Friday, September 19, 2008

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

It’s been a wild ride both personally and nationally this week. On the personal front I haven’t been home before 10:00 on three different nights this week…and…I just barely crawled across the finish line on Friday…On the national front the stock market has experienced some of the wildest fluctuations in history due to the collapse, bankruptcy, and bail outs of some of our largest financial institutions…While I have taught economics for over 15 years I confess I don’t know what to make of it all and am reluctant to offer any specific suggestions or criticism at this time regarding the governments response to the current economic meltdown. In other words, I am in a “let’s just wait and see” mode. While I don’t have any strong admonitions or thoughts about the recent actions by the current administration I do have some very strong feelings about the various events surrounding this economic debacle. Here are a few of my thoughts.

1.I have a really, really, bad feeling about our current economic situation. While I understand the rational for bailing out the various financial institutions I don’t have much confidence that this plan is going to rescue or solve our serious economic woes anytime soon. The government has added an additional trillion dollars to a debt that has already doubled over the past eight years…and…I can’t help wondering “when” this is going to trigger some serious hyper inflation which will completely wipe out the most economically vulnerable of us in a flash.

2.While I do empathize with those who suggest that we restrain ourselves from too
much finger pointing I do believe that the current administration and those who support without reservation a “trickle down”/ absolutist laissez-faire approach to the relationship between the government and economics do bare a significant amount of responsibility for the serious mess we find ourselves in. Some have suggested that almost everyone is to blame, including, homeowners who supposedly should have known better to buy a house they could not afford. While I concur that there is enough blame to go around it is hard for me to blame people for wanting to own their own home when given the opportunity. While George Bush is certainly not the only person to blame I do believe his administration and the economic advisors he consulted with contributed to the environment that allowed for the economic carnival atmosphere which has been par for the course on Wall Street since George Bush arrived at the White House eight years to go.

3.While thousands of employees and tens of thousands of investors stand to lose almost everything it currently appears that fat cat CEO’s will walk away almost unscathed. Richard Fuld of Lehman’s Brothers has made in access of 350 million dollars over the past five years and there are reports that some of the CEO’s are now hiring lawyers to secure what money is still owed them. Personally, I find this aspect of the current economic meltdown morally repugnant. Republicans like to assert that critics of their trickle down economic philosophy promote class warfare but I can think of no better way to stimulate class warfare than to create an economic environment where there is such a gap between the workers, managers and owners…and…it is “my hope” that politicians on both sides of the aisle will come to the place where they are willing to put some teeth

Final thought…Earlier today the federal government pumped billions into preventing the stock market from slipping into oblivion which caused another round of frenzy activity on Wall Street. While the recent action by the feds may have temporarily stopped the bloodletting on Wall Street it remains to be seen what will happen in the weeks and months to come. It is my hope that our economy will gradually rebound in the months to come but it is my suspicion that there is more bad news to come as the “perfect storm” is not finished wrecking havoc on our economy. Conservatives like to assert that government regulation will doom our economy and while I do believe there is some truth to this assertion I have also come to the conclusion that if business doesn’t regulate itself it will only be a matter of time until the government steps in and does what apparently the business community lacks the will to do for itself...and...if our financial institutions become socialistic in the process than the carnival ring leaders of Wall Street will have no one to blame but themselves.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Obama Rally

I attended a local Barack Obama fundraiser and organizational meeting last night at a local Basque restaurant and it was encouraging to see so much diversity. There were young people, old people, and every age in between. There were African Americans, Hispanics and suburban white guys like me. We were all one big happy political family under the umbrella of the Obama campaign. It was really nice being around so many people who are as energized as me about Obama. I live in a very conservative area and I seldom get the opportunity to rub shoulders with more than one person at a time who shares my political or religious perspective on the world. The whole event last night was kind of like sitting down and watching a USC game with a room full of USC football fanatics. It was just fun....My only complaint was the music. No U-2. Barack Obama national rallies seem to always open with U-2's City of Blinding Lights or It's a Beautiful Day. I'll have to talk to the local powers that be and maybe we can arrange to get some U-2 music at the next rally...Apparently the activity in the Democratic party in my neck of the woods has been working with a skeleton crew for some time now but it now looks like a potential sleeping giant may be waking up from decades of sleep.

I don't have much more to add to this story. It was a lovely evening hanging out with Obama Momma's and those of us who are new to the local political scene. There is a lot of things happening locally in the weeks to come and I'll try to post the latest happenings along the way. I'll be making some phone calls and working at the Obama booth at the fair and I am currently considering traveling out of state for a week-end or two and doing some work to get help Obama win the swing state of Nevada. I know the national polls have been leaning in McCain's direction for the past week or so but I am confident that the massive local organizational strategy of the Obama Campaign and the excitement and inspiration Obama has brought to the local rank and file will be more than adequate to bring to an end to another four years of policies that are bad for too many people in this country. Let's hope so...

USC wallops Ohio State

I guess my previous bit of anxiety about this game was unfounded. It's funny how even football fans aren't beyond using coping strategies to deal with the potential emotional pain associated with their favorite team not living up the hype and potential... Apart from the first quarter it wasn't much of a game. Oh, some Ohio State fans are suggesting what if this or that didn't happen but the bottom line is that USC is just a much better team...because, bottom line...collectively, USC just has too much talent...and...they have been stock piling talent for years. If there is a silver lining in the game for Buckeye fans it would be the play of the freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor who played better than expected considering the national stage and the ferocity of the USC defense...and...they could be encouraged by the fact that the Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was not playing it safe. I admired his play calling on offense and they did what they could with the talent they does that leave us for the rest of the season?...Number two Georgia barely won and it doesn't look like USC is going to be seriously challenged the rest of the way... so... if injuries or a big head doesn't get in the way it looks like USC will be heading for another championship run this season. I'm not going to predict this early in the season a USC lock down championship this season but on the horizon it appears from where I sit that there are only a couple of teams out there who can match up with USC's talent and team speed. Oklahoma, Florida, and Georgia. I'm picking OU to challenge USC for supremacy this year...let's just hope for the same results when USC walloped OU in 2003.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

David and Goliath

In approximately nine hours the men of Troy are going to go to battle against the Ohio State Buckeyes who are the pride of the Midwest and Big Ten football. I must confess I am nervous about this game, especially, now that Chris Wells the All-American tailback is not going to play. I am nervous because this is shaping up to be the classic David verses Goliath and over the years David has taken down Goliath more often than not. On paper and according to the armchair football pundits USC should win by a couple of touchdowns... but...and it is a big but... Ohio State is returning alot of players and they are going to play with a huge chip on their shoulder especially after the whipping that was put upon them during the last two National Championships blow-outs. I also am reminded how Ohio State rose above all odds and put it to the Miami Hurricanes who at the time were being lauded as the greatest college football dynasty of all time...On the other hand...I wouldn't be surprised if USC won by three touchdowns. Motivation can take a team to the edge of the promise land but you need talent to get you past the Giants who guard the promise land...and...USC, imo, has even more talent on both sides of the ball than the SEC teams that put a licking on Ohio State the last couple of years...There is a scenario where Ohio State could beat USC...and it is...turnovers and ball control...If Ohio State doesn't turn the ball over, can move the ball in small chunks up and down the field, and cause USC to turn the ball over than they can win. I don't think this will happen, but if it does, than Ohio State can again become the toast of the town in college football and they will again win the respect of the football pundits who are currently down on the Ohio State program. I don't think it will happen because the USC defense is so big and fast and they are more likely to cause turnovers than Ohio State...but...anything is predictions...If the game is close, I give the edge to Ohio State. If USC wins the turnover battle, look for a blow out...but I think the final score will be USC 24 Ohio State 10....Go Trojans!!!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Economic Policies Run Amuck

While thinking about McCain's trickle down economic philosophy I was reminded of a song by Bruce Cockburn named simply Trickle Down...

Picture on magazine boardroom pop star
Pinstripe prophet of peckerhead greed
You say 'Trust me with the money -- the keys to the universe'
Trickle down will give us everything we need

Brand new century private penitentiary
bank vault utopia padded for the few
And it's tumours for the masses coughing for the masses
Earphones for the masses and they all serve you

Trickle down give /em the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood

What used to pass for education now looks more like ignoration
Take the people’s money and slip it to the corporation
Yellow rain golden shower pesticide firepower
Summon feudal demons of sweatshop subjugation

Workfare foul air homeless beggars everywhere
Picturephone aristocrats lounge around the pool
Captains of industry smiling beneficently
Leaking hole supertanker ship of fools

Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood

Take over takedown big bucks shakedown
Schoolyard pusher offer anything-for-profit
First got to privatize then you get to piratize
Hooked on avarice- how do we get off it?

Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood

Trickle down give me the business
Trickle down supposed to give us the goods
Cups held out to catch a bit of the bounty
Trickle down everywhere trickle down blood

Why McCain is the wrong choice

The political season kicks into high gear for me today. This afternoon I am heading down to the grand opening of the new Obama headquarters in downtown Bakersfield. It will be nice to rub shoulders with some other local people who share my enthusiasm about the historic campaign of Barack Obama. I have been following the race for the White House very closely since I got back from vacation about five weeks ago. I have watched a significant amount of both the Republican and Democratic convention over the past two weeks and what I have seen and heard has reinforced my belief more than ever that Obama is the right person at this time to lead our country...and...the John McCain/Sara Palin ticket would be a disaster.

I'll refrain myself from going into all the reasons why I think John McCain would be a bad choice but I would like to mention one incident that for me sums up why I don't think the country should give the keys to the kingdom to McCain and his understudy Sarah Palin. About three weeks ago McCain and Obama appeared at Rick Warren's church to field questions from Pastor Warren about a whole host of issues ranging from war to their own personal faith. The one question and response that jumped out to me more than any other was Warren's question about evil. Warren asked both candidates whether they believed in evil and if they did, what would they do about it. Both candidates answered that they believed in evil but it was "how" they defined evil that was most telling to me. Obama described evil as something that exists in our cities, homes, and abroad while McCain limited his description to evil to the terrorists who are "out there"...and...McCain promised to hunt down Osama Bin Ladin and his terrorist network and destroy them.

Last week during Barack Obama's acceptance speech he asserted that John McCain does care about the country but he just doesn't get it and I couldn't agree more. After listening to John McCain off and on for months now John McCain, like many of his followers, McCain seems to see the world in terms of black and white, the good guys and the bad guys... and...his prescription...rattle the saber,flex our military muscle, continue Bush's tax breaks for the rich and simply sit back and watch the trickle down effect restore our economy back to the golden days of the 1990's.... Obama has been criticized by some critics and members of the media for being too nuanced in his response to the challenges that lay ahead but from my perspective Obama's leanings towards nuance reflects that "he does" understand the complexity of the world and he does see the big picture of what is going on not only in our country but the world abroad...while John McCain's general outlook to the challenges ahead reminds me of George Bush who rode into Washington on a white stallion waving his sword but is now going to leave town soon on a donkey. McCain may not be clone of George Bush but from everything I have seen and observed during this campaign his "worldview" seems too hauntingly familiar to that of George Bush.