Can we, as a country, think?

January 1, 2009

“If you can only fight or run away, you have to find something to fight or run away from.” — Bion

That might not be the exact quote, but it is close.

When confronted with a problem, the alcoholic mind responds, “I don’t know about that.” When facing potential shame, it accuses, “If only….” We understand these excuses as from the intoxicated, and dismiss them. When spoken by someone who recovered and was reborn, we try to make sense of them.

Sober thought is not exciting. It does not inflame emotions. It does not run from problems or resort to unproven ideologies.

Our country has spent eight years destroying everything it could. Destruction provides immediate gratification. It requires, often, a refusal to learn and the bully’s fear of the difficult.

Can we tolerate the uncertainty of working toward solutions? Creation is slow and requires knowledge and skill.  Such abilities take time to acquire, and education.


Are we a Christian nation?

December 15, 2008

A Christian nation would minister to the poor, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, and the imprisoned. Its people would love one another other as themselves. It would not put the moneychangers in charge of the temple. Its leaders would seek to rescue the lost and comfort the afflicted. They would be honest and free from spite. They would seek to influence by example, not by force.

Ours is not a Christian nation; it is Caesar’s.

Can we become a Christian nation?

Car companies aren’t banks

December 11, 2008

Car companies need customers. Banks don’t.
Car companies’ customers need money. Banks’ customers don’t.
Car companies have to make cars people want. Banks hope no one wants what they make.
Car companies support millions of main street workers. Banks’ billions support a few wall street “workers.”
Car companies make cars. Banks make money.
The government makes money, not cars.
The government can give money to the banks, but it can’t give cars to the car companies.
The government will give money to the banks, not to the car companies.

Why not bail out the car companies?

December 4, 2008

Let me see if I understand this “bailing out the car companies” problem.

First, full disclosure. I have never owned an American made car. I have driven them in the hopes that I would buy American. But why buy a car with drum brakes, leaf springs, skinny steering wheel, torque steer, column mounted three speed transmission, short lived seats, sagging rocker panels and lousy gas mileage. My current ride is a 2003 VW Passat wagon with 96,000 miles on it. It’s been trouble free, gets over 30 mph on the freeway and over 25 mph in the city. It has some cosmetic damage, but basically still looks new.

The “Big 3,” along with the businesses associated with them, employ one out of ten American workers. They provide their workers with health insurance and retirement plans. They are the second largest contributor to the consumer economy, after housing. For years they have built the cars and trucks Americans wanted to buy. Sure, there was the environmental fringe complaining about the CAFE standards, but it was effectively marginalized by our government.

Now the same people who protected them have turned against them. The people who wrote the laws favoring SUV’s and pickup trucks are now castigating their builders for lack of foresight. Now, with the recession putting the brakes on car sales, the “Big 3” are the bad guys who deserve to fail. How soon do we find scapegoats.

If they go broke, we add 10% to the unemployment rate. All those families lose their health insurance. Who knows what happens to their retirements? A 25 or 38 or 47 billion dollar loan would keep that part of the economy available for when money starts flowing again.

The “financial system,” however, deserves 7 trillion dollars, no strings attached. These are the folks whose contribution to American productivity was to guarantee each other’s incomes. Instead of using their money to provide health insurance to several million people, they put it behind screens and “poof,” it’s gone. If they lose their jobs, they will move to their chateaux on the French Riviera.

Hank Paulson can give $20 billion to Goldman Sachs or whoever during a weekend and nobody makes a peep. The Democratic congress has to spend hours raking auto executives over the coals before telling them to come back with a plan to – do what the environmental fringe has been talking about for years.

This makes no sense.

What if we bailed out … us?

November 30, 2008

According to Bloomberg, November 24, the United States (that would be you and me) is prepared to provide $7.76 trillion to bail out the financial system.

Apparently it needs that money because of something like this: Bank A agreed to pay bank B a lot of money if the loans bank C made went into default. Insurance company D guaranteed the money bank A agreed to pay bank B, for which guarantee bank B agreed to pay company D a premium. Bank C then raised the interest rate on its loans high enough to guarantee that they would go into default. Bank A had told a fib and didn’t have the money to pay bank B, so bank B turned to company D, which had also told a fib because it had used the premiums to send its execs to Barbados so it couldn’t make good on its promise.

You would think that all would be ok if we just bailed out bank C. But no. Bank C and its debtors aren’t the problem. The problem (according to the people with public voices)is banks A and B and company C.

Let me see if I understand this. I buy a house and borrow $250,000 from bank C at 3% interest. After a couple years the interest rate goes to 10% and now I can’t afford the payment. I lose my house. That isn’t a problem. Mr. Lynch bets Mr. Sachs that I will default. Mr. Sachs takes the bet after he gets Mr. Aig to guarantee the bet. When I default Messrs. Lynch, Sachs and Aig look at one another and burst out laughing. None of them really has any money. That is a problem. But they have friends in high places, so they go to some smoke filled room with Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke. Ok, I miswrote. There’s no smoking.

“At the end of the day” (they like that phrase), I am homeless, bank C is a landlord, and Messrs. Lynch, Sachs and Aig pocket $2.58+ triilion each.

BTW. In year 2007 there were 93,197,000 households in the US with incomes less than $100,000 a year. We could have taken that $ 7.76 trillion and bailed them out to the tune of about $83,000 per household. Or, let’s be fair and include the guys in the financial system. There were 116,783,000 households, total. Each one could get between $66,000 and $67,000.

As it is, each household gets to add between $66,000 and $67,000 to its debt.