An Ounce of Prevention

For the past three days, I’ve tried to think about how we at Clearly New Mexico are going to put the truly staggering economic crisis into perspective.

Suffice it to say, we’ve been speechless.

Freddie, Fannie, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns. They’ve become household names almost overnight.

The vast majority of Americans, myself included, want to know what happened, why it happened, how we fix the problem and how we prevent it from happening again.

I want to be careful about opining on a very intricate collapse by using a blithe cliché – it goes without saying this complex problem requires a sophisticated solution. No doubt, laws need to be changed. So do behaviors on both Wall Street and Main Street.

But I cannot help it. An age-old cliché has been repeating itself over and over again in my head: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
For the past eight or nine years, a freewheeling aura pervaded Wall Street. Consolidations, mergers and endless streams of credit persisted without restraint. Without adequate rules and absent referees to ensure the Wall Street game was properly played, the American taxpayer was left waiting for the ricochet effect of the overreach.

I have to believe front-end planning (the prevention) is preferred to billion dollar government bailouts on the back-end (the cure).

Read this piece from New York Times columnist David Leonhardt. He carries the sports metaphor one step further, suggesting it’s time the federal government start playing offense with the economy. In the column, former Colorado Senator Gary Hart shares some intriguing ideas for how government can go on the offensive, or employ a little prevention in planning for a better economy.

Whether we call it an ounce of prevention, or offense, it’s pretty evident that Congress and the next president must develop a 21st century role for government in a 21st century economy.

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