Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ask Not What Your Country Is Doing To You...

I had the displeasure this morning to attend a commercial real estate seminar for which the opening speaker was a real estate economist who profoundly misunderstood the bounds of his expertise.

After stating that he didn't care who was president, and that he wasn't a Democrat or Republican, but a "registered cynic," he proceeded to rant without statistics, studies, or citations about the frustrations of the current situation the nation faces, a la Rick Santelli's now infamous rant on CNBC this week on the floor of the CME. Cynic, indeed.

It has always been easy to be a cynic about politics. Too easy. Cynicism is a coward's way out. Sometimes I want to yell at people, "Ask not what your country is doing to you, ask what you are doing to your country." We are where we are. Who in America could not go on an hour-long tirade about how frustrated we are as Americans right now, about how profoundly messed up the country is right now, and about how much and how many ways we have failed as a collective in recent years? Who couldn't do that?

I don't have time for people who can only state the obvious in the middle of a crisis and cannot offer or assess credible potential solutions.

A client of mine is not a professional economist. But he cares about politics, and though our politics is different, he asked a provocative question a few days ago. He said, why doesn't the government let responsible individuals (presumably including those who were steered into usury loans) refinance their loans to current market value with a balloon payment for the remainder of the balance due in 30 years? It's really a provocative idea. I can tick off a handful of problems with it, but not enough to declare it DOA. Really I'd like to look into his idea more. Like I said, he and I probably wouldn't agree on much politically (at least at first, perhaps), but he commanded my respect by offering an idea and being able to articulate it, an indicator of earnest reflection.

But ranting from these others? C'mon. It's defeatist. It's unimaginative. It's unhelpful and probably destructive. So what are these otherwise smart people thinking when they launch into these toddler tirades on the platforms given them by their professions as they step outside the boundaries thereof? I am embarrassed for them.

So I wonder... I suggested a while back of the Chair of the House Banking Committee Barney Frank, it must hurt to be that smart. But these high profile rants by otherwise smart professionals make me wonder in those moments: Does it hurt to be that dumb? I hope so.

Well for the record, I'm frustrated too. Consider this post my rant.

In case you missed it, Santelli: