Re-industrialization could save America; time can save Republicans…

May 2, 2009

While I am not a Republican and doubt I ever could be, I am thinking the GOP might find its salvation if it can just have some patience and it probably wouldn’t hurt if a few of its leaders didn’t feel they had to kowtow or at least walk on egg shells around the talk show blowhards that give it such a bad name. They already have accepted Bush Jr. as a bad memory, that’s a good first step on the road to salvation. And maybe they ought to talk Dick Cheney into going peacefully into retirement.

While I along with most folks hope the nation’s economic ills will improve soon, I think reality is that while there will likely be improvements in some areas there will also be much discontentment – cue the Republicans.

And maybe we don’t really want to use our tax dollars to guarantee warranties for domestic autos but at the same time cut aid to the needy (trouble is the Republicans probably don’t want to use tax money for warranties, but don’t mind cutting the aid).

While President Obama seems like he can’t lose right now, over time some of his program will wear thin – again cue the Republicans.

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon and try to assess President Obama’s first 100 days, but, belatedly now I’d say he certainly has faced the most pressure at one time of any president of the United States in my lifetime: the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, ongoing wars in the Middle East and terrorists close to grabbing nuclear weapons in Pakistan, health care that is becoming costlier and less available to the populous, global warming (or at least some type of extreme environmental change), and a possible pandemic.

But for the most part he has come through with flying colors. He is calm, cool, and collected. He gives press conferences and to my ears his answers seem well thought ought and reasonable whether I agree with all of his points or not. He is able to use clear English sentences and is not given to goofy looks, malapropisms, or deer-caught-in-the-headlights moments. He did make an unfortunate reference to the mentally challenged a while back on the Jay Leno show while perhaps acting a little too glib and cool (maybe presidents don’t need to be on late night TV).

I agree with Arianna Huffington, for someone who has done such a good job so far on so many things it is dismaying that he is bungling in his bailouts, that is to say he should not be bailing out banks or big business.

I mean billions to Chrysler and what do we get? Bankruptcy. We could have had that without billions in taxpayer dollars. We want to preserve our domestic auto industry but to do it Chrysler has to make a deal with Fiat of Italy.

At least saving the auto industry has something to do with preserving jobs.

The big bank bailouts? All they seem to have to do with is throwing money down a rathole. I still say let the big banks fail. Something will take their place. Why doesn’t the government just cut out the middle man and loan money to businesses and individuals? (not forever – just in the short term.)

As we all know, there are thousands of relatively small banks around the U.S. that acted like traditional bankers, extremely cautious with their money and did not get into trouble. Why can’t there be newer large banks, if they are needed, to replace the thieves and greedy devils who got us into this mess in the first place?

President Obama says he does not want to keep running the car companies and that he does not have the power to get the banks to do what he wants, at least not right away.

I say quit trying to run the car companies Mr. President; you have way too much else to do. And you do have power over the big banks because they would not be in business were it not for the generous giveaway bailouts of taxpayer money begun by George W. Bush and continued by you. Tell them either do what you want or you cut off the money and demand what you have given them back (although the latter is problematic).

From now on out let’s stop this hideous bailout program for private enterprise. While the bailouts may seem by some a means to save private enterprise they are in fact the seeds of destruction for private enterprise.

And this may be the answer the Republicans are looking for. I think they need to calm down and stick to their supposed free market principles and let the cards fall where they may. Hyper inflation along with a continued stagnant economy seems likely to be in the offing (although I certainly hope not). Get your act together Republicans and come up with coherent and acceptable programs to counteract this disaster. Just saying no and calling the Democrats “socialists” will not suffice.

Make your program or proposed program known and when things get bad enough, the electorate will turn back toward you, realizing they didn’t want so much socialism after all.

And lest anyone get the wrong impression about what I personally think, I will say right here and now that both parties have accepted forms of socialism for decades and so do I. But eventually there is a limit, just like there is a limit to free-wheeling capitalism (we reached that limit round about last September).

The independence and flexibility true private enterprise presents is eroded by the artificial element bailouts present in what should be a natural market of supply and demand and success or failure dependent upon business expertise rather than the generous hand of Uncle Sam, who will not be able to be generous once the money is gone (China will not be able nor willing to support us forever).

Rather than fund Wall Street-type big bankers and auto makers and others who have failed to make good business decisions, the government should be rescuing, lending a helping hand, to those citizens in need – not necessarily on a lifetime permanent basis, but on an emergency basis. But the government coffers to enable government to come to the aid of the citizenry are being depleted by the profligate and shortsighted ways of the business elite who use their lobbying powers to extract as much out of Uncle Sam as they can before the well runs dry.

Of course the political power of the United Auto Workers has played a big part in getting President Obama to work so hard to salvage as much as he can of its memberships’ jobs too. Now the UAW is taking a 55 percent ownership stake in Chrysler. Hopefully at least that will give its members incentive to help operate a lean and mean machine that can survive tough competition without more government aid.

Saving jobs is a good thing, but how far can the government go? Will it step in to save your job?

What we need is something that probably cannot be done via politics, at least not directly. We need a new attitude among those in business that says that their mission, aside from the obvious one of making a profit, is to produce products and services for a sustainable economy that will keep our nation strong for our generation and the next generation and for all to come.

We’ve gone too long on the notion that quick profits and making money solely through speculative bubbles is the way to go. We need capitalism, but regulated capitalism. We do not want to smother ourselves in total socialism, which stifles the very soul of a nation and each human being.

Yes, we do need to energize the economy through new green energy sources, but we also need to re-introduce ourselves to the industrial sector as a whole. 

While researching for a separate transportation blog I do, I was dismayed to read that a big truck manufacturing executive predicted that partly due to the current recession and the lower returns his industry is seeing it will likely move all production to Mexico or elsewhere where labor is cheaper.

Personally I think that is an unpatriotic attitude on the part of industry. Any industry that moves out of the country and then tries to import its products back in, all the while enjoying the benefits of the American taxpayer, to include legal protections and free-world defense, should face a strong tariff for those goods.

I am not so sure that free trade is what it was cracked up to be. It seems kind of a lopsided deal to me. We are cutting our own throats in the process.

The socks, the work shoes, the jeans, the shirt, and the cap a truck driver wears and the rig that he drives could all be made in the United States. More people would have jobs and there would be more freight to haul. Right now fewer people have jobs and there is less freight to haul – although granted a large portion of what freight there is comes from overseas.

Our elites thought they were clever when they said we could be a service economy, shut down the smoke stacks and live clean and not get our hands dirty. We shipped our jobs overseas and now have a lot less to do here. And we will not be able to continue to pay ourselves to stand around and do nothing, even if we do go to more socialism.

World trade of course must continue to be part of the equation. But what we call “free trade” ought to be replaced by “fair trade”. Other nations heavily subsidize their industry and many do little to nothing for their citizens who must endure terrible working and living conditions. As for competing with modern industrial nations, that should not be a problem.

Re-industrializing alone will not solve the problem I realize. Germany, for instance, is a major industrialized nation and it is suffering from the worldwide recession and is facing major unemployment and for the first time in decades its industries and skilled workers are facing doubts about the future.

Unfortunately, boom and bust seem inherent in capitalism. We need to be ready for the boom.


There seems to be little honor in corporate America

March 31, 2009

The federal government should not be bailing out domestic auto companies. It should not try to run them either. I am uncomfortable that the Obama administration felt it had to be the one to give CEO Rick Wagoner the boot out of  GM. Maybe the stockholders should have – I don’t know. Don’t even know if they had the power to.

It just doesn’t seem like the government ought to be that intamately involved in business.

And to make matters more bewildering, Wagoner reportedly may leave with a $23 million golden parachute. He had supposedly recently agreed to work for a $1 per year salary, it must be noted.

Maybe he felt guilty about having to beg or to extort the federal government out of billions of dollars in taxpayer money for a bailout. And maybe he felt a little bad about the fact that during his tenure as CEO, GM’s stock went from $70 per share to $3. He can’t blame it all on the worldwide economic downturn and that fuel spike last summer, since even in the good year of 2005 his company had lost $10.6 billion and suffered a 75 percent drop in its stock value under his leadership. (I got all those numbers out of an online Wall Street Journal story.)

But he’ll take his millions and run. There really is no shame in corporate America.

Most or all of these people who have led their companies down the drain and then had the audacity to ask for (demand?) taxpayer bailouts should have taken the traditional Japanese approach, no, not commit suicide, but resigned in the face of dishonor they had brought upon their companies and themselves.

As to their golden parachutes, well that is just part of the good old boy culture that has run corporate America where no one loses except the stockholders and the man and woman on the street, and oh, yes, the displaced workers, simply referred to as  “labor”.

One does not have to be anti-corporate to call for a new system of personal honor and morals and eithics and integrity, although maybe one has to be a bit of an idealist to do so.

To some extent we have reaped what we have sewn throughout society. Morals and honor and ethics and integrity  are lacking perhaps at all levels.

P.s.

The Obama administration has made it plain bankruptcy might be in the offing for both GM and Chrysler (and why didn’t we go there to begin with?). Strangely and thankfully, Ford so far is surviving without bailout money. And American workers are turning out cars in the border states and South working for foreign auto makers and are glad to be working even if their wages are lower than those up north.

I understand the United Auto Workers union might think it can hold out for retaining some of its more bloated benefits because the new administration is more labor friendly. Seems like they might be happy just to retain or recover their jobs for now. And maybe management may have to have an attitude adjustment, at least until the market comes back,  as well.


When Obama is presidential, he’s at his best…

March 25, 2009

Just watched President Barack Obama’s news conference and left the TV so I would not hear the pundits sum it up. That way I can give my own personal reaction without fear that I was influenced by the pack.

I have watched presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to the vapid George W. Bush, and I can say that this one, Mr. Obama, handles himself better in public in this type of formal situation than any of his predecessors. (Don’t care so much for the informal, such as on Jay Leno, but that is more because of my bias against presidents as entertainers).

Maybe I’m just a sucker for a slicked tongue politician, but I don’t think so. His answers are complete and seem to be instructive and he seems to not depend upon platitudes (not so much anyway) or just the usual political rhetoric.

As far as his personal performance on the job, I think he is doing fine in the face of probably the biggest challenge any president has ever faced, the real possibility that not only our own but the world’s economy could almost immediately collapse. I think what we face now and have been facing for the past several months, beginning in the waning months of the Bush administration, is a crisis in many respects much deeper than the Great Depression, although our social programs – unemployment, Social Security, for example – have softened things somewhat so far.

I do not approve of the way Mr. Obama and his administration have handled the banking and AIG crisis, but populist pressure is checking that mess, along with a new force that is a band of moderate to conservative Democrats in Congress. So where Mr. Obama might go too far, he may be kept in check somewhat by his own party.

As for the Republicans, they are still in disarray and have not shown yet that they have any answer. They have not presented any comprehensive alternative program. It is to their political advantage to carp and complain and hope that Mr. Obama stumbles.

For his part, I believe, Mr. Obama needs to keep up his effort to enlist the support of the American people. But rather than demean himself by appearing on late night TV and running the risk of making gaffes as those situations seem to produce, I think he should give personal addresses to the people from the oval office and perhaps make more formal presidential appearances elsewhere around the nation.

(Copyright 2009)


Welcome to the UB of A…..

March 24, 2009

So we give the banks money and then guarantee private investors up to 85 percent their purchase of so-called toxic assets the banks took on themselves in the first place.

Lets rename the United States of America the UNITED BANKS OF AMERICA.

Make sure you make the April 15 deadline for income taxes, the banks need your money!


ABC’s Gibson condescending; President undignified…

March 20, 2009

The condescension by anchor Charlie Gibson and the ABC evening news broadcast was palpable. Gibson wondered why such an uproar over a few million dollars in bonuses when the whole bailout package is in the trillions of dollars.

Well Mr. Multi-million dollar salary Gibson, I doubt that if you could even wonder such a thing that I could explain it to your erudite and quite insulated from the common world self.

Yes it’s politics and a sensational story, but it also goes way beyond that.

For all of you out there, if there are any, who don’t see anything wrong with the government bailing out failing banks and insurance companies and other businesses with taxpayer money and then letting them pay out bonuses (made possible by that money), some as high as a million dollars or more, sometimes to the very people who through imprudence, skulduggery, and outright greed and no concern for customers or the public or the soldiers who protect their fat asses, lost all the money and threatened to take down the world economy with them, what part of shocks the conscience and violates public decency do you not understand?

Common citizens and even most uncommon citizens do not get bailouts from the government – well they did send us $600 apiece awhile back but that was not asked for.

But $600 to an individual, I guess sent out to spur a consumer buying frenzy or as what my mom might have called “mad money”, is not $1 million to an individual.

It is apparent that President Barack Obama and his administration (as the one before him) are: A. In awe of the Wall Street financial crowd or B. Intimidated by them or C. All of the above.

So they, the masters of the universe, can say “we lost all of our money in a crap shoot, give us more and don’t stop till we say so, and we will lavish it upon ourselves and if you object we will take the whole national and international finance system (the economy) down with us.”

And the idea that we have to retain or hire back many of the same people who led us into this mess because, well hold your nose, but they are the only folks with the knowledge to save us, should be seen as complete nonsense on its face. Aren’t a lot of financial types unemployed at the moment?

As for Mr. Gibson who likes to look down over his reading glasses at us, he is not really a journalist as much as an actor and news reader, but to the extent he considers himself a journalist, he is a prime reason why the best journalists may not be in the jet set. You have to retain some connection with the citizenry. You have to retain some empathy for those who toil for modest salaries, but make up the broad audience upon whom you draw your whole reason for being.

And now for a further indignity, my president is appearing on the Tonight Show with comedian Jay Leno. While candidates as far back as Richard Nixon in 1968 have appeared on non news and non-serious TV shows (Laugh In for Nixon), I believe this is the first time a sitting president has done so.

Somehow I think such an appearance is beneath the dignity of the office. And it’s a sad state of affairs when we may well get more answers from a comedian than the show biz folks who call themselves broadcast journalists these days.

Back to the bailouts: let’s pay down that national debt and if we must do extraordinary spending (and borrowing) let’s have the government buy up toxic assets for pennies on the dollar directly. It would be far cheaper in the long run than being suckered into sending the dollars to the crooks who took us all for a ride in the first place. (And I don’t discount greed of the victims in all of this, but I do put the heaviest burden of blame on those who had the knowledge and along with it the public trust as their positions dictated – from politicians to high financiers.)

While government is a necessary part of the framework and an arbiter of disputes and must be the watchdog over the financial and whole economic system, I am believing more than ever it should not try to run the economy or businesses any more than it should run the lives of individuals. And in return, we should only ask the government for help in things such as natural emergencies. Of course we depend upon government to provide for the national defense too.

In our representative democracy we can provide for our own social programs, to include a social safety net and Social Security, and even health benefits, as the majority sees fit, but overall we must protect the right to succeed and the right to fail (and the second part is a necessary evil because if nothing else logic demands an opposite condition and failure can be instructive).

Although it does not apply to me, I have always liked the quote: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and I’d choose rich every time.”

P.s.

So, am I turning into a Republican? I would hope not. In fact, that will never happen. I may lean a little Libertarian at times, but as I have written before in this blog space, most of the professed Libertarians I have ever met seemed a tad eccentric and some a little off their rockers. I might be a bit of the former, but hopefully not the latter.

(Copyright 2009)


Doddering Dodd does AIG bidding…

March 19, 2009

I just read the story on CNN online and if I got it correctly Sen. Chris Dodd, doddering old fool that he is, yes the Dodd that got the special mortgage deal for himself, now owns up to introducing language in a bill to protect the AIG bonuses, after denying such earlier this week. He said he did so at the urging of the Obama administration. How many thousands of dollars did AIG send his way? Answer: $104,000 (that was the most recently reported amount).

Ironically, Dodd was claims he was trying to eliminate all bonuses made possible by government bailout money, but was forced by the powers that be (administration, financial lobby) to acquiesce to a grandfathering in of some bonuses.

Meanwhile President Obama — also an AIG recipient — says he is hot on the tails of the bonus crowd, but also that we should not get carried away with the bonus issue.

While I agree that the main issue is to fix the economy, this bonus thing cannnot conveniently be swept under the rug. It’s too late for that.

Just went to the library today and read some of the Wall Street Journal. I read one piece in particular in the opinion section. Now I was not sure what the author’s main point was, but what I did get out of it was that with all the money we have poured down the rat hole trying to prop up AIG and the big banks, we could have paid off all the toxic debts.

While I doubt the WSJ would go for this, I’m beginning to wonder if all that bailout money could have as well gone to citizens to help them pay off their own debts.

I am still trying to keep faith with Obama, but he needs to get ahead of this thing before it runs him over!

(Copyright 2009)


I must make a million or the world stops!!!

March 18, 2009

So average blog reader out there, what do you make for a living? If you’re like a lot of average working people across the nation, who knows? $20,000 per year, $40,000? $50,000? Far less?

The point is all this crap about million dollar bonuses that must be paid or the whole world falls apart its just that, crap!

But what if AIG failed? Please, let it do so and now. We can’t afford to keep it afloat.

The sky will not fall over that, I guarantee you. Someone else will fill the void. Bankruptcy or similar proceedings can settle the debts. In fact, the quicker these insolvencies are resolved through bankruptcy, the better off we will all be, except perhaps for the thieves who basically stole the money in the first place. And I’m not sure but what many of them will get off scot free and live to rob another day.

And the rightful question from John Q. Public is: “where’s my bailout?” and the answer is, “we don’t have one for you, but there always is bankruptcy court (although the rules were changed some time ago to make it tougher for individuals – thanks to our ever friendly business lobby).

To those of you who are angry over all of this: show your anger by keeping the pressure on your lawmakers and the president with those e-mails. The best thing we could do at this point is vote all of them, each and everyone of them, out next time.

Read your news, follow the money. AIG was an equal opportunity contributor to Democrats and Republicans. It paid off for AIG. But the public is catching wind of it now, and the wind does not smell good!

(Copyright 2009)