A New Age For Politics

Now I am pretty upfront that I’m not exactly an Obama fan-girl (skeptic would probably be the best descriptor) but I’m starting to come around to actually liking the guy a little bit. In fact Obama fan-girls/boys still irritate me and bring out the “devil’s advocate” voice in me all the time. But I have to say I am a fan of some of the things that are happening. One very trivial example would be not wearing coats in the oval office. While it may be a trivial example I think it just shows a President who is a little more relaxed with formalities and more interested in doing what’s best for the country and you don’t have to be in a full suit & tie to do it. I’m not saying wear jeans to work but loosening up a bit is not a bad thing, in my opinion.

Not to mention there has been much progress in the past week or so. I am pleased.

So Thursday morning I was reading this lovely article about how Wall St has been freely giving away bonuses this year despite the fact that they cannot stay out of water without tax-payer dollars bailing them out. And I was just lamenting to a friend about how I wish someone would say something to those people in finance who believe they deserve a bonus for actually making their companies fail because quite frankly, I’d say the opposite is true. These are the same people that got unreasonably large bonuses for doing things that we have found to be completely unethical and made of naught. The money just wasn’t there and they made it up, so why should they be rewarded for this? I cannot explain how pleased I was to read this article later that afternoon which appeared in this morning’s paper. I am really glad that President Obama is actually taking a hard stance on this, granted I wanted a little more brimstone and fire a la Maureen Dowd but you know, I’m still happy that he is showing his displeasure.

Perhaps I will end up actually liking Obama I do really like some of the new moves that Obama is making even if I am not (and am determined never to be) a “fan-girl”. I certainly reserve that fundamentally American right to criticize our politicians but I have to say I think this is a great start to what I hope is a new era in politics.

The Unemployment Debate

I have always thought of myself as a rather drastically liberal person who believes in social responsibility which also goes hand in hand with hard work. But very recently I was called conservative and judgemental in the same sentence. Typically it wouldn’t bother me but the reasoning behind it bothered me so much that I have been thinking about it all week.

Let me backtrack a bit, this all stemmed from someone I know who is reapplying for unemployment. Now, I do believe that there should be a safety net out there for people who lose their jobs. I believe that they shouldn’t be left hung out to dry because of the economy or the fact that it can take a few months to find employment again. I get that, I really do. But this person has maxed out the terms of unemployment and reapplying for an extension without even looking or wanting to look for a job. I am just flabbergasted at this phenomenon. I have met some conservatives who always tell me when I speak about how I am a proponent for welfare, umemployment, social security, and quite frankly most social services that all these people are just free-loading off of our hard work. Up until this point I had never met anyone that I felt was doing anything close to that, so I never took it all that seriously. But now I don’t necessarily know how I feel about the whole unemployment system and I have to say that I really do not appreciate people who abuse the system. Because I have friends that due to the failing economy or other unfortunate circumstances have lost their jobs and they are working extremely hard every single day to find a new one. They are not happily collecting unemployment they are just thankful that they have it so that they aren’t on the street with nowhere to go. And I am glad that unemployment exists so that they are relatively safe and stable until they can find another job.

What really strikes me is the fact that a person can say that they don’t particularly want to look for a job because they would rather “enjoy life” and then talk about how they don’t have enough money to do fun things that they want to and yet still continue to be unemployed. I mean I understand that working is not always fun. In fact it often sucks (for lack of a better word). But, in my opinion, we all have to do it in order to survive. Working is simply a part of life and it is up to you to find some form of employment that suits you. I mean I’m not in love with my current job (although, I have been lucky enough to have had work experiences that I love) so I know that I am working towards having enough experience and education to move to something better at some point. It doesn’t have to be immediate but I know that I have the ability to control my work environment to a certain extent. It does not excuse me from having a job. And society does not “owe you” the money to exist when you are not contributing anything back to society. And I don’t think that is a conservative view point. In fact it is the basis for social responsibility.

Being liberal isn’t about giving away free hand-outs, it is about helping those who are less fortunate who need the help to get to where they need/want to go. It is about being socially aware and trying to think of what’s best for the entire community, not thinking only of oneself (in fact, I believe that’s where being conservative comes in). When one takes advantage of the system it’s just being on the other side of the conservative coin, except that you believe someone else should be paying for you to do whatever you want. I mean it sortof reminds me of Donald Trump who believes that he should be able to get out of his massive loan from Deustche Bank to build Trump Tower in Chicago because of the real estate crisis but he won’t let those home-buyers who bought those condos at outrageous prices out of their mortgages with him. I mean does that strike anyone else as just a little self serving? Because that’s the way it seems to me. And honestly, shouldn’t Trump have enough money to cover the costs for such an ambitious project anyway, he sure acts like he should.

I digress, the point being, I do believe in having an unemployment system. And yes, I will admit there are flaws that are not easily rectified. In fact, they may never be rectified and while I do not appreciate people who cannot be bothered to get a job I still believe that the system is necessary for those who are not abusing the system. For those people who truly need it to get back on their feet and who use it as such. I think that the selfishness of a few should not make us so close-minded that we forget the great benefit it gives to so many. If nothing else at least we all have the security of knowing that should we lose our jobs to this fantastic economy that we won’t be immediately out on the street.

Losing Our Morals One Dollar At A Time

It seems to me that this economy is nothing but a product of sheer greed. What has always baffled me are the pay scales for people in different industries. I mean, in the banks people make millions of dollars in bonuses for what exactly? I would like to know why those executives make approx 100x what the lowest paid employee makes. Perhaps I believe too much in equality but I really think that’s a huge problem. When you have no clue what your actions effects are on the general populous and you no longer know how “normal” people live.

Not to mention our law-makers. It’s not just Wall St that let things go haywire, it’s our politicians too. Who quite frankly are totally out of touch with reality. I mean I’d really like to know who thinks that a salary of $169K+ is the salary of any average American (if you don’t believe me here are the links for actual figures for the House and Senate). I believe statistically speaking the average household income in America is approximately $50K, so why is it that our law-makers who are supposed to “be in touch with the pain and reality of regular Americans” make 3x as much as the average American? Not to mention, I don’t know about y’all but I am still a small fry so I only get 2 weeks of vacation but you know congress took 5 weeks just this summer when the housing market was crashing and the auto industry was in distress. Not to mention the fact that they will have government health care benefits for the rest of their lives for themselves and their families if they have served in office for 5 years. I ask you, how many corporate employers would do that? In fact, does the government even do that for any other employees? I know for a fact that isn’t true for teachers, so why are our policy makers so different? What exactly gives them all these rights and benefits when I’m not seeing a return on our hard-earned tax dollars. Sure, I’m upset with the banks. No, I don’t believe that their executives should be making the kind of money that they have been for the past I don’t even know how long, but at least that is their own private wealth that they can choose to dole out howsoever they see fit. (At least that was the case until the bailout and I believe there are no bonuses this year so at least there is *some* change in that field). Congress, on the other hand, is benefiting from *our* tax dollars. I mean the general public is expected to be able to balance our own budgets and live within our means but what about you? What right did Congress have to give themselves these raises? (They give themselves a raise every year, how generous right?) Have they truly made enough progress for us to think they are so above the rest of us? Quite frankly the way things are going, I’d say most of them deserve to lose their jobs *and* their benefits as is what would happen in the private sector if they did such a piss poor job as they’ve been doing for the last 8 years.

Granted I also believe that Wall St became too greedy and too loose with their money and with the government supporting their every move it’s hard to want to pull back. I mean why be smart when you could be getting an incredible bonus. You’ll have the money and will probably be gone by the time the whole thing goes bust, right? So who needs to be responsible. And Paul Krugman wrote a great piece on The Madoff Economy where he talks about what happened with the salaries. I think he makes some great points. I just wonder why no one ever considered him for a position in the White House considering he did just win the Nobel Prize and he has been writing insightful pieces for the NY Times for years now. Perhaps he wasn’t interested but I’m sure there would have been rumors if he had ever been considered and I find it quite distressing that he wasn’t. In fact I find a lot of the appointments to be less-than stellar. I mean it’s just a new set of characters from Wall St isn’t it? Instead of Hank Paulson we have Tim Geithner who headed up the NY Fed. Great let’s put more people who were involved in this giant mess into positions of power. Not to mention Larry Summers, why that man should be allowed anywhere after his Harvard fiasco is beyond me. And I mean let’s face it he’s the one that went along with Alan Greenspan back in the Clinton days and clearly that was not a good choice. But oh, I forgot we’re not allowed to criticize our new fabulous President-Elect because he is, of course, Prince Charming and will save us all. (And yes I am *still* licking my wounds that Hillary is only Secretary of State and not our first female President, not just because she’s a woman but because I still think she is the better candidate even if I have resigned myself to being satisfied with the lesser of two mediocre candidates.)

Is America Becoming Socialist?

Because that’s certainly what it feels like at least from *all* the socialized losses that we seem to be picking up these days. What I want to know is where are the benefits for the majority of Americans? Surely there has to be something more in it for the average person to be picking up over a trillion dollars worth of bad business. At the rate that we are handing out money to corporations I really do hope that someone is going to be held accountable because I find it absolutely unacceptable that there are many executives that have truly made a giant mess of things and yet are still being paid in the millions.

Perhaps I just don’t understand capitalism but I was always under the impression that should you run your business poorly, it will go under and you will “lose your shirt”, but clearly we no longer believe in that. As it is being proven by the fact that we are now bailing out the automakers along with Wall St. Who else are we going to take on as charity cases? I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop. For all these years we have criticized and absolutely down-played the need for any socialist tendencies, yet now, now we are essentially taking from the poor and giving handouts to the rich who have managed to mismanage their money. (Sure, I know I’m exaggerating a bit but if you really do take an overly simplistic view that is exactly what is going on.)

So I hope that the new administration does not forget that this is not a socialist country. And until the base standard of living can come up to some sort of reasonable standard, such as universal health care and an appropriate minimum wage and appropriate taxes on the wealthy to compensate for such things, I would hope that the government can control themselves as to just how sorry they feel for those poor, poor corporations that have managed to go astray.

Alan Greenspan & the Credit Crisis

So I was just reading this article yesterday on the way to work and I was really surprised by what I was reading. Granted for the better half Greenspan’s term as head of the Fed I was still a kid and had a shady understanding of politics let alone how the economy was run. Now, that I’ve grown up I do like to try to understand economics a little bit but I’ll certainly admit that my understanding is still rather foggy.

What troubles me about this article and the way the economy has been going is that it seems that we have completely forgotten about why there were so many regulations on banks in the first place. I know that we have new financial instruments and that in theory the market will regulate itself and so we do not need to have regulations in place. But it seems to me that this follows the same path as much of Marxist philosophy.

Should we believe the best in people then communism/socialism would work beautifully because everyone would be living equally and all contributing to society. Now in real life, that is not the case. For one, many people believe that they deserve a bigger piece of the proverbial pie than everyone else, which is why capitalism exists. For two, there are people who are leeches on society who choose not to work (yes, they actually choose not to work… trust me I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes). So while I am a big proponent of socialism, I just do not think it is possible implement well in a pure sense. Therefore we have to work around human nature.

In the same sense the financial markets should regulate themselves and should those people working in the financial markets never take higher than necessary risks or advertise falsely then we’d be great. Essentially if we could eliminate greed then it’d be perfect. But let’s face it, why do most people work on Wall St, I assure you it is not because they are do-gooders and think economics is fascinating, I would hazard a guess that even the most philanthropic Wall Streeters have at least a small greedy streak. If you truly loved the theory of economics I doubt you’d be on Wall St, you’d much more likely be a professor teaching and researching the theories.

That being said, I find it flabbergasting that Greenspan can still support essentially complete deregulation of the financial markets. Especially with financial instruments such as derivatives now being seen as rather controversial as far as deregulation goes. I mean just looking back at history regulations were put in place so that we could avoid the financial catastrophe that is occurring now. I mean just look at what the after effects have done to Iceland.

Another thing I would like to mention is that Greenspan fought for deregulation not for a small period of time but for the entire time he was in office. Granted, I would like to blame this whole thing on the Republicans (being the good little liberal that I am) but it’s not entirely their fault. I will say that they hold a large share of the blame but I don’t see any Democrats that were crying “wolf” when they should have been. We, as a country, were far too greedy for far too long and these are simply the consequences – depressing as they may be. I surely hope that we can finally learn from our mistakes and that the economy will smooth out sooner rather than later.