Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are We Learning Anything Yet?

The market is down today, primarily because of Greece's debt and its effect on the Euro, which is also down on the Foreign Currency Exchange market. And, profit-takers are taking profits. It was only a few years ago that everyone was flocking to buy Euros, as opposed to dollars, because it was the "thing" to do. The other day Paul Krugman pointed out that the nay-sayers about the Euro were probably right; countries that joined the union fell into the Euro trap. Once they accepted using the Euro for their currency, they were forever trapped from using their own country's currency in managing debt. The only way out of bankruptcy from that point forward is to cut wages and try, I say "try," to manage inflation or deflation. They can't print money anymore to do that; that's for sure. So, there is Greece whose greedy politicians got in way over their heads in debt, with the help of Goldman Sachs and other global banks, and fraudulently hid their debt to join the European Union. And today there are riots in Greece - because of the trap. I think the lesson is that there is no easy money and no easy way and no short cuts and no short term gains without eventually paying the price of negligence.

Another story today comes from the U. S. Department of Interior, specifically the Minerals Management Service who gave British Petroleum (BP), and all other oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, huge exemptions to standard safety and spill precautions so their company expense would be minimized. Countdown's Keith Olbermann pointed out the negligence of BP Oil and that a single safety valve costing only $500 thousand was not used on that TransOcean Deepsea Horizon platform because it was "too expensive." He also pointed out that the executives of those companies made twenty times the cost of that valve. Watch the video. The point here is, as is true of all companies, that the bottom line is profit and compensation and short term gains. It is not about the "right thing to do" for corporations. Huge risks are taken that bite us in the ass eventually. Contrary to what we've been fed for 40 to 50 years, companies are not more efficient than the government.

And then there is the movement, including the Tea Partiers, that suggests that President Bush II wasn't the worst president we've ever had. Laura Bush was on Oprah Winfrey yesterday and Oprah ask her about how she felt about the criticism of President Bush. "It hurt," she said, "because people don't know him." One of his daughters said essentially the same thing; that people would think better of him if they knew him. They have a uniquely personal perspective and it's probably true. If I were to have a beer with him, I would probably like him personally. I may find him funny and personable. But, I don't want to have a beer with my president. I want him to be a good, the best he can be, for this country. Bush was a terrible president. He neglected his country, hedged on infrastructure, underfunded our schools, promoted self-regulating policies for industry and in fact created a "culture" in his administration of "hands off" regulating and, of course, we went to war in two countries primarily because of his "gut feelings" and his extra-large ego. He implemented President Reagan's laissez faire economy, international belligerence and "debt doesn't matter" policies like no other president has done. Every where we turn, we find destruction, negligence and decay.

In fact, all of us accepted the laissez faire libertarian philosophy, small, hands-off government philosophy and the Republicans continue to spout it. Ideology, the great and deep rut that trapped all of us and is now biting us in the ass. Diligence and clear thinking could have saved us much of our heartache today. Good government that pays attention is what we want, not necessarily small government just because that's a cute thing to say.

Diligence means more than listening to "cutesy" phrases a politician or pundit says, like Sarah Palin's "how's that changy thing goin' for ya'." It means paying attention. It means learning about who you're voting for and what they really stand for. If all you can do is be star-struck and just want more of what we've done the past 50 years, then please don't vote. I've had enough of that.


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