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Todd Harrison: Taking our economic medicine

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amny

I recently attended a Lincoln Center Dialogue Breakfast with Greg Fleming, president of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and Blair Effron, co-founder of Centerviews Partners. The event was moderated by Tom Brokaw, who dialed up a provocative discussion.

Topics included the de-leveraging process, income disparity, social mood, viable bipartisan solutions and the need to teach our children the building blocks of financial decision-making.

I posed the question that keeps me up at night: “With regard to policy directive, stateside and abroad, during the first phase of the financial crisis and this sovereign sequel, have we seen drugs that masked the symptoms or medicine that cured the disease — and if it’s the former, what does that bitter pill look like?”

Effron offered that we took our medicine in 2008 and that Europe is undergoing a similar process. But since they’re a collection of nations — as opposed to a unified entity — there are challenges across the pond that we were able to avoid.

Fleming opined that the drugs were needed to keep the patient alive (my analogy, not his), which provided the necessary time for medicine (in the form of de-leveraging) to soak into the system.

This is a prolonged process due to the enormity of the economic condition, a statement with which I most certainly agree.

We use the “drugs vs. medicine” analogy often, but perhaps they’re not mutually exclusive. Maybe, to Fleming’s point, we needed to buy time in an effort to facilitate a more sustainable solution.

The “how” is clearly more important than the “what” in this regard, but I was pleased to find we’re on the same page in terms of what needs to be done.

While the easiest thing to do is vilify anyone within a stone’s throw of Wall Street, there are decision makers who “get it” and thought leaders who intend to pave a positive path for future generations.

Am I drinking the Kool-Aid? I don’t think so; I’m realistic about what needs to be done and continue to expect a few lean years before a fertile back-half of the decade.

Rather than toss fuel on a raging fire, I’m looking for those who are intent on being part of the solution.


Todd Harrison is the author of “The Other Side of Wall Street” and the founder and CEO of Minyanville, an Emmy Award-winning financial media platform. Read him daily at www.minyanville.com.

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