Here we are in 2010, a little over a year from when the economy really started to crash and burn, and many reports seem optimistic that the recession is over, and we are on the road to recovery. So how long will it take until we forget the lessons of the most recent economic crisis?
Take the Good, Leave the Bad
With unemployment still hovering around 10%, and hundreds of banks failed with more predicted in the coming year, it is obvious that the problems in the economy are not yet fixed. However, the last few month of 2009 saw a huge jump in the stock market, and with banks paying back TARP and the government lifting some of the recession-time restrictions on banks, what will be left over as a reminder of how the recession happened, and how we can keep it from happening again?
There is some regulatory legislation that will remain, and some that is still to come, most notably the Credit CARD Act that will kick in this February. Transparency and accountability in banking will remain in the congressional lexicon for the next few years, and banks (hopefully) will be more conscious of self-regulation, if for no other reason than to keep government from interfering in their business again.
The Change in Personal Spending
The most important change, however, will be in the way the American people feel about Wall Street and what they choose to do with their money, and this seems to be where there has historically been the most miraculous and frightening ability to forget economic downturns. Initially after a crisis there is a huge outcry against the banking industry or government attempting to find blame, but as soon as there is an upswing, the conditions and causes of the recession fade away.
This is good for the recovery, as it allows the economy to ride consumer confidence back to stability, but it also can cause the real structural problems in the system to remain unfixed. A recent ING Direct ad promoting its investment division could have been run back in 2006, showing smiling new investors confidently taking brokerage into their own hands.
Forgive But Not Forget
The consumer of a few months ago would have scoffed at these ads, but the fact that ING feels confident enough to show an ad that unapologetically selling brokerage services during a recession demonstrates confidence in our ability to move on. This is necessary to stimulate spending and boost the economy, but this does not mean that mistakes were not made, and we have to learn from them so we are not “surprised” by another recession in a few years. Hopefully the American people have the ability to forgive the financial industry, but not forget.