Monday, December 29, 2008

From a Red Economy to a Green One.

The 2009 holiday shopping season will likely mark the end of an era. The U.S. economy has spent nearly 30 years in the red. B0th Ronald Reagan and George Bush respectively ran up more debt than all Presidents before them combined. As if following a leader off a cliff, the American people buried themselves with credit cards and home equity mortgages. After a dismal holiday season some analysts are predicting that up to 25% of all retailers could go bankrupt in the coming year. Surely the fortunate survivors will change their approach to luring and maintaining a customer base. What will change is yet to be seen, but in the words of President Elect Obama, a change is going to come.

While Berdard Madoff was churning investments to pay suspiciously high dividends, "legal" lending institutions were making N.I.N.J.A. loans (No Income,No Job, no Assets) selling 700, 000 dollar homes to people making 14,000 dollars per year with no payments for the first two years. These deadly loans were then bundled and sold in lots of 100 to willing suckers such as AIG and Citigroup. The lending institutions were irresponsible and the people accepting these loans were either delusional or mathematically challenged. However, thanks to deregulation there were no laws broken, mainly because there were no laws left to break.

America, from top to bottom, was in an economic tailspin. With virtually all of our manufacturing gone and the service jobs in exodus, the only product we could create for profit was debt. We were truly living in a red economy. How could anyone be surprised at the crash we are experiencing? The reality of Ronald Reagan's regulation free trickle down economics is being realized as bankruptcy started with the major corporations and is now trickling down to the families of the workers they laid off.

President Elect Obama's vision of a green economy, supported by tax policies which penalizes the exportation of jobs, can create a stable alternative to the current dysfunctional mess we find ourselves mired in. It will undoubtedly take a while to become reality but it may be our only hope, with an emphasis on the word "hope".

However, if this ship is to be turned around we also need to convince our citizens to stop wandering aimlessly through discount stores spending money they don't have to buy things they don't need.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Next Great Rumor....President Kennedy 2016

Caroline Kennedy's appointment to the Senate is the first move in a political chess game by the the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, with the ultimate goal of putting her in the White house in 2016.

President Kennedy 2016?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blame the Greedy CEO's?

I am taking the the unpopular position that the CEO's in both the financial and auto industry are not responsible for the current economic crisis. It is quite clear that Republican and Democratic politicians agree on one basic theory, that the greed and mismanagement of corporate leaders have caused the problem. Their rare unity is in itself an indicator that something is amiss. They know that the American people are angry and who better to blame than those who have benefited from this crisis in an obvious and excessive fashion. Corporate leaders are an easy target.

The Congressman and women who mock and taunt corporate CEO's during the bailout hearings need only look in the mirror for the culprits. In 1980 Ronald Reagan was swept into office pushing his pro-corporate agenda of deregulation and both sides of the aisle were thrilled to accept his deeply flawed economic theory. The deep recession of the 1970's had created public anger at the government and politicians were able to channel this anger towards an amorphous government entity rather than at the individual members of who made up the entity, themselves. Thus, deregulation worked to create the facade that both Congress and the President were fixing the Country's economic woes by ridding corporate America of the bothersome interference of a bloated inept government while distancing themselves from this government.

The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions act of 1982 deregulated the savings and loans institutions and the "S and L crisis" was not long to follow. This major deregulation bill was sponsored by Democrat Ferdinand St. Germain and Republican Jake Garn, it was co-sponsored by Democrats Charles Schumer and Steny Hoyer. This was, or rather should have been, the canary in the coalmine predicting the ultimate results of deregulation. Allow the financial institutions to take unreasonable risks, and they will destroy themselves.

Both the allegedly liberal Brookings Institute and the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute strongly advocated deregulation despite the opposition of many left leaning economists and the anti-globalization movement. Not surprisingly, both sides of the aisle are now eager to blame greedy corrupt CEO's and overlook the effects of their legislative actions. If not for deregulation none of this could have possibly taken place. Corporations have always operated within the confines of U.S. policies and regulations and if they are allowed to take suicidal risks they surely shall. The role of government is to monitor and adjust the corporate environment to protect the American consumer and worker. Deregulation was extremely effective in its intent, however the law of unintended consequences has created an economic disaster of epic proportions.

Democrats, Republicans, and mainstream media pundits are unified in the assertion that Corporate CEO's are the cause of the impending economic collapse of the United States, and possibly the International finance system. Those who created and imposed deregulation are eager to find a scapegoat.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Obama Taking Heat From the Left

I have have been quite surprised by some of the attacks being leveled at President Elect Obama by some left leaning members of his "base. Various online journalists and politicians have taken to evaluating the Obama Presidency before he has spent one second in office.

One of the most progressive Presidents America has ever elected is about to take office and some are upset because he didn't clone Dennis Kucinich and name the clones to every Cabinet post. We watched in horror as President Bush hired and fired for the last eight years based solely on ideology. The most incompetent bunglers were appointed to critical Government positions, such as F.E.M.A., because they were loyal right wing "Bushies." Now the same people who complained the loudest about George W's appointments are unhappy because their guy gives weight to competence when choosing his Cabinet. There is no credible argument against his Cabinet choices other than ideology.

Some have complained that President Elect Obama is breaking campaign promises by changing his mind regarding a windfall profits tax on the oil industry. One of the principal complaints against George Bush has been his refusal to adjust his policies to fit changing circumstances both foreign and domestic. Clearly the policies regarding energy must be re-evaluated now that oil prices have dropped below $44.00 per barrel. There are certainly are more pressing issues which require attention.

Others, who are stuck in an ideological war of opposition, infer that any Republican approval of his Cabinet choices constitutes prima facia evidence that the choices are bad.

Recently, House Member Barney Frank made the astonishing assertion that Obama is not doing enough. That despite the fact that he can do little except make public comments and prepare to take office. Granted President Elect Obama has promised major changes, but it is far fetched to expect any of those changes before he gets in office.

It appears that some people are so accustomed to fighting the "system" that they don't realize when they've won.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Evaluating Obama's "Centrist" Cabinet

Pundits, political analysts, and concerned citizens are hard at work evaluating the political moves of President Elect Barack Obama with the goal of interpreting these actions to predict his style of governing. Generally, the ideological positions of cabinet appointments are believed to reveal the political leanings of the incoming President. This has traditionally been a reliable method and often produces a reasonably accurate picture of a future President's objectives. As an example, in hindsight the selections of noted war-hawks Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle by President George W. Bush were clear indicators that his Administration would pursue an aggressive militaristic foreign policy. In that case, cabinet selections were quite indicative of both the incoming President's ideology and governing style.

President Elect Obama's non traditional leadership style creates a new political paradigm which renders many of the traditional methods of analyzing politics ineffective. Though mild mannered and pragmatic, President Elect Obama is a powerful visionary leader in the mold of JFK , Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. Visionary leaders are exceptionally self confident and typically select the most competent subordinates even though there may be some slight ideological differences. The leader provides the vision and tasks the subordinates with making it a reality. The leader envisions a synergistic environment which requires loyalty and dedication but not unanimous agreement on all issues.

President Elect Obama's National Security Team selections reflect his commitment to the competence and diversity required to fulfill his vision much more than his ideological inclinations.

The National Security Team:

Defense Secretary - Robert Gates
Born in Wichita Kansas, 1943

Secretary Gates has a master's degree in history from Indiana University and a PH.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. He served on the non-partisan Iraq Study Group whose findings were much criticized by right wing war-hawks. The recent Russian incursion into Georgia and the cold-war like conflict over the European missile defense shield create a necessity for an experienced soviet expert. As a former CIA director he will also be able to combine military and intelligence resources to address President Elect Obama's foreign policy priority of accounting for missing soviet nuclear weapons. He is widely viewed as a centrist in Washington political circles.

Admiral William Fallon, a known center-left military leader, recommended that Secretary Gates be kept on as Defense Secretary. President Elect Obama is known to have consulted with Former "Bush 41" National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of Robert Gates, for foreign policy advice.

Ambassador to the United Nations - Susan Rice
Born in Washington D.C., 1964

A Rhodes Scholar, Ms. Rice earned an M.Phil. and a D.Phil. from New College, Oxford. In 1990 the Chatham house-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation as the UK's most distinguished in international relations. Rice's classmates and professors at Oxford included advocates of the role of the United Nations and international law. Ms. Rice's nomination is a clear indicator that right wing anti-U.N. policies based on American exceptionalism will be no part of the Obama foreign policy.

National Security Adviser - James Jones
Born Kansas City, 1943

The former four star General served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander and as Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corp. Jones is known to have a placid demeanor, a methodical approach to problems, and boasts impressive negotiating skills.

Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton
Born Chicago Illinois, 1947

The bad news - if you choose Hillary you get Bill.
The good news - if you choose Hillary you get Bill.
Though somewhat hawkish on foreign policy of late, Senator Clinton is a smart politician and unlikely to jeopardize one of the premier political appointments in the world. Few can argue the strength and competence of Senator Clinton or worldwide appeal of the Clinton brand. There will be few doors that Bill can't open for Hillary if his considerable skills and connections are needed. This appointment also serves to consolidate President Elect Obama's power within the Democratic Party and create an opening for a more progressive replacement in the Senate.

Homeland Security Secretary - Janet Napolitano
Born New York City, 1957

The former attorney for Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings was appointed as the United States attorney for the District of Arizona by President Bill Clinton. In that capacity she participated in the investigation of the Oklahoma City Bombing. She also served as the Arizona Attorney General and Chair of the National Governors Association. In 2006 she defeated her Republican gubernatorial opponent by a nearly 2-1 margin.

Attorney General - Eric Holder
Born, The Bronx, New York
Son of an immigrant from Barbados

Former Superior Court Judge, United States Attorney, and Deputy Attorney General of the United States.
After assisting in prosecutions for the ABSCAM sting, he was appointed as a Judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by President Ronald Reagan.
The Columbia Law School graduate once worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
His wife's sister, Vivian Juanita Jones, was one of the first two African Americans to enroll in the University of Alabama and became famous when Governor George Wallace blocked them from enrolling. Interestingly, Malone was refused entrance by Governor Wallace and an army of State Troopers when she arrived to enroll accompanied by U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. President Kennedy subsequently activated the National Guard and she was admitted. In 2007 Holder joined the amicus brief which urged the Supreme Court to uphold Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban. During his 1997 confirmation hearing for Deputy U.S. Attorney General he told Congress ""I am not a proponent of the death penalty, but I will enforce the law as this Congress gives it to us."

Attorney General Designee Holder's background seems to suggest that he will aggressively pursue a progressive agenda.

The Centrist, or even right leaning Cabinet that the mainstream pundits speak of never materializes when the Cabinet members are evaluated individually. The group rounds out as a collection of pragmatic intellectuals with exceptional experience and knowledge in their respective fields of assignment. The lone Republican Administration holdover, Secretary Robert Gates, comes highly recommended by one of the most visible anti-neocon military leaders in recent years, former CENTCOM Commander Admiral William Fallon.

The Obama political model will likely confound mainstreamers for years to come. Progressives who have accepted the mainstream assertion of Obama's move to the right and Conservatives who are beaming about the so-called right leaning/centrist Cabinet will be surprised to find that President Elect Obama will Govern exactly as he promised, bottom up politics at home and a cooperative spirit abroad. It is also remarkable that his Cabinet is conspicuosly absent representation from the Red States of the Deep South and the right wing of American Politics.