It doesn’t pay to be a Good Samaritan…

December 21, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

Don’t get involved. Don’t be a hero. When you see your fellow human in trouble, pass on by.

That appears to be the message from California’s high court.

The state Supreme Court has ruled, 4-3, that the state’s Good Samaritan Law, enacted in 1980, did not apply in a case in which a woman found her friend trapped in a car after an accident and feared the car was in imminent danger of exploding (you know, just like they always do on TV and movies just a split second after the hero rescues the victim). So she pulled her out of the car. Trouble is, the rescued woman is now a paraplegic and blames that on the fact that her friend pulled her out “like a rag doll”.

The court held that the Good Samaritan Law only applies to rendering emergency medical aid and that the actions of the would-be Good Samaritan were not covered under the law (and how the common citizen determines in the stressful situation of an apparent emergency which actions might be covered, I would not have a clue).

Notably, the court stated that a person is not under any obligation to go to another’s aid, but if one chooses to do so, then he or she is obligated to do so with due diligence concerning safety of the victim.

So, Clair Booth Luce was right: “no good deed goes unpunished”, or as the character in the Charles Dickens novel put it, “…the law is a ass”.

I mean is this what we want to tell an already often seemingly cold and indifferent world? And at this time of year? Christmas spirit and all, good will toward all mankind.

Don’t get involved in a stranger’s trouble and not even a friend’s trouble. Don’t go to the aid of someone in distress, for if you do, and if anything goes wrong, you will be in distress.

Already, this has been the notion. I don’t know how many times I have had people advise me or I have overheard in conversation that it is unwise and unsafe to help anyone in distress because you can get sued.

Now out on the road, there are some practical dangers. Sometimes people only pose as being in distress only to catch the unsuspecting off guard and then rob them. However, a full-blown accident would not likely be one of those instances.

And certainly in most cases the best thing one could do, particularly if one is not medically trained, is to get help for the person or persons in trouble.

But for the high court to suggest that you’re not under any obligation to help your fellow human being and that if you do, you are taking a gamble, seems to me to be the wrong message, and worse yet, where does that leave the Good Samaritan Law?

I do understand that anyone has a responsibility to act with the necessary care and not be negligent, even in the excitement of rescuing one’s fellow human being. But it would seem to me that to be successfully sued for negligence in coming to the aid of someone, it would have to be an exceptional circumstance in which someone showed extremely gross negligence, and in such a case, even if you fell under the guidelines of the Good Samaritan Law, then who could argue?

Fear of getting involved is natural, as was portrayed in the parable of The Good Samaritan told by Jesus in ancient times. And there are good and bad reasons for not wanting to bother to lend a hand, but there is a higher obligation to do so, is what I think part of the message from that parable was. Something to do with morality.

But our esteemed justices rule from on high that thou has no obligation to help thy neighbor, but if thou doth, remember:

No good deed goes unpunished. 

P.s. There is common law going way back, apparently, that suggests one is not under an obligation to help his fellow man, but if he does, he is liable. That’s why there are Good Samaritan laws. In the above case there was argument over whether such a law applied to professional medical personnel or all. It seems illogical that a law with such a title would not apply to all. Whatever, the law would appear to be virtually useless.

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Local reporter fails to get Watergate fame…

December 19, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The death of Deep Throat of Watergate fame brings me back to the time I was assigned to what you might call an investigative journalism piece. It did not bring me fame as it did Woodward and Bernstein, instead it piled on to the frustrations that would bedevil me throughout what I always refer to as my “so-called career in journalism”.

Before I reminisce more, I’ll update anyone who did not take note that it was reported today that Mark Felt who was the former FBI agent and the legendary Deep Throat of Watergate fame has died at the age of 95. Felt was the secret inside source that provided the Washington Post investigative duo of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with so much invaluable info for news stories broke by their newspaper the Washington Post which led to coverage by other news outlets that eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon as president of the United States.

During my years as a newspaper reporter I did little to no actual investigative reporting. There was little time and nearly no interest at the outfits where I worked. The closest I ever came was a story I tried to do on a controversy involving a drowned boy, an ambulance driver/deputy coroner/real estate agent (who advertised heavily with our newspaper and threatened to sue it and me if we mentioned his name, on what grounds, I don’t know), and the fact that the boy was not taken immediately to the hospital, and that then he was eventually revived, but died later.

It was quite a story, but we never published more than the minimal details of the immediate incident – no investigative piece.

I was assigned by my editor to look deeper into the matter and I did. Actually, beside the fact that the ambulance driver decided not to take the boy immediately to the hospital, pronouncing him dead at the scene, and then instead stopped and talked to witnesses in order to fill out his coroner’s report, I found nothing too startling, although I guess all that was startling enough.

My investigation was done, as I recall, basically on my own time, in addition to my normal news beat duties, although, since I had a fairly free hand on how I conducted my work, it would be hard to differentiate between normal job time and my own time. I don’t recall I was paid overtime, though.

Except for a weekend drive by, I don’t recall that I did much touring of the actual scene of the incident. But I did make a lot of phone calls and I did do an interview over at the Sheriff’s Department.

I do distinctly remember receiving the phone call from that ambulance driver, who was also the deputy coroner and a real estate salesman, who ran a long list of classified ads in our paper each day.

“If you use my name in your story I’ll sue you and the newspaper,” he gruffly warned me over the phone.

While I was assured by both the editor and the general manager of the newspaper that his threat would not interfere with our reportage, such was not the case.

When I finally submitted my story, the editor told me he would have to first submit it in turn to the general manager (this had never happened before). He did. We kept waiting for the big man’s decision. It never came, or maybe in reality I should say it did come. The result was the story never saw the light of day. I left that job in disgust a month or more after doing that story, not just over that, but many other things.

Sometime after I left, they published an editorial that claimed the newspaper had done an exhaustive investigation on the drowning incident and had concluded there was no wrongdoing. Not only was my aborted story not an exhaustive investigation, I must admit, but the newspaper did not bother to share with the readers what they supposedly found other than, no story here folks, let’s move along.

After being away from town for several years, I came back and served for awhile as a radio reporter. New on the beat, I introduced myself to a honcho at the Sheriff’s Department, one I had interviewed on the drowning story. Either he had a bad memory, a strange sense of humor, or I just don’t make that much of an impression on folks, but he proceeded to let me know something:

“We have a pretty good relationship with the press here, an understanding. A few years ago we had a story about a drowning that was too hot to handle. I lived next to the general manager of the newspaper and we agreed to have the story killed.”


High interest can be good, old adages apply

December 19, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Call me crazy, but what would be so bad about higher interest rates?

High interest rates mean that money is harder to get, but once you get it it’s worth more because you can loan it out at higher interest.

And what ever happened to the old adages of  “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” and “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?

Having virtually no money myself and nothing to invest, I can ponder these things in a detached way.

I ask or suggest these things because on the one hand, as the economic crisis deepens, besides throw good money after bad, all the government seems to be able to do is lower interest rates. With the Fed lowering its key interest rates to as little as zero, well, you can’t get much lower than that. Then what?

And within the last week it has come to light that for 17 years thousands of investors, from common folks to big names and many charitable institutions, have been taken in by a man with the ironic name of Madoff (pronounced “made off”, as in made off with their money). Bernard Madoff, former chair of the NASDAQ (electronic stock exchange), swindled investors out of some $50 billion in a giant pyramid scheme. He provided detailed and legitimate statements showing all his transactions along the way. Some experts are saying it is hard to imagine he could have pulled off what amounts to the biggest scam in financial history (I think I read that) without help, even though he has reportedly claimed (boasted?) that it was all his own doing.

Apparently he managed to provide his investors with a steady rate of return averaging at least 10 percent year after year, and in fact he claimed to be up 5.6 percent in this poor year, as of November.

Warning bells were rung at the government’s Securities Exchange Commission as far back as 1999, but were not followed up. Funny, when folks are making money (or think they are) no one wants to rock the boat.

Anyway, it’s now being estimated that the government might be out as much as $17 billion (a billion for every year of his scam) in taxes from people claiming losses.

Far too many put all of their money on the line with Madoff or their investment people did – all their eggs in one basket and it seemed too good to be true.

If the SEC can’t detect what by many experts now using hindsight suggest was unusual and suspicious activity, then how can there be any confidence in investment? And confidence certainly is what is needed about now.

As to interest rates, I don’t necessarily think they should be high or sky high, but easy money, too much easy money, whether it be from too low interest rates or you-can’t-lose investment schemes, in the end spell disaster.

–– Somewhat related to all this, on the evening news I heard that home loan interest rates are down far enough now that they seem to promise a boom in housing sales, but at the same time, there is no relief in this for those who are upside down in the mortgages – the bad investment that just doesn’t get better.

I’ll try to work my way through this. There was an inflated demand for houses brought about by easy money and the inflated values (equity) it created. Then the bottom fell out when folks started defaulting on their mortgages because of adjustable interest rates. With the decreased value of the houses, home prices fell. But buyers were wary, because money was now hard to get and no one knew whether prices would fall even further and whether homes would be such a good investment in the future. But now that interest rates have been lowered, that may help spur buying anyway. I also understand the idea that one must make a substantial or reasonable down payment and show good evidence he and/or she will be able to pay back the loan is now required (sounds reasonable).

One problem in all of this is that although once upon a time most people (not all) invested in houses primarily to secure a place to live while maintaining the value of the money they invested, rather than speculation, that all changed in more recent times. In recent times, wild inflation, caused in part by easy money policies, made home buying and selling a whole industry. In fact, we now seem to have discovered that virtually our whole economy became dependent upon the housing market with its bundled home mortgage securities financing all types of economic activities here and abroad (to include building pleasure palaces in Dubui), while home equity became a bonanza for many homeowners who could live way beyond what would normally be considered their means. And in the area where I have lived most of my life, the so-called “equity folks” from LA and the San Francisco Bay Area sold their houses and moved up here and lived on the bonanza, inflating prices for working folks of more modest means. But then again, many of the local folks got into the bonanza themselves eventually.

Well, that’s my understanding and interpretation. I do know that this country is in a economic mess that certainly seems to have the potential of being far worse than the Great Depression.

Major deflation is here or on the horizon. Unemployment is getting higher all the time. Production of goods and corresponding services is in decline. There are home bargains galore, but not huge numbers of folks have the capital or the promise of future employment to take advantage of it.

It seems to me that the best thing the government can do now is to serve as a safety net to protect the populace. It is our government. The government should also provide some incentive for economic activity, especially improvement of the infrastructure and modernization of industry and the green revolution. Business has caught wind that there could be money made in environmentalism after all.

But propping up old and inflexible business models or throwing money willy nilly at the investment folks who got us into this mess and failing to maintain and enforce necessary business regulations is not the way to go.

But the free market, as free as is practicable, needs to be able to work. It just needs to be policed and have the necessary transparency so that all are on a level playing field. The term “honest businessman” should not be an oxymoron.


More on the evolution of newspapers, journalism

December 17, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

So it may be that newspapers are not dying, they’re just going online. They won’t really be news “papers” because they will be (already are) on a computer screen, but they could be in the same format.

I recently noticed that the New York Times was offering subscriptions to an online service that would provide you with the newspaper electronically, but viewable in the newspaper format. You will notice that most online sites do not present their material in that format, even the newspapers. And now I find out that the Detroit Free Press is offering the full newspaper format on subscription too.

I also recently blogged that there is some new thin-as-paper computer device that could among other things offer you your daily newspaper.

Even though I grew up on TV news, I have always considered the traditional newspaper the foundation of news. On the local level it still is the only real news (well, the local online edition is too). Certainly on the national and world stage, major newspapers have been the foundation from which most other sources draw. That may have changed somewhat, what with all the bloggers out there, many of them offering up actual news, not only commentary. And who are they and who pays them and what is their reliability? And how many blogs would I have to scan to get a complete wrapup of the news?

Personally I don’t think any electronic medium can ever replace the advantages of the traditional newspaper, but that is probably beside the point. The world moves on.

The Christian Science Monitor has discontinued or is discontinuing its print edition. The two Detroit newspapers are eliminating some days for delivery, and the Oregonian is cutting way back on the geographical area over which it distributes its newspapers. All are trying to survive and prosper via online.

I guess if you work in a cubicle or an office or you have a home business or are even retired and you’re on the computer all the time anyway, it’s just as well not to have the traditional newspaper.

But I like having something I can read while drinking my coffee and that I can hold comfortably and that is more comfortable than this computer screen to read. You can take a newspaper with you or cut out stories or recipes (not me so much) or ads.

But apparently the demand is no longer there. So really enough said, but I’ll say more, of course.

The reason newspapers are dying, by the way, is a combination of free-falling readership and ad revenue (what comes first, the chicken or the egg? can’t say), but I just read that online ad revenue is down too. Maybe, as I suggested in a previous blog, the free flow of news might just become a trickle or dry up altogether. For decades and decades we have let the advertisers fund virtually all of our news and much of our entertainment. Single copy and subscription sales of newspapers only offset some of the production and delivery costs. If they attempted to attach a per copy price that would make them a profit they would not likely get enough readers, so the conventional wisom goes.

I have to wonder what will take over as the authoritative source for news, one that will run corrections or clarifications for all to see. Broadcast news has never been good at correcting itself and when it does it’s there and gone before many even hear it or can retain it. And I don’t see a lot of blog corrections, although some, either. And without the traditional newspaper you have no correction box to check.

It may be that good local newspapers will survive somewhat longer, although mine keeps getting smaller and smaller and they keep writing editorials broadly hinting that their print edition will soon be history.

I’m not as well versed on newspaper history as I should be, but I know that in the colonial days they were often no more than leaflets filled with the political opinions of the writers. But at least that was free-flowing public thought. Our founding fathers didn’t like the fact that the British colonial authorities could jail those who put out newspapers that the government did not agree with so when they finally got around to enacting our Bill of Rights, the First Amendment dealt with free speech, to include a free press.

Our modern journalism (probably soon to be called our historical journalism) I think really began during the Civil War when there was a lot of news to print and a lot of interest but a difficulty of getting it through the war zones. Reporters out in the field began dispatching reports in the inverted pyramid style, putting the most important facts first and everything else in descending order – kind of like if you wrote the end of the novel first. Sometimes the stories were sent by telegraph and it was a contest to see how much could be dispatched before the communication lines were cut.

I know when I took my journalism classes there was a lot of talk about “objectivity” as opposed to slanting the news. We were taught that opinion belonged on the Opinion or Editorial pages or maybe in stories labeled “analysis”, and I always have had a problem with that last one – I mean there can be such a thing as an impartial analysis, then again, maybe not. Arianna Huffington of the online-only newspaper Huffington Post disparagers the very idea of objectivity saying in effect that one has to ignore the facts or the truth to write something that will be called “objective”.

After the Civil War, newspapers certainly did not always attempt to be objective. Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst has been credited with stirring up so much propaganda in not only opinion pieces but news columns that we were goaded into the Spanish-American War, although along the way his newspapers exposed corruption in government, as well.

But there was some golden age, I think, when newspapers prided themselves in providing their readers with comprehensive, objective, and as accurate as could be achieved news stories. I’m not sure when that was, but I will guess from the end of World War II and up to perhaps the early 1970s.

The New York Times exposed via its publicaton of the so-called Pentagon Papers the fact that our government had been deceiving the public about Vietnam for years.

The Washington Post broke the Watergate story, and both it and the New York Times relentlessly covered it, and broadcast could only follow their leads. That resulted in the first and so far only resignation of a U.S. president.

And the Chicago papers have broke important news in both the past and the present corruption scandals there (governor puts U.S.  Senate seat up for sale).

Unfortunately during the current Bush administration broadcast journalists and to some extent print have been cowed by the government and even public mood and the fact so many modern journalists  wanted to be part of the club (be welcome at cocktail parties) and not make waves. Journalism has dropped the ball on 9/11 and Iraq and Afghanistan and, I should add, the economy. I don’t think the modern blogosphere would have let that happen — a positive in all of this.

I worked for many years as a newspaper reporter, albeit in the wilderness of journalism, and I can say from experience that it is almost or completely impossible to write a 100 percent accurate and unbiased story. Even transcription does not work. Even if you had every word down and let the reader decide, first no one would or would have the time to read it all, and secondly, nothing would be in context because you could not catch all the nuance by voice inflections and facial expressions and other actions. Even video tape does not really work. Again there is the time factor of making history repeat itself, and besides the camera is not a completely true perspective of actual events.

Except for live coverage of events, news coverage is interpretation, anyway, not transcription. If you went to a movie and someone asked you about it, you would not likely replay every word and scene, or if you did, no one would stick around to listen. Even live coverage requires explanation and recap and so on.

And one of the biggest problems in what is called “interpretive reporting” is the use of background, that explanatory material that is necessary in order to make sense of events being reported on. The selection and placement the writer uses of that background is often consiered a form of bias (you really can’t win).

But be it newspapers, blogs, TV, radio, all forms of media are important and useful. What makes the difference is the intent of those who work with and within it all. And will there continue to be organizations dedicated to a comprehensive and fair presentation of the news and presentation of opinion on public issues?

My grandmother and uncle on my father’s side never saw fit to give up horses and mules on their farm well into the 20th Century. I may have to give up my equivalent, the real paper newspaper. I never knew those old folks – they passed before I was born – but I think I know how they felt.


We need to WORK our way out of economic crisis

December 15, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

We need to get the money circulating again and the only practical way to do that is reverse the tide of expanding unemployment.

Once Barack Obama becomes president he should institute a humongous public works program, bigger than FDR could have ever conceived, and put all kinds of folks to work, everyone from the highly skilled to the unskilled. We need roads, bridges, and schools, and parks and probably all kinds of environmental cleanup.

In a recent blog I noted that historians say it was not FDR’s public works projects but WWII that finally brought us out of the Great Depression. I also wrote that I don’t want us to have to go to war on that scale to pull us out of our economic crisis, but maybe we ought to expand our military and even create some type of non-military public service corps and re-instate the draft for both.

The draft gives me mixed emotions. In the context of military draft, I am really conflicted. The military is not for everyone (except maybe in the most dire circumstances). I joined and realized in the first five minutes it wasn’t for me, but served three years plus, nonetheless (and of course I was young and didn’t fully appreciate the sometimes necessary hardships of life). And certainly compulsory service puts a damper on freedom. Back in Europe, as late as the Nineteenth Century, the common folk were used as cannon fodder at the discretion of the King or Emperor or Duke or Baron or whatever. And, unfortunately, it could be said at times even in the U.S. and other parts of the free world soldiers have been essentially cannon fodder – the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, all are examples. And I quickly add that I certainly don’t mean to disparage those who served. It’s a cruel paradox – citizens find themselves in the predicament of having to do their duty in the cause of freedom and at the same time military planners know full well that they are ordering up a sacrifice of human lives with the thought that it is all for the greater good.

But I am thinking that the military draft is needed to restore our military and to restore a sense of purpose to our citizenry. And if everyone knew he (or she?) were subject to a military draft, the powers that be might have to be more circumspect in deciding to move militarily in various parts of the world.

And perhaps a new draft law could include the option of serving in a civilian corps (at a lower rate of pay), unless circumstances were so dire that everyone was needed in the military.

With so many people receiving a paycheck from Uncle Sam, but gainfully employed doing needed work, the economy and our infrastructure and our quality of life would be the beneficiary and growth in the private sector could be achieved through more circulating dollars and that improved infrastructure. It worked in WWII, but if we could avoid war, instead of producing so many tanks and airplanes and such, we could be producing consumer goods (fuel-efficient autos?) to improve the quality of life for everyone.

And in my opinion we really need to squelch illegal alien labor. All those jobs that illegal foreign workers take could and would be filled by U.S. citizens. Most people, as strange as it may seem in today’s world, will take sometimes rather distasteful and difficult work if that is what it means to survive. So yes we have to be more vigilant in policing the rules of public assistance (my wife was once an eligibility worker and did home visits and then they cut out the home visits).

There needs to be strict safety regulations, but perhaps some of the burdensome work restrictions, such as mandatory overtime or hourly wages for work better measured by piece rate might need to be lifted. I’m not talking sweat shop or slavery, but practicality. You can’t have it where an employer has to pay one worker who is slacking off, watching the clock, the same as the go-getter who is working at the best of his or her ability. That is a tough one (and I in no way condone things such as long-haul trucking where a company-employed driver is not paid when he or she is not moving but is required to babysit the truck), but we do have to be practical.

I know I repeat myself a lot in this blog space, but I have to say that the U.S. is so blessed with land and resources, it seems a shame to let it go to waste and so many of us go wanting in the process.


Waiting for the other shoe to drop, I mean fly

December 14, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I’ve heard of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but President George W. Bush waited for the other shoe to fly, right past his head, and he didn’t have to wait long.

As bizarre and even comical as it was, it seems to me that the action was an assault on the president and certainly demonstrated a lack of security. I have little respect for Bush, but I do respect the office of the presidency.

And I don’t care if it is some type of Muslim custom to show disrespect (as compared to our middle finger salute), it seems to me that it was tantamount to a crime – I’d say act of war, but we’re already at war in Iraq (with whom, I’m not sure).

It probably was poetic. Bush makes his last appearance in Iraq, a surprise visit, and he gets surprised by a disgruntled Iraqi journalist who is reported to have yelled: “This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq.”

For his part, Bush seemed unflappable, smiling through the incident, and quipping right afterwards: “It was a size 10, I can tell you…”

During subsequent remarks, Bush shrugged and implied that he thought the incident was no big deal, just some guy trying to get attention (he did) and a form of free speech (just part of what we were fighting for, I suppose).  But, while I appreciate Bush’s appreciation of free speech, I think that if such an incident had occurred in the U.S. the shoe thrower would be charged with a felony, an assualt on the president. We even have a law, passed after the Kennedy assassination, that makes it a crime to even utter a threat against the president (even with the First Amendment, you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater — even if there is one? I’m not sure on that– and you can’t threaten the president (criticize yes).

It was strange to me that the video tape seemed to reveal that the reaction on the part of Bush’s body guards was a little delayed. I saw some come for him out of a side door. You’d think they would have swarmed over him for his protection immediately. I think I did see Bush wave off help several seconds after the second shoe was thrown.

I understand his press secretary Dana Perino got a black eye in the melee when the shoe-thrower was grabbed.

I think the U.S. itself has a black eye over the whole Iraqi fiasco.

More than 4,000 American combat deaths and thousands more gravely wounded and our president gets two shoes thrown at him.

Not exactly the rose petals thrown on the conquering heroes that Rummy Rumsfeld predicted.

I must say, though, our commander in chief looked brave – or was it dumbfounded?


Economic turn of events may not be so bad…

December 14, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Let me get this straight: the government is giving (lending?) billions of dollars to the banks so that they will extend credit to businesses and consumers, but instead, the banks fearing that loaning money out in that fashion would be too risky right now, are buying Treasury bills, in essence, loaning it back to the government. And they’re in many instances getting either zero interest or even negative interest.

Well, that can’t be quite right or can it? but maybe someone will help me to understand this better.

Meanwhile, on Meet the Press this morning I heard the CEO of Walmart say that “Walmart moms” are being frugal and spending more money on food rather than consumer luxuries and are using leftovers for dinner more. He also said that restaurant owners are using yesterday’s receipts to go to Sam’s Club (a Walmart operation) to buy today’s restaurant dinners (as opposed to buying on credit, I suppose).

Consumers it is reported are holding off on big purchases and saving back to some extent – or maybe they lost their jobs and simply don’t have the money.

We already know that the drop in driving caused by that gigantic spike in fuel prices a few months back has led to a just as dramatic drop in fuel prices (although I read in today’s news that fuel has started to go back up in the last two days). That is good for the pocketbook and good for the environment.

Actually the only problem I see, and it is a big one, is that if things continue on the downward trend in our economy a huge number of folks (yours truly is not immune) could go without food and shelter.

But if we can keep roofs over the heads of folks and food in their stomachs, the overall economic picture is not so dire after all. I mean it seems like the realities of life and the market place and simple economics has injected some sense into the picture (giving money to the banks and talk of bailing out Detroit automakers as a result of their poor business decisions notwithstanding).

Decades ago I wrote a paper for one of the few economics courses I ever took in college. I don’t have it, but I recall something of what it was about and the fact that it was indeed a sophomoric approach to the subject. On the other hand, I am not so sure that I was too far off track. I disparaged the wide use of credit and opined that if people had to buy things cash and had to save back to do it, prices would be lower.

And now the part that hurts. At the time, my wife and I had just entered into a government subsidized mortgage that required very little down and I think our monthly house payment was something like $100 over 30 years and the principle was $28,000. Had we stuck with it, we’d be living in a paid-for house now. The CEO of Walmart said on Meet the Press that in the early 70s (the same time frame as us) he and his wife purchased a home through a government program for $30,000. Apparently he made better life decisions.

Give me a few moments to cry….. Okay, I’m over it.

Personally, I think everyone, individuals and businesses, needs to go back to the basic principles of economics, such as don’t spend more than you bring in and be wary of credit. And our government must enforce practical rules of businesses and strict oversight in the public interest.

In the meantime, the government will have to take unusual steps to avoid mass homelessness and starvation. But we actually do have the resources in land, raw materials, and even capital (the money is not actually gone – it’s just not being distributed in the normal way) to move forward.

If we really did believe in that higher power as so many of us profess, rather than worshiping at the alter of self-indulgence, things might not look so bleak.