Choose Thinking: A Blog by Dan Gilbert

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

- Rudyard Kipling

February 10, 2009

Home Life and The Economy: The Hidden Thread…

Good Afternoon Folks,

I was thinking about how life and the financial markets mimic each other.  You see, those who know my family, know we have a dog. (I think it’s a Pug or a Fug or maybe it’s a German Shepherd… I forgot.) Our five offspring love the aging pooch.

Recently, a sequence of events occurred involving our dog (I forgot its name… we’ve only had it for 5-6 years) that, strangely, caused me to ponder the similarity of these events and the events in the financial markets and our economy over the past 18 months.

This dog is OK as far as wrinkled, small dogs go.  “It’s” (frankly, don’t know if ‘its’ a male or female… I never really looked) nice enough, very lazy and besides the random “bark” for no reason whatsoever, out of nowhere, knows its place on top of the ledge of the couch in our family room, where it curls up as it alternates in and out of sleep, except for the 3-4 times it fully awakes daily to run its set routine…

First, it takes a 12-second walk and stretch, then a quick sprint outside to water a tree and squat followed by a fast check around the kitchen table floor (usually, after the humans have eaten a meal) for a hopeful discovery of scraps on the ground,  finally, finishing with a fast stop for one bite and one lick out of its own designated dog food and water bowls.

The entire cycle runs about 90 seconds and then it’s back up on the ledge for its journey in and out of the ether. At the end of the day, it becomes very tired and climbs into one of our kid’s beds for a nice deep 12-hour sleep only to awake the next morning and begin its relaxing day once again.

Not such a bad life… If you are a hound.

Now our ‘Fido’, although lazy and unmotivated, very much loved its routine, sort of like your typical unregulated and unstimulated economy. But change came blowing in the form of very cold weather over the last few weeks and after several years of unimpressive growth both emotionally and mentally from our family canine, the dog ‘randomly’ and without thought or even any instinctual yearnings, decided not to invest in taking that “quick trip” outdoors I mentioned above.

It happened about as fast as the housing crisis smacked us when the first Bear Stearns hedge funds collapsed in June of 2007.  Unfortunately, like most dogs, it’s not trained to go the bathroom anywhere except outside.  You may be seeing the problem unfolding here, hopefully, better than most of us saw the housing crisis, unfolding a couple of years back.

Luckily, Jenny and I have two bathrooms in our master bedroom.  It’s a virtual panacea of marital space that keeps everyone (that being me) happy.  Unfortunately, and this is where the story really comes together, this unregulated dog has taken to defecating on the floor near my toilet.

Not my wife’s toilet.  Mine.

And it got me thinking about the mortgage mess and how 10% of borrowers defaulting on their loans can literally turn nearly an entire market and even economy into a toxic mess, much the way a 12-pound dog can do the same thing to the air quality of an entire bedroom suite. Because my wife is clearly the President, COO, CEO, Chairman and VP of everything in our home (and my life), she introduced her own stimulus package to light the economy… or a candle in the case here. And she placed the lit candle on top of my toilet to counteract the negative forces affecting our quality of life.

Unfortunately, as any stimulus plan goes, without proper oversight, bad things happen.  Upon forgetting the stimulus was lit, the candle melted, dripped heavily down the toilet and started a fire of burning plastic.  Not exactly a better smell by the way, but I digress.

Luckily, the heat literally split the toilet top in half making such a loud crack that we jumped up from bed to investigate the consequences of my household president’s stimulus package.

“Shock and awe” only begin to describe it.  The stimulus was LITERALLY, burning the very last “pot I had to piss in” (keep in mind I am “a mortgage guy from Detroit“).

The blackened, molten plastic was dripping onto the tiled floor and a gaping crack in the ceramic now existed under the epicenter of the stimulus.  But, hey, luckily, a potential economic disaster was averted and the toxicity left by the dog could no longer be detected.  With a little bit of elbow grease and some more money to fix what the stimulus caused, I’ll be in good shape.

Thank you Jenny… ah hem… Obama!

Although – we do still have the dog and the country still has the housing crisis.

And now you know why I feel that everything is connected to everything else, and like my life at rare times, the economy, would be better off if it was just “flushed down the toilet” and allowed to begin anew… in a more, should I say, “natural” kind of way… an “economic enema,” if you will.

-Dan G.

Posted by: in That's Life, Your Money & The Economy | Comments (4)


  • Comment by Jim — February 11, 2009 @ 9:16 am:

    Well said Dan, Well said!

  • Comment by Kevin Goddard — February 14, 2009 @ 2:54 pm:

    The stimulus initially smells so sweet,
    followed by a stench your nostrils care not meet.
    All the while you’re left with poop on the floor
    and a pooch producing ever more.

  • Comment by Kathlyn Scott — February 16, 2009 @ 10:34 am:

    I had no idea that only 10% of borrowers defaulted. I guess I assumed that there were more than that. This leads me to many, many questions then about why the financial meltdown is attributed primarily to mortgage defaults. It makes me wonder what the default reserves requirements were for financial institutions. It makes me wonder what happened to all of the private mortgage insurance (which was supposed to provide a type of default hedge, but that is right-the insurance providers tanked20also). It makes me wonder what types of risk mitigants were considered as portfolios grew. It makes me wonder what percent of the overall economy only 10% of the population, on the basis of their mortgages, were holding up. I wonder what the ratio of derivatives revenue related directly or indirectly to actual mortgage revenue from home owners was before the default. For some reason, it does not make sense that a 10% default rate could sink the entire other 90% of a market, let alone an entire economy. Something just does not make sense.

    I did not understand the wisdom in the financial bailout. I was even more unclear as to why trillions would be provided to the same players that lacked the ability to manage properly in the first place. I was even more perplexed when everyone was outraged, shocked and seemingly surprised that the same players that presided before and during the crisis, would behave any differently in the bailout. If they were able=2 0to see that their ideas, philosophies, thoughts and actions were a problem, we would not have a problem. They think that what they did was fine and that it is the silly, ignorant, defaulting homeowners that are the problem. There is also a presumption in President Obama’s thinking. He presumes that the population in America will behave differently because of the crisis that we are experiencing. I think that unless forced, the general population will behave the same way they behaved bef ore the crisis to some extent, if allowed, because they think that the problem was the “greedy Wall Street bankers”. We have two critical segments of the economy thinking and acting the same way. They are purely self focused. This is a problem. Businesses will get funding as a result of the stimulus package not because they have goods and services that are relevant and needed, but because we are afraid to find the bottom, which is exactly where our actions have taken us. If those businesses lack the ability to self reflect and admit that they need to revamp their business or just get out of their business or that they are bad business people and need to give others a chance to perform, the stimulus will simply reinforce that which is not good, relevant or needed.

    I think the stimulus package is to the economy as cancer is to the human body. It can kill the bad cells and stave off the growth of more bad cells for a time. However, if the root20of the problem is not discovered and dealt with, the cancer will return and it will usually be more resistant and potentially deadly and fatal.


  • Comment by Sean Jagodzinski — March 15, 2009 @ 12:19 am:

    *Good analogy. I really wish you would post your thoughts on issues more. You really make people think.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to Comments via RSS Feed or get comments in your email inbox.