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Is Madoff someone to blame for the economic crisis?

December 15, 2008

Making plans, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

Best of luck to David Cameron who today seized the opportunity to occupy some kind of high-ground concerning the growing financial crisis.

Is it a recession ? Is it a credit crunch ? Is it an impending catastrophe? Who really knows. I’ve heard conflicting assessments quite a bit just recently. I’m confused. But then that’s hardly surprising given that I got a C-grade at GCSE maths. I was a creative, more artistic. Maths just wasn’t my thing. At least, that’s my defence.

Cameron is right, in some respects. If there are people responsible for defrauding financial institutions out of billions of pounds (or dollars) then they should really be brought to book. So too those individuals in the financial institutions who will undoubtedly plead the victim card for having been swizzed by a clever fraudster intent (if we are to summise correctly) on making a fortune at the expense of others.

What strikes me hardest is to what extent I feel relieved at hearing about Bernard Madoff’s arrest. It’s an utterly selfish, misguided and shameful sense of relief rooted firmly in a clear demonstration of denial on my part.

It goes like this.

In trying to lift us out of the economic crisis, the Government’s watchword here is to get as many people as possible to spend as much money as possible thus kick-starting the economy. We need more money flowing through the system. So go spending.

Those of us in debt are also aware at the same time of the need to cut back. These are lean times. We need to be more effecient, cut back on an extravagant lifestyle. These supposedly demanding economic times also remind us that we have a debt to pay back. We must also pay that back if the economy is to get back on it’s feet. At least, that’s the way I see it as I sit and think about my debt bill.

Inevitably I do look back on the past five-ten years and rather wish I been a little more prudent back then like I am slowly teaching myself to be now. I seem to be managing to plan food shops and curb present buying and focus on smaller, less expensive Christmas-related pleasures quite well now. Why couldn’t I have succeeded in doing that years ago and thus avoided the bill I face now?

Then I read about Bernard Madoff and remind myself about how little I understand about the economic crisis. Was it just that banks became unable or reluctant to lend to one another or is there actually someone or (a group of people) who can be blamed for the crisis? Were there fraudsters at work? Are we now able to blame investment bankers for the problems we’re in now? And, if we are, is it possible that me NOT borrowing money over the past ten years wouldn’t have made any difference anyway?

That’s where my argument falls down largely because I’m not informed enough about that which is levelled at them. At least, that’s how it feels. Money and the economy and politics are all subjects I feel I need to know more about before I can have an opinion.

And here I am and here you are reading this. Lack of knowledge hasn’t stopped me writing this. Regardless of my lack of knowledge, as a consumer I’m slowly beginning to feel less guilty about the debt I racked up over the past ten years and that – shamefully – is down purely to the fact that it appears I have someone else to blame for the financial crisis we face. And that leaves and extremely sour taste in my mouth, I’m prepared to admit.

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2 Comments
  1. I know how you feel. I could easily be much better off (financially) now had I been a bit more sensible over the last 5-10 years.

    Anyway, I have a question. What are the numbers to the right of certain items on the list (photo) above? I’m intrigued!

  2. They both are and aren’t part of the fiscal crisis at the same time, at least as far as my limited intellect has been able to get a wrap around such things.

    Debt in and of itself isn’t a problem and can be a helpful tool in allowing someone to acquire goods and services, provided they have a means to pay back that debt in a reasonable fashion. Where the problem lies is when someone either refuses to pay back the debt, or has borrowed beyond their means and has no way of paying it back. If the former is the case, a court could compel payment, in the latter the bank would be left to seizing assets and they trying to resell those assets in order to mitigate loss (the borrower could still be held accountable for the difference should the bank find a buyer for the assets).

    From what I undersrand,, the deal with Madoff was a Pozi scheme that came undone due to the crisis. Madoff would take investment money and deliver a better than average rate of return on those who he did business with. In order to do so, he was taking new incoming investment money to pay the higher outgoing rates of return to his older investments. When the financial meltdown started to take place, everyone was pulling money out of their investments, but it was more money that Madoff had on hand to pay, His scheme required more and more money coming in to be effective, and now instead of coming in, all of the money was going out. and he had no way of covering that. He wasn’t necessarily responsible for the meltdown, but the meltdown unveiled the smoke and mirrors game he was playing.

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