Bogus e-mail, Pakistan, life near bottom…

October 1, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Right off the bat I want to get something out of the way that’s been bothering me. During last Friday’s McCain-Obama debate, John McCain said or indicated in a statement that Barack Obama did not go to Afghanistan (in was in reference to Obama’s remarks that more emphasis was needed in the war in that country.) I had thought he did go and checked back and yes he did. But I read through a fact check on the debate and it did not mention that misstatement. Various outlets have put out fact checks on the debate and they are fascinating in that both candidates made several misstatements or mischaracterizations (or lied). And, by the way, that thing McCain said about Obama not going to Afghanistan was in a transcript and it is how I remember hearing him.

This whole thing reminds me of a forwarded e-mail I received from, well I won’t name the source to save the embarrassment. The forwarded e-mail purported to be from a soldier in Afghanistan. The person who forwarded the e-mail said she received it from that soldier in Afghanistan, a friend. The gist of the e-mail was that Obama landed there but only swooped by the troops in his motorcade, met with the brass, and left, thereby snubbing the troops. Well a website that calls itself fact check says that e-mail is basically bogus and apparently is one of those mass mailers sent out by the opposition to smear a candidate. According to the fact check, it was written by an Army officer who has since said he lied and only meant it to be a personal e-mail (I guess if it is personal it is okay to lie) and was deeply embarrassed that it was disseminated so widely. Well, I still don’t know what really happened but it appears that a lot of those e-mails were sent out under the guise of being personal e-mails from friend to friend, but were more like gossip, spreading rumors if you will, an apparent McCain campaign dirty trick (and maybe Obama’s campaign does the same. I don’t know).

I had indicated in an earlier blog that I might go into more detail about the debate, but I got caught up in writing so much about the Wall Street bailout fiasco. And I was disappointed in the lack of substance in that debate and then doubly disappointed to realize how much untruth took place on both sides.

But here’s something. They kept arguing back and forth about whether we should go into Pakistan to chase the enemy. Actually, the way I hear it from what they say is that both candidates think we should, but McCain doesn’t think we should publicly state it because Pakistan is our ally. Well let’s tackle this by the numbers: 1. Too late. We already are going in there with at least commando raids and some overflight. So I think the cat is out of the bag. It’s no secret to neither the Pakistanis nor the enemy. In fact, the Pakistanis have been firing at us. With friends like them, do we need enemies? 2. The Bush administration has publicly admitted it. 3. McCain himself agreed we need to do it, he just said we should not state it outright (we already have, sorry). 4. Today (well Tuesday) on TV the CIA director said that the enemy is running all of its operations out of Pakistan (seems to me Pakistan either helps us and gives us access or we go to war with them too, and if you read my blogs you know I am no war hawk, but if you are going to fight, take it to the enemy and win). 5. Sarah Palin keeps saying we need to go into Pakistan (and so does Obama, and really so does McCain, so I come full circle with the conclusion that McCain is double talking, wonders of wonders).

… They say it’s not really a proposed bailout for Wall Street, that $700 billion. It’s an economic rescue plan. But I say if it looks like a duck and if it quacks like a duck and if it walks like a duck, it is a duck.

They also say that the credit market has dried up. I doubt it. The cost of money is no doubt up. But if folks need credit, the folks with money are always glad to lend it – at a price.

One story on the nightly news told of a small businessman who could not get the usual loan to buy supplies. But he was able to secure a loan from his customers who needed what he produced. On the larger scale that probably does not work. But the point is, life goes go on. If products and services are needed they will be produced.

Another point. All my life I have heard about the needs of the rich and the middle class and the poor. But there are no clear delineations of these classes. But I think there is something called lower (and maybe lower lower) middle class or even working poor. I’m not proud to admit it, but I have probably been in the lower middle class or working poor most of my life.

Let me tell you, while I believe that folks from all classes make major contributions to our society, it is this class, the lower middle class or working poor, who does so much of the work, helps make others wealthy, helps the poor (out of taxes if nothing else), and gets little in return. We are in the embarrassing position of being looked down on by those above us for working hard, but not smart and by many of those on the dole for working at all.

Sometimes one gets a break. My last job promised to pull me up to at least lower middle class, but alas I got cancer. Now my health insurance will run out. But the Republicans say that universal health care is too expensive.

To that, considering all the work I put in over the years and all of the taxes I paid, my little contribution to the economy, I say, “you’re welcome!”


Bail fail, VP debate, rebuilding America…

September 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Could this be the beginning of another Great Depression? The $700 Billion Wall Street bailout bill went down to defeat today in the House of Representatives and stocks plunged and there have been bank failures across the globe just preceding this. Apparently there will be no more action on this until tomorrow and maybe not even till Thursday.

My last blog was headlined: Democracy altered bailout, can it kill it? Guess I got my answer. Actually it was democracy and politics. No one wants to take the blame; everyone wants the credit, and there is no way to know what will happen if the bailout (or rescue)  ultimately passes or fails. Leadership is needed, but who can lead?

That was a new lead and now back to my blog as written hours earlier:

The bailout bill is said to be posted on the House Financial Services Committee website, and I know it is posted elsewhere on the web, along with summaries or news stories about it. I only quickly read over a summary on the LA Times site and listened to reports on TV.

As it now stands, the $700 billion would not all be allocated all at once. In some cases the government would buy up bad assets and in some investors would purchase government underwritten insurance on questionable assets. There are also provisions for the government to gain an equity stake in companies benefitting from the program in order that if the market turns around the government can actually make money on the deal. There are also to be curbs on executive pay for firms that take part. All that was from a summary I read in the LA Times.

…. It looks like the upcoming vice presidential debate on Thursday promises to be more exciting than the presidential candidate one this past Friday. How Sarah Palin could possibly stand up to Joe Biden is a wonder to me, but then again, I am often surprised at the outcomes of things (like that borefest last Friday). But let’s pray that Sarah does surprise us all. We can’t afford even the possibility that she would become president some day if her past performance, especially before Katie Couric, is any example of her knowledge and abilities. Just poor Sarah’s luck that Katie would finally start acting like a news person again and she, Sarah, was her first victim. I don’t care for Mrs. Palin’s politics. I think, however, she is a well meaning person catapulted into something that is way out of her league. It’s a little sad, and a lot embarrassing. The word is that she is sequestered down at the McCain Sedona spread in Arizona cramming for the big test. My guess is that she will bend pre-programmed talking points into an answer for each question whether it fits or not. 

… Something strangely left out of Friday’s foreign policy debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was what is going on down Venezuela way. Russian war ships are set to exercise with that country’s navy in November and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez claims his country may work on a nuclear power deal with Russia. As I wrote in a previous blog, that would have been a cause for alarm and amounted to a threat to start World War III back in the Cold War days, i.e. , the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 60s. And what about the Monroe Doctrine?

… And back to the economic thing. From what I am reading I do see the signs that life in America is not going to be the same with or without the latest bailout bill. My hope is that while there could be some discomfort it will serve as a kind of catharsis and then we will forge ahead with a new and more prudent but still vibrant way of doing business that will eventually lead to a new prosperity.

We really need to find some way to declare victory in the Middle East and come home.

Four thousand plus dead, thousands more wounded, and as much as a trillion dollars invested so far to help nations that fight internally among one another instead of working together to be free. And Iraq keeps its oil money and forces us to spend our own treasure. In my opinion we should get the oil revenues because we invested in it with our money and blood.

There was no reason to go into Iraq other than the oil. And as far as Afghanistan goes, why do we have to send a whole army to get one man? Originally we went into Afghanistan because they apparently were harboring Osama bin Laden, the admitted master mind of 9/11. It seemed as if Iraq had essentially by its actions put itself at a state of war with us. But after all this time it seems foolish to use an army to hunt one elusive man. Everyone knows that we are trying to create by blood sweat and tears a Middle East that is friendly to us. It’s not worth it.

Some say it is better to fight “them” over there than to fight “them” here. I don’t know. I think we need to rebuild our own country and that we are running out of money to fight “them” over there. I say let’s put our resources into the job that needs to be done at home and by God if “they” want to fight us here we’ll be ready.


Warrior McCain on his game (I thought)…

September 27, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

I just got finished watching the first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

My immediate reaction is that on substance it was a draw.

On style, I give it to John McCain. And that is not to say I support him. In fact I have not.

Also that is not to say that I did not think Obama handled it well. He did a good job and made his points, but so did McCain.

And one thing I noticed is that as a listener you get caught up in the yes I did, no you didn’t conflict and you have no way to instantly verify the truth of what each man said.

McCain never stumbled, except maybe once on the name of Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad — and who wouldn’t? And even then he made a mocking gesture, as if he did it on purpose out of his own rightful disdain for that crazy and dangerous man, and as is his style, he was to the point, he was blunt, and he was confident (well maybe arrogant is a better word).

I don’t recall that Obama stumbled, necessarily, but he did seem to be on the ropes momentarily a few times.

The startling thing about it all was, in my view, that for the most part both men seem to basically agree, with their only differences at times being in how to arrive at something, if that makes sense.

Although the debate was officially on foreign policy, about the first half was on economic policy, which moderator Jim Lehrer said fit, because he said that the debate was on “foreign policy and national security” and that economic policy was part of national security.

Neither man would commit to whether he supported a particular version of the $700 Billion Wall Street rescue plan. Both agreed that a plan must include help for those on Main Street as well as Wall Street and that Wall Street executives should not be rewarded for their failures with bonuses after getting government help when they were the ones who made the disastrous investment decisions in the first place.

In talking military issues, McCain took advantage of the fact that he is a veteran and was much older and even bragged that he was much wiser. At one point toward the end, he charged that Obama was not up to handling things. In fact, on foreign policy, McCain was outright condescending many times, even though, both men seemed to agree for the most part.

The debate was contentious at moments, but for the most part civil.

And now my wife comes in and tells me that the television commentators were amazed at how knowledgeable McCain showed he was in foreign affairs, names, places, people (just think how Sarah Palin would have done – it’s scary). I think going in, although it was expected McCain might have some advantage on foreign affairs, it was thought that he was not going to be a good debater.

Well that was wrong. He made his points forcefully and well.

McCain in what I thought was reminiscent of Richard Nixon said something to the effect that under his leadership we would have, well I wrote down his exact words, he said about Iraq: “We will come home with victory and honor.” I recall that Nixon always said we would only have “peace with honor” in Vietnam. Interestingly, McCain poignantly noted that he had seen “an army in defeat” in Vietnam (he of course was a POW and Navy flier) and that he would not let that happen again.

Obama called for more attention to the war in Afghanistan.

I’m not going to go over the debate point by point here.

But now that I have written this much, I think I will say I kind of went into watching the debate thinking and hoping Obama would, well, clean McCain’s clock. He didn’t. McCain was prepared.

Here’s another thing, toward the end, McCain assured listeners that he “loves” veterans and they know “I will take care of them.” ( Now I have read where he has voted against some veterans benefits. One time he said he voted against a bill because it would have given too much incentive for military personnel to leave the service with the war still in progress.)

Obama was at his weakest – my opinion – in his closing. He told of his father from Kenya, the father from whom he got his name. Hey it’s a good story, but this is America and I am sorry, although we embrace the melting pot, you just don’t talk about places such as Kenya and mention you have a strange sounding last name (he already spends a lot of time convincing folks he’s not Muslim) when you’re running for president of the United States (and my apologies to the good people of Kenya).

One more thing, with the present financial uncertainty, I looked for Obama to throw a knock-out punch, since a lot of what has happened has been the result of activities on the Republican watch (McCain Republican, Obama Democrat). But that did not happen. McCain deflected the blows quite effectively by criticizing the current president, George W. Bush, and others. In an oft repeated line by McCain, he said: “The Republicans came to Washington to change government, and government changed them” (He’s a maverick, he says). McCain criticized both Republicans and Democrats and Obama included for massive over spending. McCain even said he’d reduce defense spending by cutting out what I recall him referring to as “cost plus” projects, giving an example of one I think in which he said started out as $4 million but wound of being $40 million or was in $400 million, well you get the idea.

Leher forced Obama into a kind of admission that he would not be able to enact all the social programs or reforms he might want to because of the current economic crises, but Obama noted that the important thing is that he has a priority for them as money permits, nonetheless.

Typically McCain accused Obama of wanting to raise taxes and Obama in turn accused McCain of wanting to cut taxes on the rich. And we all know that Republicans typically want to cut taxes on the wealthier folks and Democrats see the need for taxes to finance what people want government to do.

Okay, even though I am not a McCain fan, I am going to go out on a limb and say that he won the debate (even though the two basically agreed on things, except for the basic difference between Republicans and Democrats on taxing the so-called wealthy).

P.s. Now my wife comes in and tells me that the instant polling is giving the win to Obama. Well, that’s good, I guess, but I also guess I don’t see things the way others do. Or it could be the public wants change and came ready to listen to the new guy. Works for me.

P.s. P.s.  And another thing, Obama at least eight times (according to a New York Times count, and I thought it was more) said “John (McCain) you’re right,” maybe not such a good rhetorical device in a debate, unless followed by some ironic point, and they weren’t. I think the McCain ads are already out with Obama admitting (seemingly) that McCain was right.


Mr. Wall Street: ‘Your money or your life!’

September 26, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

The word this morning is that John McCain will take part in the debate this evening and apparently those pushing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill are hell bent on getting it done today (tonight).

 I find myself in the strange position of being on the side of those House Republicans who yesterday were holding out for some different type of bill that would use private money (government guarateed, I guess) instead of the straight bailout. I don’t know what the status of all that is now and whether they were sincere or just making a show for the folks back home who are skeptical.

I thought the political cartoon in my local newspaper this morning said it all: A big fat cat Wall Street tycoon was sitting up against a wall and begging to a little older couple with a sign that reads: “Please get me out of debt, or I’ll be forced to ruin us all.” The little slender old man is standing there with his hands in his pockets while the wife hands the sobbing tycoon some cash from her purse. I think we are all asked to be that lady.

It is hard to swallow that a whole society can be dependent upon those who borrow and leverage and borrow on what they borrowed and leverage and anyway, make money on money they never had in the first place (and pardon me if I don’t tell this is strict or correct financial language, I’m a layman).

Perhaps as a society it is our collective fault for not paying enough attention to the inner workings of our economy and letting ourselves be misled by leaders who don’t understand it themselves and that goes for those in both major parties.

And I am still scratching my head trying to figure out what the urgency is in this bailout thing. I realize it would not be a good thing to let the financial market go down the tubes in a panic because it thought phony money was not available anymore. But folks, if it is all that bad, we need to fix the system. That should be the urgency, and that may take a little more time.

And by the by, I plan to watch the debate tonight. I think this could be the most important presidential debate that has ever taken place. I plan to blog on it afterwards. And now for anyone who is interested, my previous blog follows:

I now recall seeing an earlier tape – was it Monday? – of Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby asking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake if they had thought of an alternative to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan. I don’t think Paulson answered – he seemed to just sit there bewildered and speechless (maybe he did mumble something), anyway I didn’t think much of it.

But a self-satisfied Shelby, chairman of the senate banking committee, came out of the specially-called Bush meeting Thursday afternoon before anyone else and told reporters: “There’s no deal.”

Where it all stands today, who knows? It’s like a Howie Mandel Deal- No Deal game.

What will Wall Street, picked up Thursday by hopes for a deal, think today?

This $700 Billion giveaway plan for Wall Street is one of the most bizarre, implausible and maybe even frightening turn of events ever. A Republican president proposed to bail out gambling investors on Wall Street, threatening that failure to do so would be the near instant ruination of the whole nation’s economy, with implications world wide.

(No one argues that there is not something terribly wrong right now with the economy. No one, not even the administration, though, is claiming to know exactly how to fix it.  Supposedly, the government might eventually recoup losses – make money, I don’t know – in the plan to buy up bad debt. While the official price tag is put at $700 Billion, the $1 trillion figure is often used, especially when the already-approved bailouts are counted.)

And it gets stranger all the time. Now we have Democrats seemingly pushing for a quick movement on a bill, but one with “safeguards” and help for some distressed homeowners who can’t make their mortgages and provisions to prevent Wall Street executives from getting multi-million dollar perks after receiving tax-payer dollars to bail them out. Some Republicans are on board too, but reportedly some 100 House Republicans are not.

A poll I heard on Thursday said that one third of the voters are against it, one third for it, and one third undecided.

The latest is that the objecting Republicans are proposing that it all go back to the drawing board and that a plan that would use private capital (probably much less than $700 billion), with some government incentives, such as tax breaks, be presented. And actually, that in principle, sounds reasonable to me.

It’s hard to tell what the motivations by the various parties are.

I suppose the original idea just to hand over $700 billion with no questions asked was never popular with most Republicans, let alone Democrats, especially since it was from a Republican president. On the other hand, they might have supported it if they really thought the world would come to an end otherwise. And some Republicans may have deviously thought, well at least it will help business and if the Democrat Barack Obama is elected it will tie his hands somewhat in getting social legislation through.

Then came the outcry from the constituency. Especially staunch conservatives or just citizens with a sense of fair play. You can’t just say when the man on the street makes a poor or unfortunate financial decision that it is his problem, don’t go crying to government, but when Wall Street investors make a bad or a just plain reckless move, the taxpayer must bail them out.

Meantime, Democrats saw the hypocrisy of the bailout and the cost, but thought, oh well, if it must be done let’s at least tack on some programs we want – and that was good politics.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain did not know what to think. But now he seems to be pushing some type of bailout (he was against it before he was for it), what type, we don’t know. And of course, meantime, he has suspended his campaign and threatened not to take part in tonight’s (Friday) presidential debate. Many think this is all a ploy. I suspect for the most part it is. It is a rather weak argument to suggest one cannot run for president and make decisions at the same time. Isn’t that after all, making decisions, pretty much the job of the president? Why even George W. Knows that – “I’m the Decider” (although not-so-much now).

Both presidential candidates were at Thursday’s meeting at the invitation of Bush. Actually McCain apparently was the one who came up with the idea to drop everything and put the debate on hold so he could run back to Washington to play hero (he didn’t seem to get anywhere Thursday). Obama reluctantly agreed. And in a statement late in the day, long after Shelby made his “no deal” announcement, Obama implied that he and McCain due to the politics of the whole thing may have actually been a distraction (of course they are politicians). McCain for his part said he was hopeful something (what?) could be passed soon.

P.S. That Hillary might replace Biden as VP thing I inserted as a new lead in my last blog came out of the Drudge Report (as reported somewhere else) and the report said that while it was just a rumor, the usual myth debunkers, such as Snopes and one the Obama campaign has set up, are neither confirming nor denying it. I usually would not bother with something so thin, but I couldn’t pass it up. It seems plausible (if a little Eagleton-like risky). It’s hard to know where the presidential race stands now with polls contradicting each other. Some say McCain is falling on his face, others say he’s made some crafty or clever moves, such as the suspending campaign move and picking Palin – and then there’s always the race card.  And if Obama says he’s “behind Biden one hundred percent”, don’t quit your day job Joe.


Rumor Only: Hillary might replace Biden…

September 25, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

It’s just a rumor, but the news is that Hillary Clinton might replace Joe Biden on the Obama ticket. And I think that might be the winning ticket. Hillary has one heck of a lot of supporters and women always decide the vote anyway and faced with the choice of Palin or Clinton, c’mon one is steeped in politics at the higher level and one is definitely not. One is progressive and one is regressive. The rumor is that Biden will drop out for health reasons. He already publicly said that Hillary would have been a better choice. Everyone probably thought, well Joe is just running off at the mouth, and maybe so, but maybe there was a message there…..

And now the rest of my blog, which was previously posted:

Despite a massive public outcry against the $700 billion (plus?) Wall Street bailout I read in the news this morning that quick action is expected on it, meaning it will sail through, which would mean that lawmakers and the administration are going one way and the American people the other.

Everything I’ve read and heard in the last 24 hours indicates that public sentiment is against the bailout, although it is too early to know whether Bush’s address had an effect, but it was only good on a quick backgrounder on the problem, with no credible sales job (well except to threaten that the whole economy would fall apart with out it – but why? And couldn’t there be a better and more prudent and more capitalist way of handling things?).

One item I read about it said there is a clause in the proposed Bush bailout bill that gives total authority to the treasury secretary and says it cannot be legally challenged by a court or administrative agency. Well that sounds like a Bush tactic. I don’t see how that can be constitutional, but that has never bothered Bush.

Now he won’t be the executive for long, but he seems to want to get this thing through awful bad. Maybe he and his buddies need the money they lost.

I notice former president Bill Clinton is pushing hard for this bailout too.

And I also have noticed that Bill is not campaigning all that hard for Obama. I watched him the other night on David Letterman and he barely mentioned Obama, except to finally give him the obligatory Democratic endorsement. But He went on and on about what a great man John McCain was and how good of a friend McCain was to Hillary and him. And today I read that he’s gone on TV and said that McCain had good intentions in suspending his campaign and wanting to delay Friday’s debate. I thought that too at first, but quickly saw that it was more of a ploy, a political tactic to steal the show and appear as a statesman. Apparently he can’t vote on the bailout and run for president at the same time.

I also just read an article that says that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation may need $150 Billion due to increased bank failures. The FDIC is of course the entity that insures everyone’s bank account up to $100,000. I would think it would be far more important to refresh that fund than fund the bailout. I realize both can and probably will be done – guess I just don’t understand how the government keeps finding a billion here and a billion there, and you know it all adds up to real money as Dirksen said (or supposedly said).

Much of our money comes from loans from the Chinese. A Reuters news service story today (in the Drudge Report) said that Chinese domestic banks have been ordered by their government not to lend money to U.S. institutions during this economic crisis.

The Bush administration tried to ram the bailout through last weekend, no questions asked, but was unsuccessful.

Now it appears that enough compromises have been made, to include help for homeowners and limits on pay packages of executives whose firms get help, to pursuade reluctant lawmakers.

I definitely think the presidential debate should go on Friday and economic policy should be discussed, possibly with foreign policy, the scheduled topic.

Again, if action on the federal level is needed, I think it should be more cautious.

And isn’t it strange we are already hearing that with this economic crisis some of the hoped for social reforms pushed by Obama may have to be put on hold.

Bush policies (war, bad economics): the gift that keeps on taking!

When the top defenders of the free market suddenly change their tune, it is cause for suspicion.


Elderly McCain unable to multi-task…

September 25, 2008
(Copyright 2008)
The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
John McCain suspended his campaign for president Wednesday to run back to Washington to deal with the economic crisis and said that unless a bailout package was passed before then, he is backing out of the Friday debate with Barack Obama.
He also wants to cancel the Sarah Palin and Joe Biden debate and replace it with Friday’s cancelled debate.
That was the last word I had before blogging this.
Seems as though Mr. McCain is chickening out.

What’s he going to do if he is elected and a crisis comes up, suspend his presidency? That’s what Dave Letterman quipped. McCain cancelled an appearance on his show.

Obama wants to hold the debate. “Presidents should be able to do more than one thing at a time,” he said. (Maybe the elderly McCain cannot multi-task.)

Sarah Palin meanwhile is being kept away from unfriendly media. That is a tactic used by politicians. The Republicans, in particular, have a long record of this. Reporters have complained, though, that Obama is not terribly accessible nowadays either.

The McCain campaign would not let any reporters, friendly or otherwise, near her at her faux foreign policy adventure the other day at the United Nations. One foreign dignitary was quoted as saying: “She’s good looking.”

She is supposed to have chatted up Henry Kissinger and said something to the effect that she would be interested in some of his insights (like what is this whole foreign thing about?).

I blogged the other day that I agreed with Bill Clinton that Obama supporters should not spend time making personal jabs at Palin, but just say they disagree with her. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with pointing out she is afraid to face critical questions and that she might not have the experience or knowledge to be a vice presidential candidate.

President Bush gave what I thought was a rather weak pitch Wednesday evening for the $7 billion Wall Street bailout package. I guess he did say that if it were not passed it would be devastating to the economy, but he was short on proof or specifics of what I understand the administration is trying to sell as a “rescue package.”

If it seems as if there does need to be some government intervention, the plan needs to be worked out carefully, even if it takes some weeks. And why does it have to be so much money up front? Some have suggested that it could be substantially less money, and if the lesser infusion into the economy had positive results, then more could be added. Whatever, it needs to be done right the first time, because we are already suffering from major mistakes. It may be even more costly if we just apply a super expensive band aid but don’t cure the disease. And as one person pointed out to me, there’s an old adage: “people say they don’t have time to do it right, but they have time to do it over.”

Back to the McCain campaign shenanigans. At first Wednesday I thought McCain was just being statesman like and after all this must be a true crisis (and it may be). But then I heard the whole story. Obama called him first and suggested they make a joint statement on the economic crisis. McCain agreed and then no sooner had he got off the telephone than McCain went on National TV and gave his phony statesman announcement. He didn’t mention Obama had called him.

And then this thing about cancelling his appearance at the debate and trying to delay or eliminate the Palin-Biden debate (not sure on details there).

It is absurd that a candidate for president would suspend his campaign over a legislative issue. Excuse me, didn’t they have presidential elections during Word War II?

I understand Bush has invited McCain and Obama and other legislators to the White House to discuss the economic crisis.

I still feel that the bailout-rescue package proponents are using blackmail techniques – pass this without question or the economy disintegrates.

Bush and both candidates do agree there needs to be a bi-partisan approach to this whole thing.

I suggest that both parties do need to get together, take the time they need, and not rush into a major give-away of tax dollars, even if the government might one day profit. No economy run strictly from the coffers of government can work in the long run, at least not the way we as Americans want it to.

What happened to the free market? I told someone earlier that it has taken me nearly all my adult life to even get a handle on economics. This past week has been an excellent real world lesson. But just as I finally think I understand the basics, the proponents of the system want to change the rules.

 

 


Economic Pearl Harbor hits U.S.!!!!!

September 24, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

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.


About Sarah: don’t dis, disagree….

September 24, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Bill Clinton has it 100 percent right this time. He said that Democrats should lay off taking personal jabs at Sarah Palin. They should just say they disagree with her positions.

Then again, once you elevate someone up to the status of  they are worth disagreeing with, you have possibly given them status they don’t deserve. I said that. But, really, strategy wise, Bill has a point.

Also, there is no doubt she has caught the popular imagination as a down home folksy and gutsy woman (if a little vapid at times) who can handle the task given her, by golly.

But again, do we really want her to be (vice) president? (Worse yet, do you want McCain?)

Some folks seemed to think George W. Bush had that down home quality (I never did). Hard to see why. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and is more East Coast than Texas and is just not terribly bright and not terribly articulate, although he has come along well in his speech lessons over these past eight years – still stumbles a little, but much better. But I don’t care for the message.

… Meanwhile, it appears the rescue-bailout plan may not be a done deal, with congress and many voters saying “not so fast.” I know I personally have never gone for the high pressure sale, you have to make a decision now! Why?

And now a report on the network news says that McCain is in the driver’s seat on the rescue package because if he votes against it other Republicans will follow suit and the bill will go down to defeat (ouch! I hate when that happens!). Of course then if the economy goes down the tubes he takes the blame. But McCain is a gambler. I’ll bet he either wants to vote no and look like the hero who stood up not only to his commie captors in Hanoi but to the fat cats on Wall Street, or make a yes vote contingent on some high flyers doing a perp walk (or something tantamount to that). McCain smells blood. An FBI investigation has been announced already.

Obama has little choice but to vote yes, but insist that there is something for the people, mortgage help, etc., in it (well beyond keeping the business machine from collapsing).

And he is probably stuck with his cerebral and cool and just a little insistent pose. I think McCain has the ownership on the I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore stance.

Many of us are basically just watching in wonderment. Should we be mad? Should we be afraid?

And here’s something that bothers me. Why can’t we do this thing from the bottom up. If $700 billion or more can be handed over to Wall Street, why not instead take that same amount of money and use it to help people renegotiate their mortgages, stay in their homes and do the things homeowners do, buy all those consumer goods for the house. That would help more people and would do a far better job to stimulate the economy one would think.

Wall Street’s track record was to invest and reinvest and re-re-invest in real estate, wildly inflating the prices and then the bubble burst.

And now I heard on TV Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson admit that under the terms of the rescue plan foreign banks would be allowed to get American taxpayer money. That in and of itself  seems wrong (even allowing foreigners pump a lot of money into our economy). But I have read that a lot of the capital in the mortgage market came from the Middle East. Those oil rich nations invest in housing here but don’t help their own people. No wonder there is so much unrest in the Middle East.

Oh those Arabs who say they care so much about Palestine. Why don’t they pump money into the Palestinian territory and make it a Garden of Eden that would rival Israel? 

… And another plug for investing domestically into alternative energy. I read about a paper mill in Maine that may go out of business because of the cost of oil. A subsidiary paper plant uses wood debris left over from logging to power itself. But installing that capability at the larger plant is seen as too expensive. But what if the government didn’t pay for that outright but offered an incentive for investment? It would cut down on dependence on foreign oil and save jobs right here at home.

…. Just a thought: during the Bush administration there has been a convenient excuse for Republicans not to support social programs, besides the fact that is not in their nature, there is the costly war thing. Now with the need to spend a trillion dollars or more on corporate welfare, sorry guys just can’t afford all that military action (now of course no one would haggle over war funding if we were actually repelling invaders. Then again, we’d rather fight them over there than here. Maybe we should send up a star ship to mars with troops – the Martians might be plotting against us. Let’s invoke the Bush Doctrine – definition for you Sarah, that means we have a ready excuse to go to war anywhere anytime).

There’s a popular saying:

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

That’s catchy, but I’d transpose it, you might say:

“If you’re part of the problem, you’re not part of the solution.”

Okay, what I mean is that it is hard to believe that the folks who got us into this financial crisis, at least some of them, are now the ones who are working on this historic, earth shattering plan for the U.S. government to gobble up untold Wall Street bad debts, to the tune of $1 trillion or more (first it was $500 billion, then 700 billion, and some suggest $1 trillion, which may include the most recent bailouts or may be beyond that – I really can’t keep track).

So virtually all of the players in this rescue scheme took part directly or were closely associated with the modern financial activity that got us into this mess. It all has to do with ever more clever and complex ways to slice and dice securities, especially mortgage securities, in order to sell and resell and sell and resell, and that’s all well and good until something happens to put a monkey wrench in to the works, such as adjustable rate mortgages adjusting too high and spikes in the cost of living and unemployment and finally foreclosures when the person at the bottom doesn’t pay. That triggers a chain reaction that in the past week or so has threatened to bring our whole economy down and even the world’s economy down, since everything is interconnected in this grand global market. Gee maybe that’s what they mean by the “new world order.”

All of this is so complex that no one really knows what will or could happen.

So now we know that all those hot-shot money experts that have been barking at us to do this and buy this and so on, are not so smart after all – that is unless some of them are telling us to do one thing but are doing the opposite behind our backs, selling us short, you might say. I wonder sometimes.

I continue to wonder in my non-economic mind what the cost would be to do nothing, to let risk takers lose. Would that be an end to risk takers? No, because there would be even more of a risk and probably more of a gain than bailing everyone out now but instituting even tighter regulation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And in a previous blog I mentioned that you could call all this absorption of losses at public expense a form of socialism, but that it also resembles fascism.

Then I read in the San Francisco Chronicle today a piece that seemed to agree with me, and that always gives me a thrill when someone actually agrees with me or I think of something that someone else was thinking too. And now I can’t find the article…

At any rate, if the government assumes such a large direct stake in the economy as proposed, the action resembles both socialism or communism as practiced by the old Soviet Union with its state-owned and directed economy and fascism as it was practiced under Hitler by the Nazi party in Germany, with the state working hand in hand with business and exerting total control over the economy and the life of everyday individuals. As has been often noted, there is no difference between the far left and the far right, they both seek to use government to control people’s lives. And now I have answered my own earlier question as to how a Republican administration could be in the once inconceivable position of taking over a large part of our economy.

We could do little to nothing, or we could at least take the slow, but sure approach.

Congress has not blinked so far. One senator I saw on C-Span asked for an explanation, saying that he did not understand because he was just an “old dirt farmer.” 

I guess he didn’t want to buy a pig in a poke.


Shouldn’t lend money just to make money…

September 23, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

So I suppose it’s all but a done deal with only some haggling to be done on the details. The federal government will assume a trillion dollars or more worth of bad debt and it will be unfair in that the big shots will be bailed out and the individual will be left to slog it out on his own or actually will do his part to finance the whole thing via taxes and an economy drug down by government debt.

Somehow as unfair and bad as it is, I think the country will get along and it may actually be an opportunity to reassess and get it right.

I know so little about economics it’s not worth me wasting words on this screen, but that won’t stop me.

Just saw former president Bill Clinton on Dave Letterman, and while I will always resent what Mr. Clinton did to bring shame to the cause of good government by his own personal actions, I have to admit he is a highly intelligent and perceptive and articulate person and we would have been no doubt better off if he could have served past a second term.

He said a lot about the economy and gave I think a reasonable explanation of what has gone wrong, and believe it or not he did not do a lot of finger pointing. He did say that the government has to step in but he also called for a program to help stem the tide of foreclosures. He said if that doesn’t happen the problem that caused the collapse of lending markets will persist – people reneging on their mortgages which in turn makes the mortgage-based securities used in the financial trade worthless (now I just kind of paraphrased there and added some elements of what I got in an earlier conversation from someone who understands this all better than I, plus what I have read over the past week).

Clinton, as is his wont, said a lot, but one thing I took away loud and clear, something that has occurred to me before all of this: “we have to quit loaning money just to make more money.”

Clinton said that there was an over investment in real estate. He suggested that government incentives could make other investments, such as so-called “green energy”, attractive and would create jobs that would in turn, among other things, help people buy homes and make good on their mortgages.

And my position is that while the money traders on Wall Street no doubt provide a necessary element in the economy – they help in the free flow of capital – at some point we have to be producing things and employing people in the effort to produce things. We can’t sustain a high standard of living for the broader public on an economy based solely on importing products made elsewhere and low level service jobs to provide comfort for just part of society.

On principle, I am against the bailouts that have taken place. But I am not the one that makes the decisions. I would rather see the nation move forward than come to a standstill and point the fingers of blame. Let’s learn from the mistakes and move on.

There needs to be more regulation on lending and borrowing and financing with complex instruments that may represent no or little real equity.

Above all, there needs to be more savings, and it seems such cannot come about until there is more incentive to save. Lower interest rates may be good for borrowing and business investments, but they don’t provide the motivation to save. On the other hand, if interests rates are too high that stifles business, but the more money folks make on savings the more they are liable to save and the more capital that will be available to borrow, and that in itself brings down interest rates somewhat, almost a vicious cycle to be sure. And that may be why there needs to be sound government involvement to keep things on an as even a keel as possible without upsetting the whole system.

It seems strange that after the tragedy of 9/11 the nation was urged to go out and spend money. Most of that money, due to our import-driven economy, goes overseas. We’d have been better off to put more of that money in savings and investments in our own country. We are now fighting wars in the Middle East and having to buy a huge amount of oil from the Mid East to do that. A lot of that oil money no doubt inadvertently goes to fund the very forces we are fighting. A lot of our money also goes to China, from which we borrow, and to which we pay so much for imports. While we try to maintain good relations with China, it is our main rival in the world today.

In my last blog, I wrote that I was beginning to like Ron Paul’s Libertarian ideas. I do. But I know he is not going to be elected. He’s not even on the ballot. Besides, he’s too old. So is John McCain. In addition, McCain has admitted economics is not his strong point. I fear that anyone he would have advise him would be like the advisers Bush has had, ones who have an agenda, an agenda that is aimed more at their own ability to make money than the overall economic health of the nation.

Barack Obama puts off the aura that says he is intelligent, wants to listen to others, and can reason things out.

I want to think that McCain means well, but he does not inspire the feeling in me that he has the patience or even the ability to weigh the complex issues that the next president faces.

There is a chance that the government will in the end come out ahead in this debt assumption because it would eventually be able to sell off assets after things stabilize. That is hard to get one’s arms around – how you make good on worthless paper.

I’ve always read about how cheap things were in the Great Depression, because since few had money to buy things, demand was low, prices were low.

But I recall the 1970s. Wages for many were stagnant, the whole economy was stagnant. And yet, prices went up and up. It was called “stagflation.” I hope we are not headed for that again, but with the current mess, it seems ever more possible. If markets remain in turmoil the flow of capital will be shut off and without that there will be little business activity and high unemployment. But the cost of things like food and oil, according to current conditions, will continue to rise. Yup, stagflation.

I suppose the cost of doing nothing could be long years of suffering, maybe even a depression bigger than the Great Depression.

Let’s hope the cost of doing something does not cause similar pain.


Wall Street addiction cure: Just say No…

September 22, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Congressmen. Please. Just say no to the bailout of Wall Street.

In my last blog I wrote that part of me wants to just say no to the president’s latest proposal to bail out Wall Street and cost the taxpayers at least a trillion dollars.

Now, less than 24 hours later, I say, all of me wants to say that.

In reality, I do not understand economics or Wall Street ways enough to know for certain what should be done. But common sense (something I have never been accused of having, but I think I really do have, just don’t always use it) tells me that if the free market works, let the free market work. We will need to clamp down with reasonable regulations, ones that we have previously dropped, but there always has to be rules in any game.

Something I just read on another blog went like this: thanks to folks like Sen. Joe Biden, who is I believe beholding to credit card companies and such, it is more difficult for average folks to file bankruptcy. It used to be people would file bankruptcy, but be allowed to keep their house. Now people who can’t file bankruptcy due to tighter rules, just walk away from the house. The result is the plethora of foreclosures which has led to this whole financial crisis.

And John McCain is in tight with all those who pushed for deregulation in the financial sector, which also led to all of this. And Barack Obama was in tight with Fannie Mae, I understand, which was mismanaged and led to all of this.

I am now in the camp of Ron Paul, the Libertarian, masquerading as a Republican. He proposes a real free market economy where capital is generated by savings not phony paper. He also does not think we should be fighting wars of choice.

Now I once blogged that I liked what Libertarians say, but usually they are either eccentric or out and out nutcases. Well, I still think they often come across that way – but they make so much sense.

Ron Paul, of course will not be elected president. I assume either John McCain or Barack Obama will be elected.

I prefer Obama over McCain, but in many respects I think that the two are more alike than they are unalike. The reason I say that is that they are stuck with the conventional thinking, it’s just that one is more aligned with top-down Republicanism and one with bottom-up Democratism.

I heard one congressman this morning on C-Span saying that there should be no rush for the current Wall Street rescue package that the world will not come to an end if they take a week or more. I second that. I would prefer they do nothing and let Wall Street stew in its own juices. And actually I think the big money boys are clever and could pull themselves out of this mess without the help of the government. I’m sure it’s the common folk who will suffer, either way. But if there is to be a rescue plan, take it easy, feel your way through this thing congress.

Another disturbing thing I read today is that regional banks who did not take part in the Wall Street mess are going to suffer because of changes being made, something to do with the elimination of the last two investment banks (turning themselves into bank holding companies). I do not understand this, but that is the way things go. The wrongdoers get rewarded and the right doers suffer.

In summary, I am for doing nothing or very little, and Libertarianism sounds better to me all the time. My one big reservation with Libertarianism is personal, because I soon will be in need of universal health care since I won’t be able to keep paying my private insurance. I know that Libertarians don’t go in for that sort of thing. On the other hand, if the economy were run under Libertarian principles and one adhered to them in his own personal life, one might not be in need of universal health care (and besides, as I also blogged previously, I am not hard and fast on any one ideology, except my belief in representative democracy and our Bill of Rights). I can’t go back in time. And of course I am just writing all of this off the top of my head. But I have lived long enough to see both the Republicans and Democrats at work and the results, and you know, they come up with about the same thing.