One of the fun devices in Part III of Atlas Shrugged is something author Ayn Rand called “the policy of the microsecond.” Despite the high-flown philosophical claims of the looters, their actual motivation was never anything other than “the expediency of the moment” — one absurd rationalization after the next, justifying theft and visiting the consequences of that theft upon its victims.
Just about a month ago, as a comical palliative for the housing mess, I wrote this as a joke:
[I]t would make great sense to make immigration to America easier and faster. Imagine having neighbors who work hard, pay their bills on time and can spell correctly!
That’s the logic of the policy of the microsecond. We don’t want to stop stealing wealth from innocent people. We don’t want to amend our ways and do better going forward. We don’t want to undo the awful damage occasioned by centuries of accelerating criminal government. No. All we want to do is find a way to get through this crisis. We’ll worry about the crisis caused by this “solution” — the crisis of the microsecond after this one — later on.
So guess what happens? I might have been joking, but we live in a world beyond satire. From the Wall Street Journal:
The Obama administration should seriously consider granting resident status to foreigners who buy surplus houses in this country. This makes more sense than the president’s $275 billion housing bailout plan, which Americans greeted with a Bronx cheer.
The federal bailout forces taxpayers to subsidize overextended homeowners who bet on ever-rising house prices and used their abodes as ATMs, and it doesn’t get to the basic problem — the huge inventory of excess houses. We estimate that 2.4 million houses over and above normal working inventories are left over from the 1996-2005 housing bubble. That’s a lot, considering the long-term average annual construction of 1.5 million single- and multi-family units.
Excess inventory is the mortal enemy of house prices, which have already fallen 27% since the peak in early 2006. We predict another 14% drop through the end of 2010 if nothing is done to eliminate the surplus.
Doing nothing to eliminate the excess inventory might well push the recession through 2010 and into a depression. Declining home values, for example, are eliminating the home equity that has funded oversized consumer spending for years.
As consumers retrench, production is cut, payrolls are slashed, and consumer confidence, incomes and spending are savaged in a self-feeding downward economic spiral. But if the government buys surplus houses and sells them at low market-clearing prices, other house prices will drop, destroying more home equity and driving many more mortgages under water. Bulldozing excess houses would be an inefficient end for perfectly habitable structures.
A better idea is to offer permanent residence status to the many foreigners who are clamoring to get into the U.S. — if they buy houses of minimal values (not shacks). They wouldn’t need to live in those houses, but in order to remove the unit from the total housing market, they couldn’t rent them. Their temporary resident status granted upon purchase would become permanent after, perhaps, five years, if they still owned the houses and maintained clean records. The mere announcement of this program might well stop the ongoing collapse in house prices, especially in cities such as Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and San Francisco, where prices are down 40% — but where many foreigners like to live.
Read that again — “where many foreigners like to live.” That sounds pretty sick and cynical, doesn’t it? But did you catch this? “Declining home values, for example, are eliminating the home equity that has funded oversized consumer spending for years.” The game is to exploit the new chumps in order to continue exploiting the old chumps!
The American economy is addicted to stolen money. We are so far removed from honesty and integrity that, in preference to admitting our awful errors, we would rather conjure up cynical schemes for bilking foreigners, innocent rubes who want nothing more than a better way of life — and who foolishly believe that America still is what it once was.
We didn’t have the guts, when America was born, to denounce the slave traders. And now they’ve taken over…