The problem is really all about how we divide up the fishsticks…

April 24, 2009

While on any given day with all the bad economic news I am prone to think that the situation is hopeless or at least that we will be in this recession (depression?) for a long time, I also realize that the world governments, particularly the richer westernized democratic ones, probably have the power to save us all.

(I know, conservatives will pounce on this and remind me that “government is not the answer”.  And as a middle-of-the-roader I will remind them back that no government or anarchy is not the answer either. We can maintain our freedom and at the same time cooperate with each other through government to maintain some type of order.)

Overall there is no shortage of food and we have not destroyed our planet yet (the fact that Eskimos in Alaska are being flooded out due to a melting of the polar ice cap notwithstanding)  and there is no shortage of work to be done. And as far as a lack of money or too much money owed, one must keep in mind that there is no intrinsic value in money, especially since paper money or computer accounts do not represent some specified amount of, say gold.

In an introduction to economics class I took we had a text that used hard-to-understand economic terms but also had simplistic but probably quite accurate explanations as well. It gave a little illustrative story about the nature of money. As I recall, it basically told of an island (this is fictional, of course) where the natives traded fish as money and then moved on to trading fish sticks because they were easier to handle and could be stored over time. The king kept the fish sticks in his bank, but then there was a fire and all the fish sticks were destroyed and all the islanders were in a panic because they thought they were all broke. But the king said not to worry because he would issue paper representing fishsticks and they could trade back and forth just as before and that he would by his authority guarantee the soundness of the paper fishstick currency (this is my recollection of what I read in Economics, the Science fo Common Sense, by Elbert V. Bowden, copyright 1977).

As I have blogged previously, I along with a lot of others grew up hearing and reading that a government could not successfully simply just print money based on nothing. It had, for example, been tried by Germany in the 1930s and failed miserably with a haus frau having to push a wheelbarrow full of marks to the bakery to buy a loaf of bread. In more recent times, people in Zimbabwe had to hand over millions of their equivalent of dollars to buy a loaf of bread.

But today in the United States of America our government is essentially printing make believe money which represents no more than the full faith and credit of the USA. And people still want dollars.

Part of the value of our dollars is based on money our government is borrowing from countries such as China and then giving it to the Federal Reserve to in turn give it to the banks who in turn loan it to businesses (or are supposed to).

I realize that anyone who is learned in economics realizes that I am already in way over my head here, but if you can show me how I am wrong, go ahead and comment at the end of this blog.

But really money is not bars of gold or silver or fish sticks, it has become a device we use as kind of tickets or coupons to divide and share our resources. In our semi-capitalist society we operate on the notion that the dividing is not done necessarily on an equal basis but a basis determined on what we do for each other. If you can do more for others than the next guy you have created more value and you get more coupons or tickets or dollars. But in our benevolence we also dole out fishstick paper to those who may not be able, temporarily or permanently, to put forth effort to create value.

If ever there was a pure dog-eat-dog capitalist society with no social safeguards or socialist type policies we have not had one in the USA since the at least Great Depression of the 1930s.

With Republican rule we did our best to move away from too much socialism (maybe) and promote more capitalism, but strangely it ended with Republican President George W. Bush unexpectedly in a financial panic moving our government to some form of what looked like national socialism (not completely unlike the Nazis if the 1930s, as far as the relationship between the government and big business).

And now the Democratic President Barack Obama has taken it a step further, essentially nationalizing the banking industry and the domestic automakers (minus Ford so far).

Some ultra conservatives might want to go back to a system in which some men simply put in a day’s work for a day’s pay and others who had saved up capital lived off the profits of their businesses and the interest they made on their capital and where for those who because of lack of talent or health could not make it depended upon the charity of churches and family.

And I am not going to say that what I just described in the previous paragraph is completely undesirable, but I will say that society seems to have decided long ago that it was not completely comfortable with that approach.

What we have in the USA now is basically an economic system based on capitalism but with some elements of some form of socialism, and we have a democratic republic for a government that incorporates some socialism, especially in terms of an economic safety net.

Right now our system has been severely damaged and we are trying to fix it. I think we can because in the end it is always a cooperative effort and I think that even if we disagree wildly with each other on the finer points of how our system should work, we have thus far agreed on preserving our nation and the ideals of individualism and freedom of expression and freedom of the pursuit to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Now if we could just figure out how to divide up the fishsticks….


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High interest can be good, old adages apply

December 19, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


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.

Waiting for Obama; give me the simple life…

November 17, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I’m kind of in a malaise what with the election over and just sitting around waiting for Obama.

Yes, he was elected to be the next president of the United States, but meanwhile he has no actual authority, while our current president George W. Bush has little authority either being the lamest of lame ducks one could imagine. I suppose he does have enough time left to create some mischief.

It’s not that I am waiting for Barack Obama to do anything in particular, I just think it would be nice to see a president do something besides make awful and ill considered decisions on the use of our military and act as if we were the only country in the world that mattered. Sure we all want to feel pride in our own country and we certainly don’t want outsiders dictating to us what to do, but I think we are better than what we have gone through these past eight years.

Strangely, I don’t think Obama is planning to do much of anything different that Bush would have done in Iraq. It seems that the Bush administration was already trying to ease its way out of Iraq, if ever so slowly. I actually agree that time tables are a bad idea, although, in reality the Bush administration set them, just not in concrete, using the euphemism of “time horizons”. And I believe Obama plans to withdraw troops as quickly as possible (probably quicker than Bush would have and certainly quicker than John McCain would have), but he is leaving some wiggle room should matters on the ground change significantly for the worse.

And I hate to admit it, but if things eventually work out in Iraq to our favor, W. might go down in history with more favor than it now appears — he was steadfast in the face of adversity, in the face of negative public opinion, instead of just ignorant and stubborn. The fact remains as a nation we violated our own principles and possibly international law – something we only follow when it is in our own interests (or do we ever?).

I did appreciate Obama’s clear statement on 60 Minutes Sunday that he would end our use of torture. I heard a retired Army general from World War II on C-Span tell of how we caught an important Japanese agent and did not torture him and got lots of invaluable information from him nonetheless. Of course I have to think that back then we were fortunate to have a statesman at the helm and generals and admirals who believed in duty, honor, country (to include preserving our moral stature) over just escaping with a good retirement (and I am not so ignorant that I have not heard that there were some limited atrocities committed on our part, but they were not secret policy as now).

Afghanistan? Who knows? Seems like we will end up brokering with factions of the enemy and buying our way out (with our own funny money?) and maybe not until there is a whole lot more loss of life.

The economy? We certainly tried to hang on to the old economic model where we were in charge as long as we could, but I fear it has slipped out of our grasp. And that does not stop the rest of the world from blaming us on what is shaping up to be the second Great World Wide Depression in half a century. I almost have to agree with the hard-line fundamentalist free marketers who say we just have to let the free market sort things out and not let the government or governments run things (apparently a lot of free marketers, a lot of Republicans in fact, have been panicked out of their laissez faire attitudes). However to alleviate great suffering and possibly to prevent rebellion of the masses, we probably have to have a rather massive intervention by the government. But simply throwing money at something does not make it work. Didn’t we bail out Chrysler a few decades ago? What happened?

I really think if I had life to do over again (and I don’t) I’d be a conservative Republican and concentrate on making as much wealth for me and my family as I could, but not really for self-aggrandizement, but instead protection.

If not wealthy, I think I would have liked to have had a self-sufficient kind of farm or acreage where I grew my own food (to include a hog or two and chickens for eggs, maybe a milk cow).

One thing that has never appealed to me is communal life. Never had any desire whatsoever to live on a commune while I toil and others sit in the shade (and I don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid either), and with all due respect Mr. Obama, even though I am happy you won, I don’t want to “share the wealth”, although I think they took your quote slightly out of context.

I had a great uncle of French descent (he died before I was born), who was a small (both in stature and land) independent farmer in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He believed I am told that a farmer should do his own work and not hire many people. But he was a big believer of cooperative undertakings such as the public irrigation district of which his farm was part and public schools, sitting on the local school board himself.

And now I’ll go off into one of my stories – My dad always used to tell me that my great uncle and others on that country school district board back in the earlier part of the 20th Century would pitch in themselves when something needed to be fixed at the schoolhouse. Fast forward to the latter part of the 20th Century and as a reporter for a newspaper I was covering a meeting of a rural one-school school district in Tulare County, Ca. The Superintendent-principal was giving his report and noted the drinking fountain was on the fritz again. “I’ll get down there tomorrow and fix it,” one of the farmer-school board members commented. If that had been the city’s school district it would have taken a funding request and negotiation with the union to get the job done.

There’s certainly something to be said for the simplicity of the old ways. But lest you think that I’m stuck with some notion that we can all return to some bucolic paradise, that same rural school district where the farmer-school trustee was ready and willing to fix the drinking fountain had its problems. One errant kid lit a match to the school and several classrooms burned down one weekend. And this wasn’t rural North Dakota, so their student body had a fairly good cross section of society. Then again, although as I recall they went through normal channels to rebuild, they did get right to it and they also caught and dealt with the culprit (through juvenile court I think) with dispatch.

I’m trying to make this thing fit together somehow. I think our current economic problems may force our nation as a whole into more practicality – that could be a good thing.

Economic crisis: thanks we needed that…

October 24, 2008


(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

As painful and scary as it is, I think that the current economic crisis we are going through in the United States is a healthy thing (as to the world-wide situation, well, that’s their problem).

Collectively as a nation we’ve been living on borrowed time or borrowed money for too long and the chickens have finally come home to roost.

You know things are bad in my local area when the home foreclosures have skyrocketed, they are starting to build smaller homes – when they build them – and the contractors are going before the city council to get public funds to build low-cost housing. That last one mystifies me. If the homes are lower cost, why do they need public funds? I mean if they are cheaper to build, why do they need help? And don’t tell me it’s the cost of union labor. Home builders to my knowledge don’t use union labor in this area, for the most part, at least. There’s a lot of “Joe the Plumber” entrepreneurs no license required types around here. There’s also a lot of under-the-table work in the best why should I pay taxes Republican tradition. Of course these same folks are quick to sign up for public assistance when they get hurt or run out of work. The underground economy is no secret here. It’s been covered in the news over the years.

But back to the economic crisis. My way of looking at it is this: maybe living on credit and living beyond one’s means is not the way to do things, even though the powers that be have encouraged us all to this very thing. And maybe an economy, nationwide, that is focused more on handling imports and the so-called service sector and delivering pizzas to one another leaves us all kind of empty.

To be sure, there are a lot of folks out there who have been prudent with their money, worked hard, and now are being made to feel some of the bad effects of the nation’s profligate and imprudent ways. While things are bad all over, it is particularly unfair to those people.

While credit at some level is apparently a necessary and integral part of our capitalist economic system, I think the idea that everyone lives on plastic was always a bad one. Consumer credit is what makes things cost so much. When businesses know that their customers can charge it, they charge more for the products and services they sell. They, the sellers, know they get paid up front, and then it is someone else’s problem to collect later. And even with all the home foreclosures and the mounting credit defaults, banks are still mass mailing credit cards, no questions asked. We get them at our house and even get calls from banks wanting to offer higher credit limits (apparently they are working on either no information or bad information).

One major problem is that there is no consistent and comprehensive program to teach basic consumer finance in the schools. I have a BA degree and never once, kindergarten through senior in college, took a basic consumer finance course. I did take a consumer law business course, but it had little about basic consumer finance. And the Bank of America did pass out bank books when I was in first grade, but no one explained what they were all about. That would have been a good start, though, and if they don’t still do that, they should, and get the schools to provide instruction assistance to the program.

And don’t get me started on what the public schools don’t teach. What they don’t teach, or at least not well enough, are the basics of reading and writing and arithmetic. That’s why the state four-year colleges in California have to send many of their students to remedial classes at the junior colleges.

Computers and technology are an essential part of life now. But we still need to get back to the basics, both in education and in our economy.

In a nation as geographically large as ours, with as many people, and as many natural resources as we have, there is no reason that we should not be a leader in manufacturing and producing everything from food to basic durable goods, to high tech, and of course we will have a service sector to support all of this.

It makes no sense to waste our resources and to have the government (read taxpayers) be forced to pay a substantial portion of the population to do nothing. We actually wind up importing workers, legally and not legally, and outsource work.

A nation with a strong manufacturing base can support all of its citizens, to include the sick and disabled and aged, defend itself, and not be dependent upon other nations for capital and the reduction in its own sovereignty that comes along with being a debtor nation.

The best days are truly ahead of us. And they can get under way with either John McCain or Barack Obama, but it looks like Obama is to be the one, “that one”, as McCain would say.

We’ve been reduced to such a wretched state with the poor leadership from both major political parties over the past several decades that we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of adopting socialist-like state-run economic measures. This may or may not work in the short term.

History shows such measures don’t work in the long term.


I believe in reasonable controls on the economy that would seek to prevent the excesses that have occurred. And I support some type of universal health care for reasons I have stated in previous blogs. Health care no matter which way it is delivered is expensive. It needs to be delivered in the most efficient and equitable matter available. But leaving a large portion of working people and others out because they can’t afford health care is certainly not equitable and is not the way to achieve efficiency. One of the problems is that universal health care is often wrongly tagged as “free health care”. We all should invest, but that investment should pay us back in the form of security that would free all of us who are able to be productive members of society. And for those of us who are disabled, have some compassion. And don’t count me out. I may come back yet (and I am still paying on private insurance at the moment (won’t be able to soon), so that ought to make all of you die-hard Republicans happy).

Conservatives create their own monster…

October 11, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Intellectual conservatives may finally be realizing that they created a monster when they let the conservative movement be taken over by the anti-intellectuals.

Christopher Buckley, the son of the late William F. Buckley Jr., has endorsed Barack Obama, dropping the support he once gave to John McCain. He says McCain is not the man he used to be, that the campaign has changed him and that he is now snarly and mean spirited and worse yet, he chose the decidedly unintellectual Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

I don’t know much about this Buckley. He describes himself as a Libertarian, according to the Washington Post. But his father was certainly the epitome of intellectual conservatism.

It seems that the intellectual conservatives who have not come out against McCain are not saying anything good about him and are decidedly upset over Palin.

And here’s something to really be scared about for everyone. It seems that in making personal attacks against Obama, McCain and Palin have whipped the reactionary element in society into such a frenzy that they may have created a monster. Folks are hinting at or outright threatening violence toward Obama. It is plain to see that it isn’t only politics it’s race. And apparently not just anti-black. One woman at a rally said she was against Obama because she heard he was a an Arab (maybe like the black Othello in Shakespeare, described as a the Moor). I saw a man trembling at a McCain rally and angrily saying that the “socialists (and he might has well have said Bolsheviks) … are taking over …” Another man angrily expressed dismay and disbelief that Obama could be ahead in the race. Apparently he thought the Republican by law has to win. And there has been anger directed at the “media”. I would not attempt to argue whether the “media” is always as objective as it should be, but I will say this. I think a lot of folks, especially reactionary conservatives, think that the role of journalists is to be a cheerleader for whomever or whatever issue they, the listening or reading public, are supporting at the time. But using that point of view, then I guess if I was a farmer and I needed to know whether a storm might be brewing that could ruin my harvest, I would only listen to the weatherman who predicted good weather. But back to my story. The same McCain who questioned Obama’s character now tries to calm the crowd conceding that Obama is worthy to be president, but adding that he, McCain, is the better choice, but McCain’s own crowds boo him for this (I’m not sure who they dislike more, their own candidate or Obama).

I might be off base a little, but I see a connection with what happened in Nazi Germany. Hitler, not an educated man himself, whipped up the masses with super nationalism coupled with prejudice against the Jews and the idea of race superiority. The wealthy and intellectuals went along with him – after all he gave an outlet for the anger of the hungry masses and he was not communist – even though they had contempt for Hitler.

Today’s conservative intelligentsia have read their history or some of the older ones have lived through it, and they don’t want to see that happen again.

Not only do they not like the tone their conservative movement has taken, more than that they are worried about their money. Even though conservatives are supposed to be good with money – prudent investors, free market, low taxes and all – they’re worried about what is happening to their own fortunes, or at least their 401(k)s, under the non-intellectual conservative George W. Bush.

They see a decidedly more educated man and much more thoughtful person in Obama than the present occupant of the White House.

Personally, while I think Obama without a doubt looks to be the better pick and that Palin is out of the question, I am not one hundred percent sold on Obama. But what choice is there?

There is fear in the land and there is resentment in the land. People realize that Wall Street can and will take everyone down with them. And some accuse the public itself of culpability by living beyond its means via credit. Strangely, after 9/11 the public wasn’t urged to sacrifice in the so-called war on terror, no rationing was imposed, it wasn’t urged to grow victory gardens, no, the commander in chief himself, “W”, urged everyone to “go shopping.”

Today, facing possibly the biggest economic crisis in our history or even in the world’s history, we no longer have so much money to go shopping, especially food shopping, and a victory garden would come in handy right now.

Economic Pearl Harbor hits U.S.!!!!!

September 24, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

This is the most momentous and dramitic thing to happen in my 59 years, with all due respect to the memories of those who lost their lives or were wounded in Korea and  Vietnam and 9/11 and the Middle East, and to the memory of John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King and whomever.

But with Barack Obama calling for both he and John McCain to make a joint statement on the economic crisis this morning and McCain perhaps cynically one-upping him by going on national television to say he is suspending his campaign and going back to Washington and urging Obama to return too and with the president set to make a statement this evening, this is big.

McCain wants to back out of the debate Friday. I am thinking it should take place, but it should be on the economy not foreign policy.

I understand Warren Buffet has called this an economic or financial “Peal Harbor” for the U.S.

Everyone with any authority is warning that if something is not done soon, everything goes down the tubes, from the high flyers on Wall Street (who cares?) to the person working on Main Street.

Meanwhile, at least up until now, the American public is reportedly against the rescue-bailout of Wall Street ($1 trillion price tag give or take a billion or so).

I will blog more, probably not till after the president’s address, except to possibly update this blog.

Bailouts: part of me wants to say Hell No!!!!!!

September 22, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

As the late Sen. Everett Dirksen supposedly said, a few hundred billion dollars here and a few hundred billion dollars there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

It just keeps getting worse. Now the Bush administration, I understand, has expanded the financial industry rescue plan from having the taxpayers take on bad debts from the mortgage industry to taking on bad debts elsewhere. I don’t know why the $700 billion figure is used, because the $1 trillion figure or something above that is probably more accurate, from most of what I have read. Besides, it’s all meaningless because those in charge admit they don’t know the real cost or even if it will work.

Part of me wants to say “Hell No! (Wall Street) you pay for it! Are you going to pay my debts?!” Answer: “no.”

The reason the Bush administration is expanding the the Wall Street rescue plan becomes clear in a line out of a story in the New York Times Business section: “Even as policy makers worked on details … Wall Street began looking at ways to profit from it.”

Methinks the rest of us may be getting ripped off. What do you think? 

I also just read an article on Bloomberg News in which some expert in the field said that when Japan suffered a major decline in real estate many years ago, the government did similar things as we are embarked upon now and it did not work. Banks took the money from the government and then hoarded it and they’ve had problems ever since.

And I also read that in an emergency move late Sunday, the Federal Reserve has granted permission to the nation’s two remaining investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, to become bank holding companies. Both institutions had been in danger of failing. Their new status will allow them to create new banks and give them access to capital from bank deposits. That new status, though, puts them under much tighter restrictions, I read in the New York Times.

Hopefully, those who are really working on this thing, such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, know what they are doing. We know that Mr. MBA George W. doesn’t. As far as I know, Bush never ran a successful business in his life. His family does have a successful business. It’s called influence peddling. Both he and his father built their careers not on their business acumen and not so much on their political acumen (although, I guess they have it), but on their ability to get people to support them because they knew that Bush and Son could help them out from the White House.

….Caught Barack Obama and John McCain interviews on 60 Minutes’ first new fall show. The interviews made both of them look good. But, of course, those of us who pay attention (such as the readers of this blog) know more about them. McCain is in the uncomfortable position of being the Republican candidate for president and having to admit that the Republicans who have held the office for the last eight years have, well, screwed up. But he would be different, he says. McCain has that edginess too. When he’s happy and smiling, he seems nice – but he’s always ready to go the other way, I am beginning to see (others have seen it and experienced it I am told).

Obama, meanwhile, sits there smiling and all calm, cool, and collected and reasonable, but ready to defend his position when need be.

Obama wants to wind up the war in Iraq as soon as possible and claimed that the Iraqis were not doing their part (I’m sure he said that) and shift the emphasis to Afghanistan and would not be reluctant to strike in Pakistan if that is where the enemy is hiding (we are already doing this).

Both men said Iran having a nuclear bomb is unacceptable.

But McCain again gave the indication that he is itching to militarily strike Iran. And we know from recent history that if a president is predisposed to send the military somewhere that is what will happen.

I’m making a prediction that if McCain is elected, Iran will be bombed (maybe it needs to be; I don’t know for sure).

If Obama is elected, that seems less likely, although not nearly out of the question.

War won’t stop no matter who is elected, although we wouldn’t always have to take part in it.

The economy can only be fixed by those who take part in it over the long haul.

Who knows? We might actually as a nation try to live within our means. And we might actually look inward and remember charity begins at home.

Let’s hope debates clear the air…

September 16, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Really the only hope we have as a nation at this point is that the voters watch the upcoming debates and make an intelligent decision. Now I’ve made my feelings known about who should win the election, but my concern is that whomever wins, the decision will have been made objectively and with critical thinking (well, because then the better man should win).

It’s hard to believe that Sarah Palin can still stick to a tigtly-scripted speech with proven falsehoods, some of which she has even previously acknowledged. How’s that for cynical?.

Monday was the worst day on Wall Street since 9/11.

John McCain’s attitude amid all this is that the “economy is fundamentally sound” with just some oversight and reforms needed. I don’t think so.

Investment firms and banks are failing right and left. Right now the fallout from the immediate crisis is primarily affecting professional investors, but that already is changing. At least according to what I am hearing and reading, this thing has implications that will affect virtually each and every one of us directly, via such things as higher unemployment, an overall lack of capital, losses in retirement funds and personal investment portfolios, and lower tax revenues to fund the services our society depends upon.

Echoing commentator Jack Cafferty, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said: “a lot of people have their life’s savings at stake” (do you know where your 401K is invested?).

It seems incredible now that the Democrats (even if they didn’t have an economic plan, and I’m not saying they don’t) could fail to win back the White House.

It would have to take a severe amount of cynicism among voters toward the Democratic Party or a leap of faith that the Republicans who have presided over the bankrupting of a nation can be trusted to reform themselves. (Then again, one candidate has a different appearance than the majority of the voters and an unfortunate middle name for the times).

A lack of regulation, the result of the Republican administration, and probably the previous Democratic administration, and the abandonment of sound investment principles in the market, combined with the humongous expenditures for George W. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, have worked together to put us in the most dire financial crisis this nation has faced since the Great Depression.

I didn’t get his name, but a commentator on CNBC said that the U.S. went to war and financed the effort by borrowing money and said “a flood of liquidity and lax regulation” in the market is how the government and the Fed kept the economy afloat. Unfortunately the war has driven oil prices up, $25 per barrel pre-war to a high of nearly $150 per barrel over this past summer. Oil traded at $95.71 per barrel on Monday.

And our modern economy is highly oil dependent. That dependence on expensive foreign oil added to dangerous and fraudulent investment practices has led us to where we are today.

The current projected cost of the Iraq War is $3 trillion, rivaling the cost, in inflation adjusted dollars, of World War II.

I have to wonder why with so many financial pundits and gurus in the popular media, more did not see this coming. It’s probably because the mix of commercialism and news and information is an incestuous relationship in which there are certain things one does not say.

At this point I think Barack Obama should keep reminding voters he is not of the party that has held the White House for the past eight years and that he would effect change and put oversight and regulation back into the market place and reduce military expenditures by avoiding armed conflict where possible and using military force more prudently. If we totally bankrupt ourselves, we will not be able to defend ourselves.

Now personally I don’t believe in the concept of “taxing the rich” or sticking it to the middle class, for that sake. A fair and equitable tax code is what we need. From the charts I’ve seen, McCain’s tax plan primarily favors high earners (with some relief for some others) and Obama’s favors middle to lower income voters. But those are only proposals that would still have to wend their way through congress, and by that time, who knows where things would be? We do know that McCain favors preserving the Bush tax cuts for the more wealthy taxpayers (even though he once opposed it, I understand, on the grounds that it was detrimental to war funding — the need to appease the right wing, who seem to prefer obligating the public to pay interest on a mounting national debt to taxing, forced him to change his mind, apparently).

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a national sales tax (excluding only food) to replace the income tax. But I think the vested interests, including supposedly anti-tax conservatives, would have too much to lose in the convoluted system we have now that has so many loopholes.

While I think Obama should win this one on principle, along with just plain common sense by the voters, I’m afraid that racism and a no-nothing attitude by some voters may conspire to defeat him, if only ever so narrowly.

As one self-described black woman e-mailed in to CNN: “If a white man were running against John McCain it would be all over.”