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October 08, 2008

The Government We Deserve

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

- Henry Louis Mencken

There have been times, these past few weeks, when I have seriously wondered whether I am dreaming.

If so, the dream has lost its charm and I am long past ready to wake up. By temperment and long habit I have for years steadfastly refused to take the news as seriously as those around me. Perhaps this is a defense mechanism.

Or perhaps, having all my life loved books, I just see the danger of becoming too mired in the quotidian. We are awash in data, force fed disconnected and all too often one sided facts. Yet we are starved for context. In many ways living in the information age renders us little better than over watered plants, slowly drowning in that which ought to nourish and inform us.

We cannot possibly take it all in.

fenwick.jpgIf news is meant to help us make intelligent decisions, to what use have Americans put the constant, annoying drip-drip-drip of gloom and doom, the non-stop whining about the economy which, ever since this author was approximately six months old, gets top billing on the Nightly News?

Like poor Nell Fenwick, the desperately struggling economy wiggles enticingly for our delectation, bound between the Scylla and Charybdis of inflation and unemployment and writhing just enough to reveal a bit of cleavage (So helpful in boosting the ratings! Hopefully this will keep Joe SixPack's wandering fingers off the remote).

Now I am hearing that America is angry. Angry at Wall Street.

Angry at Washington. What an egregious load of horse shit. Once more, what I am about to say will no doubt run counter to most of what you are reading these days. But I am sick at heart - sick for my country and what I see happening to it. I presume some of you have been coming here all these years for a reason. You may or may not agree with me. Quite frankly, that is immaterial. I can't remain silent, even at the risk of angering people.

I am tired of hearing all this populist nonsense about Wall Street vs. Main Street. If you buy into this then you have not paid your attention bill, and you need to take a good, long look in the mirror because there is no division between Wall Street and Main Street. The same kind of self-delusion went on in both places, and if you are one of the ones complaining that you have somehow been sold a bill of goods, let me suggest that you bought into that bill of goods of your own free will.

No one forced you.

I may not be the smartest light bulb in the old knife drawer, but even I understood, back in 1983 when my husband and I purchased our first home on his 1st Lieutenant's salary, the concept of a "housing bubble". 1983 was a long, long time ago. I was a 24 year old housewife with a high school education who didn't even read the newspaper and even I knew that home prices would not continue to rise. I understood this concept.

I also understood that adjustable rate mortgages were risky.

I understood that there was such a thing as a balloon clause. I understood that you needed to be careful, when signing a mortgage, to make sure that you didn't sign a contract that committed you to payments which exceeded 30% of your take home pay. And this was before the Internet. This was not brain surgery. It was what we call "common sense". When people violate it, they are not being "victimized" by "Wall Street". They are avoiding the basic responsibility not to make legally binding promises they lack the intention or ability to fulfill.

When you sign a mortgage contract with a bank, you generally put up your house as collateral. This is because you don't use your own money to pay the builder for something of value - the house. You use the bank's money. But the money you use isn't really the bank's either. It belongs to other depositors - your fellow citizens. You have no "right" to that money, just as you have no "right" to live in a home that you have not paid for.

When I listen, as I did last night, to John McCain and Barack Obama speak of allowing people to stay in "their" homes, I begin to become very, very angry. When I listen to Bill O'Reilly complain that the President of the United States did not get up on national TV and personally advise him not to buy AIG stock, I become very angry.

George W. Bush is not his personal investment banker. Somehow, I think Bill O'Reilly can afford good investment advice. And oh-by-the-way, George Bush warned us 18 times in 2008 alone of the impending problems with Fannie Mae.

George Bush asked for IMMEDIATE action on the bailout to avert a crisis in investor confidence that he told us would spread into a global panic. But the American people, who "know better", rose up in their infinite wisdom and majestic wrath and scotched that horridly excessive 3-page, $700 billion plan in favor of a several hundred, $800+ billion plan that was passed too late to do any good.

But then that is exactly what we were warned about. Once again, the American people took their eye off the ball: it was irrational investor panic that we needed to stop, not handouts to a few corporate CEOs. It was immediate, decisive action that was needed; symbolism, more than anything else, and 700 billion was a drop in the bucket compared to what we are about to deal with because when has the federal government EVER been able to resist reacting to the pain of the electorate?

Answer: never. It was a foregone conclusion that there would be some sort of large scale federal bailout. The only question was, to whom, how much, and would it be in time to do any good? All the dithering did was well and truly scuttle any hope of reacting "in time" and allow Congress to do what it does best: pile on the pork. Those who are angry with Congress may care to consider that Congress listens to their true masters: We the People.

What Congress responded to was a full-scale temper tantrum from a public that understands so little of the fundamentals of this crisis that it blames the party that tried to reform Fannie Mae in 2003 and 2005 and is about to reward the party that blocked reform by voting them into office.

Nice job, and what a recommendation for representative government. Truly, we are about to get the government we deserve. Four years of it, in my estimation.

I felt for John McCain last night, but he could never make the only case against Barack Obama that will stick because I don't think he truly believes it himself. And yet (again) we handed him the nomination. We had a candidate who believed in the right things, but we didn't want him:

... conservative principles are needed now more than ever. We face a new generation of challenges, challenges which threaten our prosperity, our security and our future. I am convinced that unless America changes course, we will become the France of the 21st century—still a great nation, but no longer the leader of the world, no longer the superpower. And to me, that is unthinkable. Simon Peres, in a visit to Boston, was asked what he thought about the war in Iraq. “First,” he said, “I must put something in context. America is unique in the history of the world. In the history of the world, whenever there has been conflict, the nation that wins takes land from the nation that loses. One nation in history, and this during the last century, laid down hundreds of thousands of lives and took no land. No land from Germany, no land from Japan, no land from Korea. America is unique in the sacrifice it has made for liberty, for itself and for freedom loving people around the world.” The best ally peace has ever known, and will ever know, is a strong America!

And that is why we must rise to the occasion, as we have always done before, to confront the challenges ahead. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is the attack on the American culture.

Over the years, my business has taken me to many countries. I have been struck by the enormous differences in the wealth and well-being of people of different nations. I have read a number of scholarly explanations for the disparities. I found the most convincing was that written by David Landes, a professor emeritus from Harvard University. I presume he’s a liberal–I guess that’s redundant. His work traces the coming and going of great civilizations throughout history. After hundreds of pages of analysis, he concludes with this:
If we learn anything from the history of economic development, it is that culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference.

What is it about American culture that has led us to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world? We believe in hard work and education. We love opportunity: almost all of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came here for opportunity—opportunity is in our DNA. Americans love God, and those who don’t have faith, typically believe in something greater than themselves—a “Purpose Driven Life.” And we sacrifice everything we have, even our lives, for our families, our freedoms and our country. The values and beliefs of the free American people are the source of our nation’s strength and they always will be!

The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960’s welfare programs created a culture of poverty. Some think we won that battle when we reformed welfare, but the liberals haven’t given up. At every turn, they try to substitute government largesse for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and to remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever. Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is a culture-killing drug—we have got to fight it like the poison it is!

The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography—even celebration of it—and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare programs have led to today’s grim realities: 68% of African American children are born out-of-wedlock, 45% of Hispanic children, and 25% of White children. How much harder it is for these children to succeed in school—and in life. A nation built on the principles of the founding fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.

The development of a child is enhanced by having a mother and father. Such a family is the ideal for the future of the child and for the strength of a nation. I wonder how it is that unelected judges, like some in my state of Massachusetts, are so unaware of this reality, so oblivious to the millennia of recorded history. It is time for the people of America to fortify marriage through constitutional amendment, so that liberal judges cannot continue to attack it!

Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality. Some reason that culture is merely an accessory to America’s vitality; we know that it is the source of our strength. And we are not dissuaded by the snickers and knowing glances when we stand up for family values, and morality, and culture. We will always be honored to stand on principle and to stand for principle.

The attack on our culture is not our sole challenge. We face economic competition unlike anything we have ever known before. China and Asia are emerging from centuries of poverty. Their people are plentiful, innovative, and ambitious. If we do not change course, Asia or China will pass us by as the economic superpower, just as we passed England and France during the last century. The prosperity and security of our children and grandchildren depend on us.

Our prosperity and security also depend on finally acting to become energy secure. Oil producing states like Russia and Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran are siphoning over $400 billion per year from our economy—that’s almost what we spend annually for defense. It is past time for us to invest in energy technology, nuclear power, clean coal, liquid coal, renewable sources and energy efficiency. America must never be held hostage by the likes of Putin, Chavez, and Ahmendinejad.

And our economy is also burdened by the inexorable ramping of government spending. Don’t focus on the pork alone—even though it is indeed irritating and shameful. Look at the entitlements. `They make up 60% of federal spending today. By the end of the next President’s second term, they will total 70%. Any conservative plan for the future has to include entitlement reform that solves the problem, not just acknowledges it.

Most politicians don’t seem to understand the connection between our ability to compete and our national wealth, and the wealth of our families. They act as if money just happens–that it’s just there. But every dollar represents a good or service produced in the private sector. Depress the private sector and you depress the well-being of Americans.

That’s exactly what happens with high taxes, over-regulation, tort windfalls, mandates, and overfed, over-spending government. Did you see that today, government workers make more money than people who work in the private sector. Can you imagine what happens to an economy where the best opportunities are for bureaucrats?

It’s high time to lower taxes, including corporate taxes, to take a weed-whacker to government regulations, to reform entitlements, and to stand up to the increasingly voracious appetite of the unions in our government!

And finally, let’s consider the greatest challenge facing America—and facing the entire civilized world: the threat of violent, radical Jihad. In one wing of the world of Islam, there is a conviction that all governments should be destroyed and replaced by a religious caliphate. These Jihadists will battle any form of democracy—to them, democracy is blasphemous for it says that citizens, not God shape the law. They find the idea of human equality to be offensive. They hate everything we believe about freedom just as we hate everything they believe about radical Jihad.

To battle this threat, we have sent the most courageous and brave soldiers in the world. But their numbers have been depleted by the Clinton years when troops were reduced by 500,000, when 80 ships were retired from the Navy, and when our human intelligence was slashed by 25%. We were told that we were getting a peace dividend. We got the dividend, but we didn’t get the peace. In the face of evil in radical Jihad and given the inevitable military ambitions of China, we must act to rebuild our military might. Raise military spending to 4% of our GDP, purchase the most modern armament, re-shape our fighting forces for the asymmetric demands we now face, and give the veterans the care they deserve!


Politicians pander because it works. When the electorate is self serving, a certain amount of pandering is necessary in order to appeal to a broad cross section of voters. Politicians feed back to us what we tell them we want to hear, and like it or not, whoever is selected is who the majority of Americans like the best.

It is a sobering thought.

Conservatives have never been terribly good at articulating why our values are better for America. There is only one argument that I think would have resonated with voters on a gut level, and though it is a fairly sophisticated one this credit crunch offered the perfect metaphor to make a complex argument both easy to understand and (for once) non-judgmental. In the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger talks about the concept of moral hazard. It is a catchphrase that ought to be tripping off John McCain's lips more often than the tiresome "my friend", because it offers the key to defeating Barack Obama, whose entire campaign is based on promises that he will be the ultimate Moral Hazard President:


"Moral hazard" is an odd phrase. Its meaning isn't obvious though it does sound like something one ought to avoid. "Moral hazard" dates back hundreds of years in obscurity, but its use eventually settled inside the insurance business in the 19th century. The French call it risque moral.

Back then, it really was taken to mean that reducing risk too much exposed people to the hazard of poor moral judgments. If an insurer charged too little for a policy to replace farms in the English countryside, Farmer Brown might be less careful about cows knocking over oil lamps in the barn.

In time, the economists got their hands on "moral hazard," and the first thing they did was strip out the heavy moral freight to make the concept value-neutral. Now moral hazard became less about judgment and more about the economic "inefficiencies" that occur in riskless environments.

We're back to the original meaning. Losing tons of money for an institution is an economic inefficiency. Lose the nation's financial structure, however, and moral fingers get wagged.

John McCain and Barack Obama are ranting about greed. Congress is taking the air out of golden parachutes. Republicans in Congress are getting pushback from constituents on Main Street who object to "bailing out" banks and what's left of Wall Street.

With so much economic loss and ruin being booked on such a grand scale, it's normal to assign blame. Yes, politics ought to fight its way toward knowing how mortgage-backed securities led to this.

I'm wondering, though, if the U.S. hasn't arrived at a large Pogo Moment. With the greatest financial crisis since the Depression, have we finally met the enemy, and does it turn out that the enemy is us?

For all the wailing about the high price being paid now of ignoring manifest risk beneath the mortgage crisis, are we angry at bad decisions that must never be repeated, or just upset that it all blew up? Because if it's the latter, politicians will try to game the system again to get more risk-free benefits.

Bingo.

Spend a few minutes on Barack Obama's web site, and you'll soon see that pretty much every promise he makes is a promise to mitigate the ordinary risks of going about every day life, to magically wave away the consequences of our freely made decisions. This is what I complained about back in August when Michelle Obama had her patronizing "round table discussions" with military wives - everything from child care to caring for aging parents is suddenly blamed on the war in Iraq and requires the urgent intervention of the federal government. How do these women find child care and care for their parents when their husbands are home? Do these problems magically abate? Do the working wives of civilian men never face the same problems? Will the federal government find them affordable child care and caretakers for their aged parents too? Are these things now "civil rights"?

Somehow I think not. Pandering. And we lap it up because it feeds our sense of grievance. Hit Obama here. Point out that adults do not whine, that our parents did not ask the federal government to babysit their children; that they took care of their own families. Appeal to the pride of Americans, to our ingenuity. We are not wards of the state.

The perils of moral hazard are all around us; most visibly in the mortgage crisis. Use this example: it is a Godsend. We have a visible metaphor for why excessive government interference often harms where it intends to help.

Point out that the Democrats meant to do good by increasing minority home ownership. We don't need to demonize them when we can show the error of well intended social engineering programs with disastrous unintended consequences. Use this opportunity to enlighten people.

Point out Daniel Moynihan's prescient predictions about the destruction of the black family in the 1960s. The pathology and misery have become so widespread that it is now considered racist to mention what everyone knows: 70% of black children are born out of wedlock and 93% of murdered blacks are killed by other blacks. But the most painful admission in all of this is that these self-inflicted wounds have been exacerbated rather than ameliorated by the very government programs aimed at improving the lives of black Americans. There is nothing intrinsically violent or immoral about American blacks. The problem here is moral hazard - remove the consequences of immoral actions and you incent immoral and destructive behavior.

We have seen this in every aspect of American life. We see it in our cities. We see it in our suburbs.

We see it with liberated women who oxymoronically claim they "have to" work, then complain they can't find "affordable" child care that lets them keep enough take home pay to make working profitable. Hint to the mathematically challenged: if you are unable to declare a net profit after the expenses of working are deducted from your paycheck, you may need to review the important differences between a "want" and a "need" because trust me: you do not need to work. What you desperately need is a good math course. When Obama is elected, that is probably part of his plan for cushioning you from the consequences of your own refusal to think.

Also, if you oxymoronically maintain you can do just as good a job of raising your children in 2 hours a day as you would as a full time mother, I challenge you to find an employer who will pay you 8 hours' worth of wages for 2 hours worth of work.

Let me know how that works out, because I'd just love to work for someone like that. I think we all would, and in an Obama administration there will undoubtedly be a law forcing all employers to pay 8 hours of wages for 2 hours of work.

After all, it's only fair.

In the mean time, I'll be waiting and watching. We will survive whatever happens in November and we'll survive even an economic downturn, no matter how severe. It may even serve to remind us of the consequences of making bad choices. Despite all the shrieking, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, this is not the end of the world.

We are not guaranteed anything in life. Somewhere along the line, I think we got too complacent. We forgot how lucky we are. With our fat retirement accounts and our stocks and bonds, our big houses and our ability to buy our kids cars, with the good life people all over the world flock to America to get a taste of, we forgot that there are never any hard and fast guarantees.

We can lose it all in an instant: to death, to sickness, to tragedy. And no one: not government, not the police, not even a loving God stands between us and fate. When the worst happens, it is only natural to get angry.

It is only natural to look around and wonder, "How could this happen to us?" But perhaps the more interesting question is this: how on earth is it possible that we escaped paying the piper for so long?

Because we did. Now it is time to pick up the pieces, lift our chins, and move on. We have been given a reminder of what is important, and it is not how much is in our 401Ks, or even (sad to say) whether we keep that big house. It is not (as I have to remind myself daily) whether my husband and I get to finally buy the retirement home we have been wanting for well over 25 years. We didn't do any of those irresponsible things I mentioned earlier in this post. But we are paying the price all the same.

I could be angry.

Sometimes I am angry. But what is the point? I wake in the morning and there is plentiful food on my table.

I open my door and there are no bullets whizzing by outside; no bombs or land mines buried in the roads I must travel to get to the store.

Yes, there is uncertainty, but none of us need fear starving. Not yet. And not, I think, any time soon. If we are tested, we will rise to the occasion and be the better for it.

And perhaps next time, we will demand better government. For truly, our government is not separate from us.

They are us, writ large, reflecting all our virtues and flaws. And that is a home truth I don't think any of us really wants to face these days. As dissatisfied as we may be with them, they are wrestling with problems none of us know how to solve either.

The answer is not for them to stop governing. The answer is for us to do a better job of governing ourselves, and our public servants. And above all, stop whining.

We are Americans. That is still something to be proud of.

Posted by Cassandra at October 8, 2008 06:04 AM

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Comments

Excellent, excellent, excellent post. I am giving you a standing O at my desk. I think many people feel this way.

You are a gifted writer.

Posted by: Sally at October 8, 2008 09:57 AM

McCain came close to this conclusion last night when he suggested that a thorough review of all programs would be in order under his presidency. In short, we may not be able or willing to fund every feel-good sop to the masses that comes down the pike. I wish he would have referred to this concept in terms most of us understand; BUDGET.

Isn't it precious for California to be crying about their failure to budget and make payroll? Seems instead of budgeting next years payroll today, they have to borrow to pay for it now. HMMM, sounds like a familiar problem in our Nanny state of affairs.

I have always believed in the silent majority. Let us hope they are still the silent majority as opposed to vocal minority. Most people will make their monthly payments on time, most people will still have a job tomorrow, and our financial institutions have about 10 years to find loopholes that will come crashing down again in an invetibale cleansing.

The real panic here is actually the politicians and corruptocrats terrified that their cash cow just took sick and their personal 'budgets' are in jeopardy. The horror! Remember in the production of OKLAHOMA at the funeral of JUDD?

"Poor Judd is dead, a candle lights his head..."

What we are witnessing is "Some weepin' and wailin' from some of those women..."

Rod Steiger as Judd Fry played the OKIE version of what this testimony to self-pite happening on Wall Street and the politico's who aided and abetted what will utlimately reach denouement in another smokehouse hanging....

Posted by: vet66 at October 8, 2008 10:26 AM

Thank you for the kind words, Sally.

I was expecting to get hit over the head with a frying pan. I still may :p
But that's OK too.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 10:32 AM

Sally's right, Cassandra. Great post. I needed the more positive reminders at the end, especially. I woke up in the wee hours of this morning with my mind spinning, worrying about my employer and my job, recognizing that if the bottom really does fall out of the economy, both the charity and I are going down.

I just wish I was living higher on the hog at the moment, that I had something to catch me; I'm already living too close to the bottom. But as you said, I don't open my door to bullets whizzing by and I'm certainly not starving. Life is good. :)

Posted by: FbL at October 8, 2008 10:45 AM

Truth be told, my job is almost certainly the first that would be cut at my firm, Fbl.

I was worried about that weeks ago. But what happens, happens. It is best to focus on what we can control and take one day at a time. Anything else just doesn't make sense :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 10:50 AM

Thank you, I was quite depressed last night and needed to hear what you so beautifully said. I echo the fact that you are a marvelous writer and your eloquence lifted my spirits when they needed lifting.

Posted by: Merry at October 8, 2008 11:02 AM

well said, Cass.

Posted by: caltechgirl at October 8, 2008 11:20 AM

Great post, Cassandra. I mostly agree with everything, with one or two exceptions. The bailout package could have been better, I really believe that. I wish there had been more discussion on it before the first vote was brought up.

I know that my Congresswoman, a Democrat, felt that she needed more info.

Posted by: Beth Donovan at October 8, 2008 11:39 AM

I could go both ways on that, Beth.

Having watched large committees and boards all my life, I've seen a rather strange phenomenon, and that is: the more you explain, the more questions you engender.

I've seen two things happen. Sometimes people go in with nothing - nothing! And they get no questions.

And sometimes they go in loaded to the gills with data and they get defeated in detail.

I thought the President did a fantastic job of explaining the crisis in just about as much detail as people were going to be able to handle. You can debate forever with various policy wonks and you go right down the rabbit hole. You get idiots like Newt Gingrich arguing that merely suspending mark to market is going to avert a global panic.

That is a clear failure to understand the scope of what we were facing a few weeks ago, and also to understand why mark to market is there in the first place. It didn't just spring full-formed and naked from a clamshell like Aphrodite. That's why I didn't go there.

I have (quite frankly) been on the point of pointing a finger at the Prez for the first time in 8 years - - which I realize would cause you all to keel over in shock. I truly wonder whether he should have just acted recklessly, unilaterally, unconstitutionally and without the prior approval of France, Germany or the Berobed Nine and just handled this without Congress even if it was f***ing unconstitutional and let the history books sort it all out?

If nothing else, the shrieking alone would have made it worth the price of admission. The Founders gave us an Executive branch to allow SWIFT action in time of national emergency.

We the People have unilaterally f****ed that up through our silly mistrust. I hope we are proud of ourselves.

There was nothing that we could not have undone through impeachment and/or rescinding of a bad Presidential directive. But there are times when I truly think we are a very silly people. We elect people and then refuse to trust them to do their jobs. No Congress on earth could have acted swiftly enough to pass a bailout longer than 3 pages.

And we all know that.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 11:50 AM

FWIW, I fully understand that a lot of people strongly disagree with me on the bailout (or even that there was a crisis).

I think you can make a principled case either way.

The problem is that this situation is much like the one we faced before we invaded Iraq. If you genuinely believe that you are facing a crisis and that you need to act swiftly, if you genuinely believe that the consequences will be dire if you don't act now, you don't have time to sit down and have a leisurely debate on the merits.

And that was the situation as it was presented. The opponents stated that they were not convinced. That is their right. What does bother me is that I still was hearing a lot of arguments like "hey - look at the market - it's back up. There was no crisis" despite the fact that I pointed out that it was expected to be volatile and that there was a lag effect to all of this, and that the effects would not be limited to the US.

This is exactly what happened after 9/11 but on a grander scale because people react predictably to fear. And fear was what the bailout was trying to staunch.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 12:06 PM

Posts like this one is why I enjoy logging-in to your creation, Cass.

As for our future, I am sickened at the prospect.

Posted by: Boquisucio at October 8, 2008 12:27 PM

> The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960’s welfare programs created a culture of poverty.

It's quite intentional: the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

> The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography...

And then he goes and takes it into the kind of arena it has no business being in. "Pornography"? Gimme a break. The American social fabric has been destroyed by Playboy magazine. Jeez. This kind of jackass silliness is the kind of thing that hurts him -- it makes him sound like a prude and an idiot. Most of what surrounds this clause has merit -- but Playboy is not at the heart of the overall problem. Not by a friggin' long shot.

Posted by: OBloodyhell at October 8, 2008 01:08 PM

> We elect people and then refuse to trust them to do their jobs.

No, I think we don't elect people (the opposition does) and then don't trust them to do their jobs, more often than not.

Most caterwauling about Bush's actions come from Kerry and Gore voters. Most caterwauling about the Dems in Congress come from Bush voters... etc. etc. etc.

;-P

Posted by: OBloodyhell at October 8, 2008 01:15 PM

Heh :)

I wondered when you'd chime in OBH.
There has been an awful lot of caterwauling about Bush from the Right, OBH.

A lot. I listened to it during his first term and then it became overwhelming during his second. It pretty much drove me off my own site (my choice entirely) once. The guy telegraphed what he was about in 2000 and then we hooted and hollered when he did it. But that's what got him elected in the first place :p

The only real surprise was the war, which I at first did not support, but came to believe was necessary. Once I make up my mind to a thing (which I do slowly and only after much thought) I am steadfast in my commitment. You only win wars by putting your head down and ploughing through.

*sigh*

I won't argue with you about pornography (which is not Playboy, by the way, nor do I think that is what Mitt meant). Playboy was around when I was a little girl. My cousin Andy's room was papered with pinups.

But I could turn on the TV or go out in public and never be subjected to the full frontal assault of today's world. I did not see little girls dressed like pop tarts.

I did not read about college girls having contests to see who could degrade themselves faster, with more boys they don't even have a relationship with. That is not Playboy. It is pornography. And if you honestly there is no cause and effect there, you are deluding yourself.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 01:42 PM

Politicians feed back to us what we tell them we want to hear, and like it or not, whoever is selected is who the majority of Americans like the best.

Americans are made to like a politician the best. It is not a product of free will for free will assumes chaos and uncertainty. There is not much uncertainty to the psychology of demagoguery and there is not much free will in Democrat politics.

People don't know what they want and they don't know how to get it. Your description of people's unwise decisions in the housing crisis is just one reason why that is, Cass.

What Congress responded to was a full-scale temper tantrum from a public that understands so little of the fundamentals of this crisis that it blames the party that tried to reform Fannie Mae in 2003 and 2005 and is about to reward the party that blocked reform by voting them into office.

You must not forget the fact that Congress itself is the cause of the full-scale temper tantrum, as you call it.

The counter to democracy is not totalitarianism or even anarchy. It is demagoguery, it is democracy practiced to perfection. It is representation carried out to the extreme, where you become so good at representing the people that you become the people and might as well make decisions for them as well as make them make decisions that you belive to be correct.

Nice job, and what a recommendation for representative government. Truly, we are about to get the government we deserve. Four years of it, in my estimation.

Or we are getting the government the Democrats think we deserve. Those are two different things, you may have noticed.

Conservatives have never been terribly good at articulating why our values are better for America.

When they have to play by the rules and use Rules of Engagement that safeguard civilian life while the Democrats can cheat and use civilians as shields and suicide bombers, Cass, who do you think will have the advantage at articulating things? It will depend on who is better at propaganda then. Who is better at exploiting defeats and civilian deaths to blame the other and who is better at highlight successes and making them into virtues for the people to consume. And the Democrats have decades of Soviet era inspiration and training to match up against the naivety of Republicans who think everybody is just playing by the rules.

As a funny analogy, Democrats believe that the world plays by the rules but Republicans don't and therefore the Democrats get to cheat inside America but must play fair outside America. Republicans believe that Americans are playing by the same rules so we can't cheat inside America, but since people are cheating out in the world internationally, that means we can cheat and invade and pre-empt and do all those kinds of things and still be just and good.

Course, there's an obvious logical inconsistency going on here once you factor in the loyalties of Democrats and Republicans on issues of domestic policy and foreign relations.

Republicans in Congress are getting pushback from constituents on Main Street who object to "bailing out" banks and what's left of Wall Street.

Again, I dare say that many people think like me. They wouldn't care about the bailout so long as Democrat heads rolled in public executions. Well, even if it wasn't executions, it had to be public something punishment. Publicly recognized and publicly done. Without that element, few conservatives will put their trust in Congress, a Democrat controlled Congress, regardless of what the Republican party or PResident thinks should be done. People will not be led unless they can be convinced by the leaders. That is the job of the leaders. That is the definition of a leader.

Without ruthlessness and a show of force that demonstrates your strength and bona fides, few Sunnis will side with you against Al Qaeda. Without it, you are required to wait for the other team to make more mistakes than you have, to demonstrate to the Sunnis that AQ is too crazy and evil, that it doesn't matter that the US hasn't demonstrated ruthlessness in creating stability and the rule of Strength in Iraq.

How long do you think it will take the American people to recognize that the Democrats are too crazy and corrupt to govern to offset the fact that Republicans haven't demonstrated they can crush political greed and selfish obstruction? Given how good the Democrat party has been at convincing the American people that Republicans were fighting against civil rights and that Lincoln was a Democrat?

Somehow I think not. Pandering. And we lap it up because it feeds our sense of grievance.

But who created that sense of grievance, Cass. That is the question that should come before this one.

The problem here is moral hazard - remove the consequences of immoral actions and you incent immoral and destructive behavior.

But isn't this what people in power want? Make people miserable, give them a problem they cannot solve in their defunct and decadent state, and then come in and provide the "solution" to their ills. That will obtain the loyalty of such people.

As dissatisfied as we may be with them, they are wrestling with problems none of us know how to solve either.

it is not necessarily true that people who caused the problems in the first place know how to solve them. Nor is it necessarily true that the people who planned the problem to be created by creating the conditions so that the American people could create that problem, would also know how to resolve the problem once it is created.

After a point, things acquire a life of their own. They will have the responsibility to resolve the things they helped to create, but they do not necessarily have the capability or even the willingness to do so. As to where they will get the capability and the willingness, that is of course the question.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:12 PM

If nothing else, the shrieking alone would have made it worth the price of admission. The Founders gave us an Executive branch to allow SWIFT action in time of national emergency.

It is not just the Sunnis that feel loyalty to strong men that stabilize problems that nobody else can solve. And it is not just Democrats that want a man like Obama to clean stuff up in America.

But there are times when I truly think we are a very silly people. We elect people and then refuse to trust them to do their jobs.

Since Bush didn't go unilateral and cowboy, Cass, I believe that is an untestable hypothesis. Besides, it wouldn't have mattered whether people trusted Bush or not. As you mentioned, he has the power, Constitution or not, and the authority to get things done. He didn't choose to use that power. he chose to advise. He chose to recommend. He chose to try to persuade through logic and reason instead of forcing Congress to do things via threats, bribes, or various other things that could have convinced them. We saw the results of that. Nancy pelosi herself told us on the floor of the House.

No Congress on earth could have acted swiftly enough to pass a bailout longer than 3 pages.

And we all know that.

After the three days were up, it was too late to evacuate New Orleans. But what were they doing in those three days and the days before then, Cass? That is the question.

It doesn't matter if they lacked time to act swiftly. One must ask why they didn't act before hand so that they didn't need to act swiftly on time they lacked.

If you genuinely believe that you are facing a crisis and that you need to act swiftly, if you genuinely believe that the consequences will be dire if you don't act now, you don't have time to sit down and have a leisurely debate on the merits.

I am in favor of acting swiftly. Any plan that will get Dodd and Frank's head to the public as quickly as possible, ASAP, is something I favor. Even if the percentages of success are less than 50%.

But, again, without such an element of ruthlessness, decisiveness, authority, and strong man/arm tactics, a bailout does not convince many individuals. It does not inspire trust, it does not inspire love, and it definitely doesn't inspire respect/fear/loyalty.

The leaders of a nation cannot get anything done unless they have one of those things.

And fear was what the bailout was trying to staunch.

Bush retaliated on 9/11 against those that had harmed us. Who in the Democrat party has Bush or the Republican party retaliated against for harming America?

See, it is not the same thing. It is not the same method of trying to staunch fear. And it doesn't work as effectively.

When people feel fear and are threatened, they need to displace that anger unto an enemy. Regardless of whether that enemy is truly responsible for their fear or not. The Democrats know this. They knew it on 9/11 and they knew it when they started attempting to shift the blame of Fannie May on Republicans. The people need a scapegoat and the Democrats will make sure that it ain't themselves, cause they know that they deserve the blame most of all.

If the people are able to accurately target their anger and hate against real enemies, good and justice will result. If people are mislead by their anger and emotions and target the innocent, neutrals, or even potential allies and friends, then injustice and evil will result.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:30 PM

Well, I think that that analysis is dead on.

There is a lot of displaced anger here but it is not being leveled at the appropriate parties because I am not sure people want to look too closely at what just happened.

Also, the really ugly thing here is that this would not even be a crisis without the irrational behavior of ... let's face it ... John Q. Public.

I have not withdrawn a dime of my retirement funds, though it is killing me, because that panic and that fear is precisely what we do not want to feed. So once again, I am paying for the sins of other people. But again, who are we really blaming here?

A good part of the problem is here, on Main Street, on a thousand PCs using e-trade.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 03:35 PM

As for pornography, most of the evidence points to it as being an unintended consequence of Soviet operations focusing on subverting the Boomer generation. Woodstock 60s, drug use, free love, etc..

The Soviets aren't against using sex to get what they want, but I never saw any real direct evidence that the KGB was using sex in order to degrade America's sense of right and wrong. It mostly came second hand as a consequence of the primary Soviet sectors of influence such as Hollywood and Intelligentsia and Lawfare.

Once they broke up the foundations of family and ancestor worship, sex became the new god, so to speak, and the new goal for personal accomplishment, social status rewards, and competition.

America could not stop it for it would require suspensions of the First Amendment, and even that might not have worked given the fact that nobody really understood what was actually going on. They did not comprehend the consequences, for it had not yet occurred.

But it makes sense, regardless of where it came from.

Who do you think would be easier to conquer, a nation of people focused on sex and learning exotic tricks to try on their new orgy partners or a nation of warriors that spend most of their time learning discipline, tactics, weaponry, philosophy, and politeness?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:38 PM

But again, who are we really blaming here?

There are two types of blame. General blame and individual blame. You can blame the "system" generally or you can blame individuals. Both are not necessarily isolated on an island.

If you blame the system, you are also blaming the individuals that prop up and support the system, if only indirectly. If you blame the individual, then you also would have to blame any system that shelters that individual and promotes his bad actions and discourages any good actions he may undertake.

The system, America, and the American people are not isolated from each other. We are inter-connected and what goes on in one sector will displace something in the other.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:41 PM

Also, the really ugly thing here is that this would not even be a crisis without the irrational behavior of ... let's face it ... John Q. Public.

So given what I said, that would mean that when I see something like "irrational behavior of John Q. Public" I am thinking of both individuals and the system they influence and are influenced by. I see the network and work out the causality chain from one to the other and backwards again.

Action causes reaction which causes the original action.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:43 PM

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

That, to me, doesn't mean that people suffer. What it means is that individuals who have done great good, for example Athens, are the first to be tarred, feathered, and chased out of town on a rail.

And it is true. That is exactly what happened in Athens. Socrates, Themistocles, and a whole slew of other generals and politicians were hounded by the mob simply because the mob didn't know what the hell the "Right" course was or would be.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:51 PM

But they didn't do it automatically cause they were irrational and stupid. They were irrational and stupid but it required a demogague or "leader" to direct the mob's attentions against Socrates and Themistocles.

The accounts of both individuals can be plainly researched on the internet. I recommend people do so, if they want a blast to the past.

This brings up the interesting question of who actually deserves what. Does an individual who whipped the mob into action against the innocent deserve to profit from the situation by ensuring that the mob, who did the act themselves, are blamed? Does the mob get to blame their leaders for inciting them, when the leaders have clean hands but the mob's hands are bloody?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 8, 2008 03:54 PM

This brings up the interesting question of who actually deserves what.

The MSM keeps touting this as the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Which is odd, because I remember a time when gas prices tripled in a two-week period while the fuel supply increased but was rationed anyway, we had double-digit inflation, I wound up working for peanuts and considered myself lucky to have work, we couldn't have beaten *Monaco* in a fair fight, and the stock market was heading for the septic tank.

Of course, all that happened during the tenure of a *Democrat*, so things must naturally be worse today, under a Republican one.

Thanks for creating the panic, Dinosaur Media...

Posted by: BillT at October 8, 2008 04:32 PM

What I love is that at a time when the President is desperately trying to allay investor panic, the media are...

[drum roll]

...shouting...

"DANG! IT'S THE WORST PANIC SINCE 1929! SELL SELL SELL!!! WE'RE ALL DOOOOOOOOOOOMED!" :P

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 04:37 PM

I think that we often have unrealistic expectations, especially of our leaders.

We should expect them to be honest. We should expect them to do their jobs.

I am not sure we have a right to expect them to be prescient, or to rise above the failings we exhibit as a general class of people. It makes me angry that Congress didn't manage to reform Fannie Mae, but there were entrenched interests that (quite frankly) lay among the American people that didn't want Fannie Mae reformed.

Is it any wonder that this did not happen? Even now, with the advantage of hindsight, Barney Frank is calling the affordable housing critics "racists". What, realistically, did we expect them to do, given the conflicting demands of the people they serve?

I'm not sure.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 04:41 PM

Just found you, and this article is astonishing !! I loved it. Well done, and thank you for putting words to my thoughts.

Posted by: Lois Grobb at October 8, 2008 04:42 PM

What, realistically, did we expect them to do, given the conflicting demands of the people they serve?

Ummmm -- do the Right Thing anyway?

Sorry. I just finished teaching aerodynamics to a class composed of Sunnis, Shi'a, and a couple of Christian Kurds and I got carried away...

Posted by: BillT at October 8, 2008 04:48 PM

What you said. I ranted similarly last night to my roommate. But you wrote it out all so much better :)

Posted by: Ith at October 8, 2008 05:06 PM

I have not withdrawn a dime of my retirement funds, though it is killing me, because that panic and that fear is precisely what we do not want to feed.

Heck, if I had extra money right now, I'd be putting more into my mutual funds. $h!ts on Sale, people. Over the 30 years till I retire it won't matter one bit if it losses 30% of value over the next 12 months. So what if I didn't catch it at "the very bottom".

It's good for the economy and it helps me as well. It's a win-win. Of course, the Democrats will probably demonize me for having "profited off the misery of others" for having done it. But, oh well.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 8, 2008 05:10 PM

I would buy if I had extra money too.

I actually thought of cashing in my bonds to buy, but we committed to about 15K of landscaping work right before the market tanked. I felt a bit uneasy about risking anything else and I'd already signed a contract.

Before the crunch, we were going to take out a 2nd mortgage to pay for the landscaping since we have plenty of equity in our house (and I mean LOTS). As things stand now, I decided to just pay cash, which stings a bit, but won't add anything to the balance of our house. When things settle, I can always either refinance or take out a home equity LOC. But with home values dropping, I prefer not to do anything that might put us in an adverse position if we decide to move.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 05:49 PM

Interest rate on CDs have gone up a tad at USAA. We are holding steady, and adding a bit here and there to our IRAs. It isn't easy, as the CLUs need braces, and the Princess Kitty is getting voice lessons, but well, that's why I have a grain mill and a food dehydrator.

Posted by: Cricket at October 8, 2008 06:07 PM

Cass--you eloquently stated what all of us WISH McCain had said.

PLEASE--either run for National office--or if that is too distastefull--submit a resume as a speechwriter for the next conservative Presidential candidate.

We have too many good people that cannot express themselves and convey a sense of where they would like to take us.

You have that ability.

Posted by: jimhanson at October 8, 2008 06:38 PM

I've been listening to a radio commercial out here in California that just sets my blood aboil.

It goes, "Do you owe money on your credit cards? Do you have a home mortgage? If so, you are a Victim!" I don't know what the advertiser was selling--probably credit counseling or pre packaged bankruptcy kits.

A victim of what for gosh sake? You charged a purchase that you may, or may not, have needed to buy. You bought a house that you may, or may not, have been able to afford.

Where the heck does victimhood come in to play? Nobody held you down and made you do either one of these things.

Like many other retired Americans who have their life savings invested in a reasonable mix of stocks and bonds, I've taken about a 20% haircut in that sum in the last week or so. I went through the same thing in 2000-2001 when the dot come boom burst at the end of the Clinton presidency. But the funds built back up as the market rose--and I hope that the funds will build back up again. But I made the choices I made and I'm not a victim of any kind whatsoever.

Now I may become a "victim" of some bad choices that my fellow voters make on November 4 (tongue way in cheek here, because I believe "victimology" is a pernicious disease that has done much to weaken the fabric of America.)

But I am saddened that the choices the voters have before them for POTUS are so weak.

Posted by: Mike Myers at October 8, 2008 06:51 PM

This is a great post, Cassandra, and exactly why I come here. Even when I don’t agree with every point, you always make me think more clearly. (If that clarity isn't reflected in this comment, please blame it on the muscle relaxers I'm taking. For my back, not my nerves.)

I was thinking about this - much less articulately - when I saw or read about the Lehman hearings. (Those thoughts came after the thoughts like: Why the heck are we having Lehman hearings at all? Why not AIG hearings or Fan-Fred hearings?) The idea behind the hearings seems to be that heads should roll largely because Lehman executives took big bucks from a firm that lost their shareholders’ money. My response is that the system worked as designed and as expected by anyone with a bit of sense: Lehman saw what looked like a way to make big bucks with little risk. They were wrong, made stupid business decisions, and went out of business. The executives wanted to make sure they got their money. The shareholders went along with electing the board members that hired the people who destroyed the company and the shareholders didn’t vote those members off the board when they promised management compensation beyond the dreams of avarice. If shareholders want to make the argument that they didn’t understand how the business was run or didn’t know about the executive compensation then maybe they shouldn’t have been betting their life savings on a stock they didn’t understand. And if that sounds too harsh, I’ll point out that it’s only been about a decade since the dot-com bubble burst so people can’t really claim they didn’t know the bottom could fall out of the stock market. (I saw a little of Wallinson - I think he’s becoming my favorite economy guy. I hope you saw him - he was all about moral hazard.)

On the political side, I’ve never bought the idea that “we” can’t do anything to affect government because big money gets people elected. Those who say that seem to think the election process works like:

Big money contributions = lots of publicity = getting elected

when really the election process works like:

Big money contributions = lots of publicity = convincing people to vote for you = getting elected

We - our votes - are the mechanism that translates lots of money into getting elected. If we let lots of money that buys lots of publicity “trick” us into voting for someone who’s not a good idea, that’s our own fault. The real information about people running is out there somewhere; we may just have to work a little harder than watching TV ads to find it. And we may have to tear our eyes away from the high drama of Presidential and Congressional elections and concentrate on the grubby state and local elections since that’s where the ground rules for national elections (like gerrymandered safe districts) get established.

This morning my husband opined that we’ve been running our economy like the forestry service used to run national forests: most of our effort went into trying desperately to stamp out the small blazes that occur naturally. Forests ended up with such a high burn load that when a fire did start it couldn’t be stopped and destroyed everything in its path. We’ve ended up in the same situation economically and our burn load is high because everyone - Federal government, companies, States, cities, and individuals - are in debt up to their eyeballs.

I do have a quibble with this:

As dissatisfied as we may be with them [the government], they are wrestling with problems none of us know how to solve either.

I simply don’t believe they are wrestling with them honestly. (We, the non-governmental people, may not be either.) That is, Congress does not seem to be sitting down and taking a hard look at how we got into this mess and what is the best way to get out of it or at least to keep us from getting farther in or from getting in again. Rather they seem to be focused on screaming that whatever they opposed got us into this mess and whatever they support is the best way to get us out. I think Fan-Fred bears a huge responsibility, perhaps the central responsibility. But that doesn’t mean I don’t also consider changed leverage requirements, unnaturally low interest rates, possibly corrupt (and apparently government-mandated) rating agencies, predatory loan practices, and maybe even the death of the uptick rule as other possible causes that should be looked at. I wonder if you could find many people in Congress willing to even consider both Fan-Fred and predatory loan practices when looking for causes.

A further commitment to affordable housing seems to have been built into the bailout; Frank and Dodd are hailed as experts whose help in this time of crisis has been invaluable; and no one has suggested that Schumer or Reid should be censured (or better yet, drawn and quartered) for, respectively, damaging IndyMac and undercutting insurance company stock. Furthermore, no one - as far as I know - has looked ahead to the next round of defaults that may be coming down the pike as teaser rates (and ARM rates in general) reset. Instead, the Congress is holding hearings on Lehman Brothers, a company that rose and fell on its own without getting a government bailout.

I have not withdrawn a dime of my retirement funds, though it is killing me, because that panic and that fear is precisely what we do not want to feed. So once again, I am paying for the sins of other people.

This is case where paying for the sins of others may carry a reward. There are no guarantees, of course, but history tells us that the stock market recovers eventually and so long as that history repeats itself now, those of us who refuse to sell into a falling market (who refuse to even open our 401k statements) will be far better off than those who are selling low.

As for the election, I agree totally that what’s happening to the economy now is a textbook example of why President Obama with a heavily Democratic Congress is a recipe for disaster. I don’t think McCain actually disbelieves the case you so eloquently make - I think he just doesn’t have a framework for thinking about it. So if letting people stay in their homes seems fair to him because, “hey, we bailed out the fat cats, why not the little guy”, he doesn’t have the underlying set of principles that would make him realize that - to put it as simply as possibly - there are other types of fairness to consider. In other words, he cannot pull the recent events together into a coherent conservative narrative.

It’s funny. I commented elsewhere that I wondered how many people in the country right now wished we were seeing Hillary Clinton versus Mitt Romney. I know, I know, Clinton’s economic policies are not the kind likely to find favor here but I do believe that she at least has an economic view that is coherent, integrated, reasonably mainstream, and - most of all - realistic. I have my disagreements with HRC but I think she’d be practical enough to realize we can’t really plan to send a gazillion dollars overseas as part of a global poverty program when our own economy is in crisis. She might even be practical enough to realize her Universal Health Care would have to wait.

And I agree wholeheartedly that as dismal as things look, I’m still much, much, much better off than the vast majority of people in the world and almost certain to stay that way. Thanks for the reminder.

Again, great post, Cassandra. I’m going to suggest everyone I know read it - very brave of me since they’re almost all voting for Obama.

Posted by: Elise at October 8, 2008 08:46 PM

I'm so sorry about your back, Elise. I hope it feels better soon. I've never had to deal with that pain. I hear it is awful, though.

re: agreeing with me - hey, even I don't always agree with me! :)

I don't sit down and think my way through things before I write. I know it would sound so much more dignified if I told you all that I do. But that's not true and I try not to lie. Often, I write to work out my thoughts and at times (especially if I'm of two minds about a topic) I'm not entirely sure where I'll end up until I get there. Usually I can see both sides of an issue, though I generally come down on one side or the other. That's why it's fine with me if people disagree with me. I can usually understand their reasons for doing so.

I think McCain sees things in terms of 'cleaning up Washington', and often that precludes the possibility that the people he's defending had a vested interest in the problem. It's a nice impulse, but it's not that different from what animates Barack Obama. It's not justice, strictly speaking.

It's sympathy for the little guy, and I'm not so interested in that. Sometimes the "little guy" is not so little, and sometimes the little guy was wrong and should not be defended.

I prefer to have the law attempt justice, imperfect as that attempt may be.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 8, 2008 09:28 PM

This was probably the most insightful and well thought out writings regarding the current situation of our country I have read thus far. You have the ability to convey a very broad and complex subject and bring clarity to all of it. It certainly gave me something to ponder. However, I must take issue with the following statement you made and I mean this in the most respectful way. You stated "Did you see that today, government workers make more money than people who work in the private sector". I don't know the details behind that statement, but as a career civil servant, I can say that the majority of competitively hired Federal government workers are paid at a rate comparable to their commercial counter parts. In many cases less. Yes, there are some out there who give the rest of us a bad name, but I can assure you that the majority of us work an honest days work for an honest days pay and we do it honorably, ethically and with pride. We struggle with the same day to day issues that our civilian counter parts do. Everyday I work, I do it with the understanding that my fellow citizens’ taxes (including my own) pay my salary and they deserve only the best I can offer.
I don't want to sound like I am lecturing, but I often feel as though Federal employees are being painted under a broad brush. I truly enjoy your perspective on issues and will continue to read. Thanks

Posted by: Scott at October 9, 2008 12:12 AM

I think the Silent Majority needs to start speaking up. The American people CAN affect the course of government. We did it in stopping the sham amnesty Congress tried to shove down our throats, and, for better or worse, it happened again when the bailout first came up in the House.

Too many Americans don't pay any real attention to the important issues in elections. And those uninformed people vote. Of course, we also have abysmal voter-turnout percentages. I can only assume that the 40% who don't vote aren't informed, either. But, what does that say about us, as a nation? We have 40% of voting-eligible people who just don't bother to exercise that right, and then there is likely a fair number of voters who are grossly uninformed about who and what they are voting for...

What scares me is this idea being pushed - by both candidates - that government can fix everything. Too often, government involvement only makes things worse. Government needs to get the hell out of the way, starting with buying up "bad" mortgages. I was a home owner when I lived in Arkansas. I sold my house when I moved back to Texas. Now, I have no idea when I'll be able to afford to buy another house, even after I get settled into a regular job (not just substitute teaching and the temp office job that currently helps pay the bills). Home prices are artificially high, and "bailing out" people who got into trouble with their mortgages isn't going to help home prices settle back to realistic levels.

So, we are where we are, and I fear that if Obama wins in November, we will slide into socialism; the damage he would do, with a complicit Democratically-controlled Congress, would take much longer to reverse. I'll be voting, so I will have every right to complain about the results...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 9, 2008 12:16 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 10/09/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at October 9, 2008 10:59 AM

excellent!!!


and as far as sliding into socialism..

The example of the US has shown that the move from self-regulating capitalism to financial socialism is only one step. - medvedev


Posted by: Artfldgr at October 9, 2008 10:29 PM

Milady,

As has been said, outstanding observations and commentary. As usual.

"Also, the really ugly thing here is that this would not even be a crisis without the irrational behavior of ... let's face it ... John Q. Public.

I have not withdrawn a dime of my retirement funds, though it is killing me, because that panic and that fear is precisely what we do not want to feed. So once again, I am paying for the sins of other people. But again, who are we really blaming here?

A good part of the problem is here, on Main Street, on a thousand PCs using e-trade." Before I get busy on the honeydew list I will say, if I may, that once again I too will ignore the current state of my investments on this wonderful morning. Just as I have for the past month, being afflicted with a long haul mentality. And I'll just say hallelujah to the observations citing irrational panic feeding the situation.

BTW, isn't this the Buy Low opportunity oft mentioned in that old Buy Low, Sell High adage?

P.S.

"I simply don’t believe they are wrestling with them honestly."
Nice shot Ms. Elise. Nothing but net! But when the public is so easily diverted by Congressional sleight of hand along with the usual suspects citing such seepage and spewage as blaming Wall Street greed, why should Congress clean up their(and our) own house?

I'm gonna hush now because I'm late for duty on the honeydew list and I feel an Old Testament rant coming on.

Regards,

Posted by: bt_know-when-to-hold-'em-know-when-to-fold-'em_hun at October 10, 2008 08:32 AM

Dang! I must have had a blockquote tag-option called since my intention was to include your

"!I have not withdrawn a dime of my retirement funds, though it is killing me, because that panic and that fear is precisely what we do not want to feed. So once again, I am paying for the sins of other people. But again, who are we really blaming here?

A good part of the problem is here, on Main Street, on a thousand PCs using e-trade."

in the first quoted block-o-words.

Maybe I should ask for a bailout so that I can afford a proof reader and a fresh supply of blockquote tags? =8^}

Posted by: bt_know-when-to-hold-'em-know-when-to-fold-'em_hun at October 10, 2008 08:38 AM

I don't usually put time into these, but I glanced @ this one and could not but agree on
every point until all of a sudden I was done
reading.Oh well, WE all get what WE the people
as a majority deserve.

Posted by: David Nuelle at October 10, 2008 01:58 PM

Hmmm, 15:30 EDT 10-OCT: DJIA up 58 for the day so far.

Traders, pro and novice must think that moves towards nationalizing banks and bid'ness along with the anticipation of world leaders meeting this Saturday to discuss global coordination is just what the doc ordered.

Now what was that advice... sell low and buy high?

Posted by: bt_what-me-worry_hun at October 10, 2008 03:37 PM

"Common sense" - I've heard tell of such a thing.

The problem is, of course, that it is far too uncommon.

I like to blame the education system - perhaps too easy a target. But when we have a generation or two that needs warning labels on hair dryers that say "don't use this in the bathtub" (maybe Thomas Merton would be alive today if he had that warning); microwave dinners that say "this product may be hot after heating"; and one of my favorites (I saw this in a market) "warning: may contain peanuts" - on a jar of peanut butter - we have to believe that something's gone wrong somewhere.

"I have not withdrawn a dime of my retirement funds, though it is killing me, ..."

... we survived the 70s, we'll pull through this one. It just may take a while longer.

Ymarsakar: "Who do you think would be easier to conquer, a nation of people focused on sex and learning exotic tricks to try on their new orgy partners or a nation of warriors that spend most of their time learning discipline, tactics, weaponry, philosophy, and politeness?

You're talking about Athens and Sparta, aren't you?

PS: Cass: I do think you got this writin' thing under control. Keep at it.

Posted by: ZZMike at October 10, 2008 03:46 PM

Ah, yes, those inscrutably polite Spartans.

But their philosophy was easily-understood: "Mess with us and we'll whack you -- survivors will be whacked again."

Posted by: BillT at October 10, 2008 04:57 PM

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