13 February 2009

Teach Big Business How to Fish, Mr. Obama

Much has been made of the Federal Bailout program, from the reasons we even need one, to what it should or should not address.  Feel free to fact check me, but my understanding is that...
  1. Businesses, because of a combination of greed and incompetence, completely mismanaged themselves in the last several years.
  2. Citizens as Consumers were left unable to pay their bills because Citizens as Employees lost their jobs because their employers mismanaged their businesses.
  3. Investors, realizing their glory days were numbered because of the consequences of their own greed/incompetence-fueled ways, panicked, further exacerbating the constraints on Businesses.
  4. Businesses began demanding Government money to reverse their bad direction, paid for by Citizens as Taxpayers.
Now, maybe it's just me, but here's where I have a different take on things than anyone I've heard from Business or Government.  See, I think what the Government ought to do with the Citizens as Taxpayers's money is give it to Business on behalf of Citizens as Consumers.  Effectively, I say since Businesses are getting our tax money that we will have to repay with subsequent taxes anyway, that Businesses ought only be allowed to use the money to pay down our bills to them.

Think about it.  If I owe you $10 and I can't pay you, but you desperately needed that $10 before I could repay it, we would find someone who not only had the $10, but was willing and able to wait until I could repay him or her.  Then, you have your money and my debt has been transfered to someone else.  Once I repay him or her, then everyone is square again.  What Business has asked for, though, is for Government to give them our $10, but then they're still asking us to give them the $10.  Your monthly bills are still coming to you, aren't they?  Why are we letting Government reward Business for its self-created debacle?

There's an old saying, that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for life.  I implore the Obama administration to consider this addage as it gives money from Citizens as Taxpayers to Businesses.  Businesses should be able to operate successfully if the outstanding debts to them are repaid; anything beyond that simply encourages them to either screw up, or at least present the appearance of screwing up, to be rewarded with an influx of cash.  I say use our money to help repay our debts, and let Businesses decide for themselves whether they want to shape up.


  1. I think your second point is a bit of an oversimplification (in the same way that Cecil B. Demille was a bit self-indulgent).

    Many citizens as consumers (not all, but let's face it a great percentage) could not pay their bills long before they lost their jobs. Citizens have been living off of far too much credit and in houses they couldn't afford to live in for some time now. The citizens' participation in an unsustainable economic system cannot be overlooked here.

    While you draw a line with greedy executives and investors on one side and victim Joe Q. Sixpack on the other, it's Joe that's signing up for multiple credit cards, setting up an adjustible rate mortgage that will soon be beyond his means, and buying new cars on payment plans instead of a used one that he can afford. Often this is done on the basis of an income that is hardly stable. Blaming the businesses for trying to do their job is as absurd as blaming television for a child hitting another child. Take resposnibility!

    The point is, we're all in this together. While it's convenient to track OUR tax money going to THOSE guys (who are richer than us), without that money going there, jobs aren't suddenly going to reappear.

    Besides, twice over the last decade the Previous administration provided the citizens with a bailout. I didn't see very many people returning those checks. Let's not forget that much of THAT tax money comes from businesses.

    It pains me to read the paper everyday and see positions such as these. We are a single nation. As much as the previous administration seemed bent on deepening the economic gap between us, we have to realize that it's not as simple as us and them. We all created this mess and we are all in it together. As such, we all have to make sacrifices to fix the problem. Inatead of citizens as Consumers, Employees, Investors, Executives, etc..., lets be citizens as Americans.

    Now, anyone who knows me can tell you that I'm not for bailing other people out of messes of their own creation. But this isn't just the businesses' problem. It's the nation's problem, entered into willingly by a majority of the country. It's time we all looked past our little piece of the entire problem and Found solutions that work for multiple parties. Some kind of bailout is going to be necessary, or we're it will be years before companies have "learned" enough to become stable and hire the workforce back again. Is the current plan the best possible? I can't answer that. But people need to understand that the choices here are a bailout of some kind, or the acceptance of a cyclical economy that occasionally brings us to the brink of (or full on into) recession and/or depression. If this is the case, then we wait it out, complete with consequences there of.

    Whichever view is correct, one thing is certain: picking apart "us" and "them" isn't going to help a thing. FDR got Amercia going once not because everyone agreed with his economic policies, but because he restored pried and unity back to the country. Not merely a desire to be a car magnet to display, or spotaneously burst into patriotic song. His patriotism was a genuine, lasting belief in the quality of the American style of government, work, and unity.

    Not a bad thought, eh?

  2. All excellent points, and kudos for providing me with my most meaningful bit of feedback in months. I was frustrated at the moment I typed up that blog, and you were absolutely right to call me on my over-simplification.

    That said, I would point out one thing. Joe Sixpack might have signed up for loans he couldn't repay prior to losing his job, but Joe did NOT authorize those loans. That responsibility fell to Business, and its authorization of those loans was the act of either greed or incompetence to which I vaguely referred in my initial post. I think reflecting on Charles Darwin's bi-centennial birthday had something to do with my line of thinking.

    I would argue, in FPS terms, that the authorization of those ill-conceived loans is the Underlying Problem. Now, again in FPS terms, there are at least 20 genuinely helpful solutions to come at this problem from a variety of perspectives. I get more frustrated with Business not because it's easier or because I happen to be Joe Sixpack, but because the Bush administration had a very hands-off policy regarding regulation and from where I'm sitting, while Joe might be just as much a participant in this debacle, the ultimate responsibility for it lies with Business.

    See, after things eventually right themselves--with or without a bailout now--Joe will still be short-sighted. We want him to think more responsibly, but we do not necessarily expect it. Business, on the other hand--especially seemingly successful ones--ARE expected to say things like, "Application denied."

  3. I'd say that's a pretty accurate "nuts and bolts" explanation of how we got into this mess. I would add, though, while not trying to distract anyone with further superfluous finger-pointing, that the de-regulatory policies of the Bush administration exacerbated things. This is important, not because it gives us all a convenient scapegoat, but because it is evidence that we can not, in fact, leave businesses unsupervised with the understanding that their self-interests will compel them to act responsibly.

    Businesses authorized these bad loans and lines of credit, and at least a few have been exposed as having done so knowingly. For those who either missed, or refused to accept, the lessons taught by the Great Depression, I would ask them to try to convince us that this lesson is not being repeated because we failed to stick to what we learned seventy years ago.

  4. Goddamn blogs!!! And Goddamn computer policies! I wrote a response and this stupid infernal contraption deleted it!

    And while I suppose it was important to say that not a single Republican voted for the porked up bill, it may be equally important to remark that the PROMISE that was broken by presenting a bill in the late hours and pushing for a vote before the ramifications of the bill could be fully grasped could be referred to as 'standard operating procedure' for, oh say about 8 years this past January. So let's avoid pointing fingers, or more accurately NOT pointing fingers and telling everyone which fingers we're NOT pointing and which direction we're NOT pointing them.

  5. So it is time for the Republican party to get their comeuppance. Vote for Political Retribution! That is change we can believe in. Um, by the way, Democrats took majority in both the House and Senate in 2006. If this has been going on the past 8 years this January, Lucy's got some splainin' to do.

    For the record, my point about who voted for the bill and who did not, had far less to do with political affiliation and everything to do with the fact that an entire political party AND part of the opposing party voted against this bill at the time it was passed. That simply does not strike me as the way things are supposed to go down if they are being done in the best interest of the country. Furthermore, the main reasons that the majority of the house and senate have swung to the opposite side of the aisle is because they promised to CHANGE "standard operating procedure" so I'm not sure if that is the best defense of this course of action. And don't worry, this is not me not pointing my finger at your not incredibly confusing rebuttal.

    Now, I'd like to not say that while I do (not? too much?) "align" myself politically with the Republican Party, it's more for a lack of a third option. I feel that I have tried to make it perfectly clear, at least in the past 4 years if not more, that I don't simply nod along with whatever the Republican Party votes for or does. I would probably be more vocal in my condemnation of what I disagree with the Republican Party, except that all I've heard for the past 8 years is the Republicans getting slammed for trying to get anything done.

    If by the logic presented it is somehow justifiable for a bill as important as this one to be passed in such a manner, by whatever karmic notion it might be justified by, then I hope that you realize that you are only wishing upon our new president every bit of resistance that was offered up to our previous president on anything he tries to accomplish.

    For every good intention on either side of the aisle, there are 100 corrupt and vile intentions to go along with it (or against it). And not all of them from the Republican side of the aisle.

    “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    I wonder if Lincoln realized he should NOT point his finger at the political misdeeds which might one day run this country into the jagged rocks below.

  6. Blink's right about one thing, at the very least, and that's that the Democrats had best get this "Put the GOP in its place" out of their system in a hurry. Otherwise, they're placing President Obama's platform of unity and moving forward in jeopardy as they seek vengeance for the past.

    One thing that has struck me in my recent studies of the Reagan era is the now-dead notion of a political adversary not being a personal nemesis. Tip O'Neill dined with the president at night early in his first administration and then went on the warpath against him the very next day. A confused Mr. Reagan asked what had happened, and Speaker O'Neill replied, "After 5:00, we're friends. Until 5:00, I have a job to do." (I'm paraphrasing.) When the president encountered the speaker during "business hours" thereafter, he jokingly informed him that he was re-setting his watch to 5:00.

    You can point fingers all day long to account for where this attitude went. Did the Clinton Democrats go too far in their takeover of the government in 1992? Were the surviving Republicans of that year so incensed at losing the power they'd held for 12 years that they launched a winner-take-all plot to destroy their opposition?

    Both seem to be true, at least depending on your source, and by now it's academic. The rise of 24-hour news coverage on TV and online have only exacerbated the tensions and strains of working under the microscope in our nation's capitol.

  7. Lincoln WAS a Republican. I'm not sure he would be staunchly opposed to the defense of Republican ideals, which has really been the only thing I've ever tried to defend.

    I still think that many of the things that the Bush Administration did, and tried to do, were the right thing to do. I'll defend those things, and my ideals, to the last, and I'll gladly explain why. I think there were some greedy and selfish bastards caught up in that whole mix, and I think that things could definitely have been done better in many ways; but the fact that the economy has disintegrated isn't going to simply make me renounce what I believe is right. I'm quite certain I've defended capitalism, private business and industry, and free trade. I don't recall having ever defended de-regulation or the reckless spending habits of idiots everywhere or corporate blind stupidity or greed.

    You can't simply lump together all of the faults of the Republican Party, and act like I've been defending those for the last 8 years, and then leave out the ideologies that are the very reasons that I vote Republican. More to the point, there have been many times where I have singled out and vocalized my favor for Democratic leaders that I put my faith into like Barack Obama back in 2004 when nobody else even knew who he was (and even I had NO idea he would be our next president), and Joseph Lieberman in 2002 onward before he ran for president this past year. I want what is best for our country, and I've never minced words about that.

    I do find it ironic that I've always been typecast (politically) by the very individuals who suggest that I be more open-minded. I remember one time that we were all hanging out, and Fat was going on about clean coal. I was trying to explain to him how clean coal was really not all that clean, when I was suddenly jumped and lectured about how there is no such thing as clean coal. Which was the point I had just been trying to make. But because I am a Republican I was obviously touting the benefits of coal and how necessary the environmental devastation that goes along with it must be.

    Let it just be said, in closing, that I call 'em as I see 'em. You call 'em as you see 'em. When the powers that be screw up again, as they inevitably will, because they have once again misrepresented the very foundation of what we have asked them to be, I'll not blame you for the mistakes they are certainly going to make, and you'll not act like I should have known better. Because we both know that deep down we both want a well-governed country where "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" are the way things are, and not the way we hope they will be.

  8. I do agree about how awesome that sentence is by the way.

  9. Since when does an admittedly irrational and gleeful snipe earn such serious response. I know your position Ronnie and as always you and I tend to strike a balance in the disparity of viewpoint that many others simply cannot breach. I have no legitimate problem with your viewpoint nor have I continuously harped on you for defending your ideals or ever considered that you should renounce them for any reason, especially such a pithy one as the financial crisis. Every strategy adapts, adaptation is the nature of life and to craft any political ideology that would be unflappable in the face of the natural order of life and time would be ridiculous. Thus I understand that both our parties will adapt to the current times in a way that befits their ideals. The song will remain the same. I haven't labeled you as the omega defense against all detractors of the Republican party, and I understand where you've differed from your party because you're a human being with actual principles and discipline and I defy you to find in my last posting in any other paragraph but for the last which was admittedly an irrational cheap spot intended to spur on an equally cheap ribbing, also admittedly based on the coincidental outward appearance of the surrounding evidence (or inadmissable evidence given the said only coincidental connections) which would have influenced my prior statements. In fact I challenge anyone to find anything in my posted opinion today that is more than that, opinion on the original issues posed, and also speaking to the villainy on both sides of the aisle, equally inside the houses of power and the House(s) of Pancakes. My entire point was that everyone is to blame on a national level so eff it, we deal with what is. So maybe you needed to blow off a little steam and that's cool, but man, what in my post set you off?

    And PS to all, in the line of my post where I say that every Lucy has some 'splainin' to do...there was a typo, where it says "Ricky has come" I fully intended the word 'home' to follow that but I guess it tragicomically never made it through the keyboard.

  10. Perhaps we have both misinterpreted each other to some degree in the emotionless, stainless steel pipes of the inter-tubes. While I read your (indeed) irrational and gleeful "snipe" response, it started off well enough in the first line and the two paragraphs that followed. By the end of the third paragraph the tone had gone from tongue-in-cheek to "I'll cut off your tongue if you call me unpatriotic". As patriotism is the third most important thing on my list of priorities (falling closely behind God, and my significant other) I've always despised the way patriotism has been abused for the sake of political gain (or any other reason). I understood the point you were making there, but it seemed as though you were displacing all of that wrongdoing squarely onto the shoulders of the GOP. Which you shortly thereafter stated:

    "And Lincoln not pointing his finger at the political misdeeds he saw as a future issue, is in no way the same as a person who has very vocally defended the GOP within our circle making sure to point out his preferred (even if undoubtedly not always perfectly embraced) party looks pretty squeeky on this issue, casting all frowns on his historic opposition."

    The other two paragraphs just before that seem to lavish even more "praise" upon the GOP (indirectly if not directly) which I was yet again doomed to defend.

    My response was merely to validate exactly where I stand and what point I have been trying to make here which I thought was identical to what you said your point was as well, that "everyone is to blame on a national level, so eff it". I wasn't trying to be "serious" per se, it just reads out that way. So eff off.

  11. Haha! Effing off is not my forte sir, I eff ON!

    So once again it all falls back to misunderstanding of intent perpetuated by the dry and soulless machines that serve to void our thoughts of inflection as they connect them to the rest of the world, and will eventually become self-aware, rise up and destroy our weak, fleshy species.

    I did try my best to mention both the mule and the elephant and cite that individuals were to be eventually sought out for their offenses against the nation, never citing the affiliations of the individuals. But without tone and the blessings of immediate company to respond, so we are doomed for this to be another err of the emotional abyss of the internet. I am sorry if that err doomed you to defend your party tirelessly yet again, as it was never my intent to cast any greater blame upon the Grand Old Party than on to the Democrats, corporate interests, or our brothers and sisters filling out the portion of the country that actually matters, John, Jane, LaKeesha, Hussein, Marcos, Mads, Chow, Akuma-Kalu, Sun-Yi, Lourdes and Hector Q. Public.

    And out of curiosity, were you arguing with me about clean coal? Because I sort of remember something about clean coal but I can't imagine I would be arguing about it rather than sitting on the bench since I actually don't know what the shit is, except what i can divine from the name, that it is probably a coal that is pulled out of the ground in a more sustainable fashion despite that pretty much being impossible since its a mineral or coal that is refined to burn cleaner and thus release less damaging essence into the air, which of course still lends itself to the oxymoronic idea of any coal being clean coal. I was probably hanging out on the edge of that debate because I can't imagine trying to debate something that i am actually technically unfamiliar with. So who was it?

  12. I think this the responses to this post alone have underscored the difficulties of Washington politics. We're just voting citizens. We don't work in jobs that directly relate to our elected officials, we don't even know any personally. And yet, we've seen such intense debate about the implications of our own political identities and affiliations that there've been more than a few apologies and ruffled feathers along the way.

    Imagine how much more magnified these feelings must be for those men and women whose signatures make the difference between ignoring a problem and attempting to solve it. More importantly, theirs are the signatures to be blamed when things go wrong.

    It's easy to forget, being on the outside looking in, but national level politics is a very insular world. It must be so, because of the very specialized nature of the work. I honestly believe, having studied this subject as I have, that only a handful of our politicians live up to the stereotype of people who deliberately lie to get elected and quickly line their pockets with off-the-books kickbacks and shady deals. Most, I'm convinced, genuinely believe they can make a difference if they just plug away at it long enough.

    We're just a small group of politically-minded twentysomethings (and an old man of 30), and we've demonstrated already how difficult it can be identifying what has really gone on and what the right thing to do is. How far is too far? How far isn't far enough? These are important questions, to be sure. Imagine how much harder it must be to have to work with a few hundred others in Congress to get a consensus! Furthermore, at the end of our debates the worst that will happen is one of us has to apologize to someone else. If THEY get it wrong, real people will pay real consequences for having exacerbated an already precarious problem.

    As I mentioned in my A-Rod blog, we must strike a balance between ignoring fault and pursuing a vendetta. I think of that line of John Hammond's from "Jurassic Park": "I don't blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them."

    It's easy to say that now is not the time to ask who made what mistakes, and I would counter that now is the most important time we can EVER ask those questions. How can we solve a problem without really getting to the nuts and bolts of what spawned it? The point must not be to identify scapegoats and destroy them, though. It must be to identify where, in the math of the equation, we went wrong.

    Those who authorized loans to consumers with the expectation that they would default on them should be identified and punished according to the law. That's WHY we have a justice department; they clearly have a job to do in this matter and as a citizen I expect them to do their job.

    Ultimately, we must also not lose sight of the fact that we are in uncharted waters economically. Conventional economic wisdom holds that, at a time of unemployment the government should run a deficit. All the old models have been broken. We have our largest deficit ever, and our woes continue to mount. Economists and politicians are being asked to generate an entirely new approach on the fly, and that has to be a daunting task.

  13. I suppose my pessimism in the matter stems from the fact that there doesn't seem to be much of a problem when it's time to vote on raising their COLA. Way back when, legislation was passed so that Congress would not be able to legislate the level of their pay, so instead they found the loophole to legislate their Cost of Living Allowance. Meanwhile Jury Duty is not an electable or voluntary position that pays only 5 dollars a day (taxable) with 7 dollars a day for expenses.

    Admittedly the difficulties of their jobs are high, but so is the compensation (comparative to the average citizen) as well as the perks, and as was pointed out to me in the past, they volunteered for the position. I may also be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure if they find the position to be not what they had hoped for, they can resign without fear of being thrown into Ft. Leavenworth.

    As far as pursuing legal action against mortgage lenders, I doubt too many of them authorized loans with the expectation that they would be defaulted upon. Any time a loan goes into default, the lender takes a pretty heavy hit. The fault would lie more towards reckless lending habits and mortgage BROKERS who were in it for the instant returns they got every time they sold a mortgage. The mortgage brokers are not on the hook for the loan so once they've made their piece of pie they can move on without taking a hit. Then you come around full circle to the American consumer who signs the dotted line, knowing full well that he can just barely afford the house payment he will owe, and ignoring the fact that the rate will likely increase eventually and he won't be able to afford his payment. Since proving "intent" to in any of these cases would be next to impossible, I just don't think anything will ever come from any investigations. Good luck to anyone who will be investigating any of this, though, because I hope they can lock this sort of thing down and make sure it doesn't happen anymore. It burns me to no end knowing that while I still can't even afford a house yet, my tax dollars will be partially spent helping other people to keep houses they knew they couldn't afford (among other things that my tax dollars are used for that burn me up), but despite all that I know that if we are going to turn this thing around we will have to stand united, shoulder to shoulder, and help each other out.

  14. Read it live from the website here:
    or just read this post. I also recommend clicking the "Blog" button and reading about the Pearl Necklace they were selling. Really, it's not what you might think.

    Bag O’ Crap XXXVI: Crapulus Package
    How can the government get the American consumer to start buying things again?

    Sure, they could spend ninety zillion dollars paying people to build bridges and windmills and boring stuff like that. Or they could adopt the Woot method: just wrap everything in plain brown paper, don’t tell anybody what it is, and sell it for a dollar. Works every time.

    Now, we don’t know exactly why. But the facts are indisputable. Not only do we sell out of this crap within seconds every single time, but people get so mad about not being able to buy it that they say unkind things about our mothers, or they threaten to head up the 1,657th attempted Woot boycott, or they turn into little IT experts lecturing us on our server configuration. At a time when nobody wants to buy anything, the Bag O’ Crap method gets people fighting over the right to buy total junk. Take a lesson, Mr. President.



    I. Thou shalt expect nothing beyond ONE bag of some kind and THREE crappy items.

    II. Thou shalt not whine and complain when some people’s crap turns out to be nicer than yours.

    III. Thou shalt take a moment to consider whether you might be better off just not buying this crap.

    IV. Thou shalt not expect better crap just because things are different this time. Crap is crap.

    V. To paraphrase Stephen Stills, shalt thou not get the crap you want, want the crap you get.

    The crap will be shipped via SmartPost, the crappiest shipping method available to us.