Monday, 27 July 2009

Biggie Picturie

"Why don't we just let the behemoths lay down and then make room for the small businesses?"

"When the elephant falls down, all the grass gets crushed as well”

Kansas City mother Janelle Sjue asked the question and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke answered.

Bernanke was fielding questions on the decisions made by the US government to bail out the so-called financial “behemoths” before some 200 attendees to a town hall like meeting in the city’s Federal Reserve Bank.

The Wall Street Journal calls the session an unusual forum, the latest in a series of similar meetings by Bernanke mainly to explain his role in the massive bailout and lending.

To critics, behemoth is the right phrase with the US unemployment level at a 26-year high of 9.5% despite the signing of in February of a US787 billion stimulus package.

This is however not about the US economy, the stimulus nor Bernanke.

Well, perhaps only a bit about the soon to be expired (job-wise) US Fed Chairman.

(Now you see why he is going around the country explaining, eh?)

I'm wondering if this explaining to the masses one-to-one your policy decisions a norm in the US.

Can’t imagine Bank Negara Malaysia’s Zeti Akhtar doing the same here; but then again, she is not supposed to as this is the realm of the politicians.

Politicians are, after all, tailored for hogging limelights.

Asking questions in one-to-one session here is also far tougher since we (not all) seems to have this in-built reverence to especially our officios with honorary titles in front of their names.

You can just picture how difficult it is to ask as a question like Sjue’s when it has to be preceded by a whole tirade of titles.

By the time you reach the word why – the impact will be lost.

Of course, this time and age of openness (with thanks to our fifth Prime Minister), some would probably blast away, much to the indignation of the politicos’ subordinates.

I don’t foresee these questioners expecting an answer anyway with most of these “sensitive” questions mainly put out in the open for shock value.

That said, I do pity the likes of Bernanke and Zeti, and all the other National bankers around the world.

Being in the government meant that you have to look at the bigger picture.

Sure, these are “dubious” beneficiaries you are bailing out, but – as the oft quoted defense goes – their failure would be far more catastrophic for the masses.

Personally, they may well let these risk takers swim their way to financial hell without any lifejacket.

Bernanke said as much to the effect:“nothing made me more frustrated, more angry, than having to intervene.”

Big Picture comes in.

Whatever personal disgusts then take a back seat.

Big picture is also the oft quoted remark by our politicians when justifying rolling over minority interests.

In our usual meek self, we’d then response with the other well-used phrase:

“We are not against development…”

That’s another big reverence for us: development.

So what if the behemoth stomp on us while grazing their fill, eh?

We have to revere the Big Picture.

An example of a behemoth

Woolly Mammoth

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