs don't take jobs, they make jobs
There is an App for that:
They discussed 'Apps' they were developing and marketing that would improve post secondary education while reducing the cost. They would make education accessible to all. My mind reeled as they continued to describe all their business ventures from early day start ups to more mature organizations. They had designed Apps that would replace Wall Street. Dear reader, imagine a world without Wall Street. The common denominator for all of them was energy, vision, social consciousness, success, opportunity and profit. Dear reader, their enthusiasm, confidence, and positive attitude indicated to me that all was not lost. The Good Vibrations this group was emanating almost made me regret my reduced mental clarity caused by the effect of the enhancement I had made to my latté. My brain was now a confused jumble of synapses pondering the information and the implications of the discussion I had overheard. Could it be that the entrepreneurial spirit that clearly existed in the younger generation would be able to guide us into a new economy?
Calling Gustavo LaFramboise- Pierre, Director of Statistical Creation, ECB
I hit the speed dial on my Smartphone and contacted my good friend Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, Director of Statistical Creation at the European Central Bank [ECB]. If anyone could understand the implications to the global economy of the entrepreneurial spirit that was becoming endemic in our youth it would be Gustavo. My curious relationship with such a senior member of the ECB was due to the fact that Gustavo had been my bookie for many years until an absurdly large bet on the outcome of the recent world cup by a highly placed member of the ECB's management team went horribly wrong and left Gustavo in the fortunate position of accepting a highly paid sinecure at the ECB to settle the debt.
"Gustavo, I am sorry to call you so early, [I knew that it was barely 3pm in Belgium and Gustavo kept bankers hours. I am so excited my friend; I believe that the solution to the global economic crisis can be found in the entrepreneurial spirit of our youth." I breathlessly shared the ideas and excitement that I had heard from the table beside me, the dreams, hopes and plans of these young entrepreneurs. I told Gustavo that these young people and other like them around the world could be the change we 'can believe in' "Who is this?" Gustavo replied. His foggy tone and gruff demeanor indicated that I had caught him a little too early in the day. "It's me Gustavo, your best customer from back in the day". "David", he mumbled, "I hope you did not wake me up just to tell me that you think our youth can save the world." "Well Gustavo" I responded, "That was sort of why I called."
The True Mission Statement of Central Banks
Gustavo abruptly launched into what could only be described as a tirade. "David, listen to me closely so that you never bring this subject up again. I am going to share with you the true mission statement of central banks around the world. The job of central banks is to protect the interests of the baby-boomer generation. Central banks have a singled minded focus to preserve the jobs, welfare, benefits and lifestyle enjoyed by the baby boom generation. Whether we rob prudent retired seniors by keeping interest rates abnormally low or pile on the debt for future generations, we must ensure the well being of baby boomers. Even if it means a 50% unemployment rate for our youth we must protect the jobs of baby boomers.
It is just collateral damage
The pain that must be endured by other generations is just collateral damage. These entrepreneurs that you speak about are a threat to the status quo. We strive to ensure that there are no funds available to them. Instead we give all the money to the banks. Entrepreneurs spend their time dreaming, thinking and doing. We need our youth to be oblivious to reality. We strive via our connections in the media and education to ensure that our youth do not focus their attention on economics and current events. Jersey Shore, Halo 4, Call of Duty and an education system that has not changed in 2,000 years have been wildly successful at distracting our youth from reality". "Say what?" I exclaimed, "Gustavo, don't we want them to create jobs and take over the reins of power?"
An 'Entrepreneurial Spring" uprising
"David you are dumber than a brick." Gustavo replied, "Of course they can assume power but only after the last baby boomer is dead. If they knew how much of their money we are spending every day to protect our own generation there would be a global 'Entrepreneurial Spring' uprising. These entrepreneurs are leaders; they understand social media and could quickly turn the youth of the world against the baby boom generation. They would insist that precious capital be devoted to improving the world, not protecting the baby boom generation." I somewhat angrily asked, "But what about the economic crisis, the debt, don't we want to make the world better for our children Gustavo?"
Let them Eat Debt
"David, you are starting to bore me", he groaned. "I wish you had been at the Global Central Bankers recent conference in Dubai. The subject of the debt we are leaving our children came up. One of the bankers from France did a spot on parody of Marie Antoinette. However unlike Ms. Antoinette's belief that solution to France's economic problems at that time was to 'Let them eat cake', the banker suggested our solution for the next generation is to 'Let them eat debt'. David, I have never seen a roomful of bankers laugh as hard as they did when this statement was delivered."
Clearly Gustavo had gone over to the Dark Side
"Gustavo", I stated, "Central bankers, politicians and baby boomers are making a big mistake if they think the youth will remain asleep forever. When they wake up and start to take control, the behavior of central bankers, [and politicians and baby boomers in general] will not be looked upon favorably. We should not be afraid of the next generation. We should embrace their entrepreneurial spirit, their leadership and enlist their help in solving our problems. " "David", he replied, "As I said, we don't need our youth to remain asleep forever; we just need them to remain asleep until the last 'baby boomer' is dead."
Calling all Entrepreneurs
I should have been depressed but I was actually feeling inspired. The entrepreneurial spirit of our youth would not be curtailed despite the best efforts of bankers, politicians and baby boomers. I felt confident that leadership, social media and common sense would ensure that the young entrepreneurial class will be the catalyst for leading the charge out of the valley of debt and into a positive economic future. I looked at the entrepreneurs at the table beside me; I stood up and asked if I could join their conversation. Gustavo may have joined the "Dark Side but I knew that 'The Force' was with these young people.
Youth will be served
It was my intention to do what I could to help these young people to 'Awaken the Sleeping Giant' that is the world's young people. Youth will be served . Dear reader, the baby boomers have had their day, and mine has been a fine one. Please share this article if you dare, with all the Gen X and Gen Y individuals in your circle of friends. It is time for baby boomers to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.