Of politics and the economy

I attended a gathering of friends last night, and much of the conversation centered around the economy. People have lost much, if not all, of their retirement investments, or so it appears at this time. A couple of people work for companies in the financial sector, and they told stories of call after call from angry people and how it impacted them. I get together with these people frequently, and I’ve never seen the emotional level of the group this intense.

I think for most people we’re in the anger stage of grieving for the loss of the artificial sense of security that comes with good economic times. Venture capital giant Sequoia Capital prepared a doom and gloom presentation for its portfolio this week and called it: “R.I.P. Good Times.”

Anger motivates some people and brings others to a dead stop, and in this way, there’s an interesting bit of timing taking place that I don’t hear anybody talking about.

The state of our economy isn’t helped by the fact that we’re in the final month of a Presidential election. Neither candidate can afford to take a genuine leadership position in all that’s going on, because to do so would give the upper hand to his opponent. The political mission is to get mileage out of the situation, not to help it end, and, as such, each candidate must “use” the problem to advance their beliefs for political gain. If the financial meltdown were occurring during either candidate’s mid-term, they could assume a position of leadership, but that’s not possible now.

And our existing administration? Not a chance, and so we’re in a state of emotional limbo, driven by the needs of our political system.

By leadership, I’m referring to those attributes and character traits that would help the process of recovery move forward: vision, inspiration, sacrifice, faith, honesty, and, mostly, a balanced appraisal of the situation. What we’re getting instead is a relentless pounding of anger, blame and scare tactics — a universal throwing of fuel on anger’s fire — that only make matters worse. It’s not about fixing the problem; it’s about using people’s anger to hopefully position themselves as being on the voter’s side.

Who’s really to blame for this? We’re all to blame for this. Now let’s turn the bloody page.

Oh of course we have foxes in the hen house, and like many others, I think they should be prosecuted as the thieves they are, if only we could find a way to identify them. The problem is we’d need a whole new prison system to contain all the bad guys.

But let’s not forget that we swallowed it all easily, because, well, we Americans tend to accept the Disney-like “plausible impossible.” Shame on them for taking advantage of that, but shame on us for being so foolish. We were conned, and every con artist knows exactly which buttons to push to bring otherwise intelligent people to their knees. In the end, though, it’s the victim who feels the shame.

There’s a thin line between anger and shame, and I heard a lot of that last night. Everybody gets fooled once in awhile, but we always come away smarter and stronger, which is why I feel so good about America’s long-term economic health and the world in which my children will grow up. And if it inspires people to get involved in the political process, then that, too, is a good thing.

So which candidate is most culpable in the current economic mess? Both were U.S. Senators and share in the blame. Letters and proposals notwithstanding, it is what it is. The broad brush of blame paints them equally, because, like everybody else in our government, they were at the helm when this con job went down. They all failed us, and we should learn from that.

Comments

  1. A very nice article and i’d like to quote it on my blog. I take exception in only one thing. When you thoroughly dissect the pieces and the players, all are culpable but not at the same level. Let’s list them: governments (especially Washington); Wall Street, people who were greedy in buying a house or an extra house they couldn’t pay for, the IndyBanks of the world who sold all of these adjustable rate mortgage loans to the people who shouldn’t have bought that extra house; Mae and Mac loosening up the loan requirements they needed before buying all that the junk banks were selling them and for being so corrupt; ACORN and their buddies Barnie Frank, Chuck Schumer, Charlie Rangle, Chris Dodd and others for taking big slush fund bribes for carrying ACORN’s message that we ought to lower loan standards–something that caused the problem in the first place. No, we’re not all culpable at the same relative scale. Remember, only 5 percent (it may be 10% now) of all home mortgages have or will go into default. What about the rest of us, the 95% who still faithfully pay our mortgage payments each month? What about the moms and pops who are living on retirement funds who had nothing to do with the débâcle–except, perhaps vote for the wrong politicians? No, what you are doing is telling us you WERE angry but now you have gone beyond that and now you are no longer Angry. Anger is supposed to be followed with corrective action, right? That’s where you are. But where’s the corrective action? Politicians–and I include Bush with the Democrat controlled Congress–can only think of one thing–spend more taxpayer money and bail out everyone. I’ve felt that was wrong from the get-go. They should have helped, yes. We do have a crisis here. It’s one of confidence as much as money. But those bailouts should have been “loans” fully payable back to the taxpayers. Then they should have changed the stock valuation system from “mark to market” to a rolling average. That would have saved dozens of bankruptcies. Government has no business messing around in private enterprise, except to protect the innocent. As you admit, “we are all at fault.” No, some more than others, though all want a bailout. Pretty soon GM and Chrysler will merge and it won’t be long before they want a bailout too, to save jobs in Michigan and all over the world. I say we bail out American factories only, not an international company that takes jobs out of country. We can’t possibley bail out everyone. Who’s going to bail us out?

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