new presidency & economy editorials

New Beginnings

Editorial by Bea Garth, copyright 2008

Wow! As my friend Arlene might say and did in a recent post to me and others concerning her experience of participating in a huge phone bank this last weekend for Barack Obama. Its hard to believe, but as we all now know, Obama is now our President Elect!

Seeing him walk up onto the stage in Chicago was spellbinding. Hearing him talk about the challenges we are all facing as well as the historic importance of this election felt uplifting. His running mate Joe Biden then joined him and then Obama’s wife and children and soon the whole crew. They all seemed powerful, full of purpose and delight.  Obama challenged us all to help him, saying that this election really is about us after all. I am hoping the country is ready. I have a feeling we are simply because we need to be if nothing else!

As Obama said, there is much to do. Dealing with the financial crisis will be first on the agenda. I am hoping that as president-elect he and some of  his new team will participate in the world summit on the economic crisis that the Bush administration is calling together.

We as members of the public need to be aware of the stakes at hand. So far it is my understanding that in Europe the various bank bail outs has come with governmental voting rights as well as a goodly ownership of the banks in question.  In contrast, President Bush’s minion Paulson is basically giving our money away. Here he set up a meeting with nine major U.S. banks. Over lunch he set it up that our bailout monies to them will only give us a 5% governmental ownership and no voting rights for the same amount of money that the European governments are getting 15% for. This is a completely outrageous giveaway to these rogue banks with all too little return to the taxpayer. By doing this giveaway, Paulson is further destabilizing the world economy since now in Europe the banks there now want the same sweet deal that the banks here are getting. My understanding too is that other U.S. banks are starting to stand in line wanting bail out money even though they aren’t in trouble and don’t need it. And why shouldn’t they — since when would a pig ever want to avoid the trough?

I continue to think that a cap on rising mortgage rates needs to happen as soon as possible. Its a shame this hasn’t yet been done and further has hardly been considered. With it done soon enough we might well have avoided the need for these bail outs entirely.

I am glad that that Obama won since he seems very open to listening to the concerns of the common person versus McCain who does not seem to have much true understanding of the complexity of this or other issues we are facing. Further it seems like Obama has rightly recognized mortgages as being a basic problem that needs to be addressed one way or another as well as the need for oversight even though he did support the bail-out.

It is my belief that we as members of the public need to make our concerns and ideas known to the new Obama team as well as our various representatives now even more than ever while the new administration is being organized and important decisions about the world economic situation are being discussed. It is clear that our representatives in general won’t get it unless we let them know how we think and feel since they are otherwise still too easily influenced by big business and in this case the world of big banks and errant venture capitalism. It is in fact a little horrifying that the Bush administration is orchestrating this economic summit that will help govern our resources this coming year (if not for years).

As Barack Obama implied, we truly have the opportunity to remake ourselves. This is the beginning of a new chapter in our history. It won’t be an easy time, however it should be an exciting one if enough of us decide to participate in remaking the world for the better. We really don’t have that much of a choice–since it really is sink or swim. Not only for the economy but also the environment…but that’s a topic for another post later on…

Thoughts On The Eve Of The Presidential Election

by Bea Garth

copyright 2008

Its been a while since I have entered anything here. Life has been so very busy for me of late while the world at large seems to be in more turmoil than ever. The presidential election November fourth is almost here. What sort of choices will we as a nation in these United States make? Its for once seen as a very big deal by almost everyone. Will we have McCain or Obama? It will be a momentous choice symbolically if nothing else;  style does seem to matter as we discovered these last eight years with President Bush. It is doubtful that a Democratic president would have done things with quite the same cavalier style that Bush did even though a Democrat might have also gotten us into trouble in the Middle East.

In my own opinion, although there aren’t as many substantial differences between McCain and Obama as I might like, Obama seems like someone I could trust more. He seems more diplomatic and not so quick to jump to hasty decisions as McCain might. I also like the symbolism of a new America in Obama’s vigorous youthfulness as well as the fact he would be our first black president. Further he seems to have the real ability to inspire; an attribute in the coming times not to be sneezed at.

However if McCain wins, it won’t be the end of the world either. He does bring more experience than Obama and says he would have Democrats serving in his administration. Of course if what he means is Joe Lieberman Democrats, that isn’t all that reassuring… I think a McCain administration would be more difficult for the country overall but less difficult for some businesses — especially since a $250,000 business isn’t that big in the large scale of things. Its too bad Obama didn’t raise the ceiling on that to say $500,000. Nevertheless, I am not impressed with McCain’s professed enthusiasm for “alternative energy” wherein he wants to add almost 50 new nuclear reactors. Nor do I like his enthusiasm for war or his simplified methods at looking at how to cut back expenditures.

Meanwhile both candidates supported the Bail-out. Neither seem overly anxious to comment on the current situation where the big banks are taking the money and giving it to their CEO’s and stock holders rather than the little guy. It seems to be a situation mirroring what happened in Japan in the early nineties when their mortgages went belly up and then their banks were likewise bailed out – the bailouts was going into a big black hole as far as the person on the street was concerned. Japan is finally doing a little better economically after all these years, but only middling so. The current financial meltdown caused by failing mortgage market in the U.S. can’t be helping Japan these days either meanwhile…

Here in the U.S. I worry about how people are going to be able to go to school or pay for visits to the hospital not to speak of jobs, housing, the elderly etc.

On the bright side, I am glad we have mass transit initiative for fast rail between LA and San Francisco on our ballot here in California. I hope it passes. It could create new jobs as well as save energy and give us a quick way to commute between these two large centers of culture and economics in California.

Meanwhile I am hoping a lot of people continue to be aware of the folly of the huge financial pay-out to big corporate America while the rest of America (and the world) suffers. We are paying through the nose from what sources? And when exactly will it end? Eventually I fear we may end up much like early Continental America where it took a barrel full of dollars to pay for a loaf of bread. “It’s not worth a Continental” was the saying at the time. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to the current dollar bill. With these huge payouts and then the concomitant hording by the banks, it could well lead to that. We need to make sure oversight is initiated and carried out with consequences. Anything less is unacceptable.

We have strange and dramatic times ahead folks. Its not fare for the faint hearted. We have the striking opportunity to really change the world we live in for the better simply because if we don’t it will get worse. Kind of sink or swim. I am praying we all choose to swim, or at least enough of us do to make a difference. The high interest in and participation in the national election gives me hope that more people are getting aroused to take civic action. This is all to the good. We still can influence the world around us if we continue to choose to make a difference. The election will just be the beginning. The style of that participation and discourse will be influenced by whether its Obama or McCain, but the necessity for continued civic interest and action will be there no matter who wins or loses.

Bail out–Alternatives:

Editorial Opinion,

September 30, 2008

It seems to me that there might be other better solutions than just bailing out Wall Street businesses that have engaged in risky financial ventures the last several years to the tune of scare tactics and $700 billion after already soaking the American people by creating an economy based on belief rather than on true economics.

I think that the U.S. government could  directly address the spiraling problem of ever higher mortgages by putting a ceiling on mortgage hikes much like the ceiling that was put on rent hikes during the Carter Administration. This would cost the taxpayer nothing yet could help many as well as help our economy over all. In addition our government could help out small businesses and homeowners to get loans by establishing some kind of program for this. This would cost money, however it would be far less than a bail out of failed venture capitalists despite their veneer of running old investment firms. Face it, they have acted like a bunch of Pirates and should pay for their misdeeds.

I personally think this  plan to soak the American tax-payer one more time before Bush leaves office is shameful. Leave it to the eleventh hour and give us a faulty ultimatum in effect saying do this or die.  He is pushing his point implying there are no other alternatives.  Obviously there are or I wouldn’t so easily be able to think of a couple — as I just listed above.  The difference I think is that I am thinking (as many of the general public are) of the good of the people, whereas Bush and his cronies are looking out for their good buds on Wall Street.

I think many of us smell a rat though it looks like Bush’s shady plans may pass through Congress despite a good third of the public’s objections, with another third undecided. Unfortunately McCain and Obama aren’t listening to the general public and instead are buying  Bush and Paulson’s scare tactics since they too have deep pockets lined by  Wall Street! The fact is is that its unlikely that $700 billion is enough to save failing Wall Street companies. Other more sensible solutions are needed. However, there is nothing like a dose of good old reality heading our way to convince the politicians to duck and cover rather than respond with creative intelligence.

It will be interesting to see what transpires.  Will Pandora’s Box open? Is it already? Can anything be done?  Can this crazy plan of Paulson’s and a few of the leaders in Congress patched together over the weekend actually work? Not likely  say a majority of professional economists.  The bail out just isn’t big enough. What is an unimaginable aomount of money to the country is a drop in the bucket for Wall Street. Of course the professional economists weren’t consulted. This is the land of the Mad Hatter which unfortunately may well get worse.  To top it off the various TV pundits act like a week is a long time to consider such a matter. All I can suggest is to breathe and pray and send those emails to your congress man or woman to put a stop to this madness–if it isn’t already too late.

I also suggest it might be prudent to repeat those suggestions I made above or suggest something of your own (by the way, I’d love to hear what those alternative ideas might be). It is my belief that there are more realistic solutions than spending $700 billion without any time to really consider how such a huge expenditure might be done or even if it really is needed!

—–Bea Garth, editor

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