Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Bit of Business...

Yesterday historic collapse in the Stock Market has rocked the world. The fall of Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns has greatly destabilized an already jittery market. Lehman Bros. bankruptcy is the biggest in US history. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, pillars of the mortgage system (and a crucial support mechanism for the middle class, however indirectly) needed support.

The headline-grabbing failures, acquisitions, and dissolution by the FDIC/Treasury Dept are the most obvious. It has become fodder on the campaign trail and allow GOP VP-nominee Gov. Sarah Palin to shoot her mouth off about Freddie and Fannie costing enough taxpayers money. Neither cost money until they needed to be saved. The failure of better regulation of these Gov't created corporations is the result of lobbying both parties. This pattern can be seen among many financial firms. What seems clear is that the Federal Reserve is running out of opportunities and time to save more firms. Lehman and as we speak, possibly AIG, tell us that. The Fed is to be lauding for acting where they did not in 1929, staving off, lessening, and hopefully averting a full-scale economic calamity.

What the campaign trail does get right, and has often been the battle cry of the Democrats, is that the economy is not working for average people anymore. In fact it may not be as obvious as many think. It may be more pervasive than people realize.
Foreign and top-tier investment in housing in hot markets like Boston and New York and elsewhere freezes thousands out the places that they live...and for what? Third, fourth, twentieth homes for Oil Sheiks and Hollywood producers and yes, Bankers? This is hard to nail down, but who is this economy working for? At a time when cities are most economical and the suburbs may face trouble, people remain prices out, despite the decline in prices.

Interest rates for savers are abysmal, while interest rates for credit cards are astronomical. A near total collapse of usury laws have encourage runaway interest rates coupled with lack of accessibility to bankruptcy thanks to reform. It should be noted that not all of the recent Bankruptcy reform is bad, but it was riddled with ways it favored the rich's irresponsibility (which affects lots of people, too) and not the common folks'. Filing bankruptcy shouldn't be easy, but it should be equitable. It shouldn't be easy to get into that situation either, though.

Not all the things are areas where the Government can or should change things. You can see from the way that corporations, mainly in the retail sector that drives our economy, insist on squeezing more and more from their ground level employees. It asks for more and more and gives back less and less. Bad managers go forth unpunished for whatever reason, demoralizing their good employees and counterparts. Nitpicking emphasized pettiness over the big picture. The self-ascribed image of the company's own magnanimity to provide a job does not instill discipline or encourage loyalty.

This has happened throughout American history, but before the Great Depression, it could be excused because nobody had experienced a mature industrial economy. Over the last half-century we have degraded back into that mindset once again. Capitalism guided by a level of compassion and a willingness to avoid that which has calamitous consequences is the way to go. However, it need to be more democratic, not in how it is run, necessarily, but in how it relates to all levels of the system. Hopefully that makes sense and if it does, it is possible to get there.


Real Quickly...
Today is Primary Day in Massachusetts. Short of the political intrigue and what-fors two years ago or even last year's Municipal Elections, it is not of particular interest to WMassP&I today. This blog however stands by the incumbents John Kerry and John Olver for Senate and Representative respectively.

John Kerry, despite his flaws, is an advocate for Massachusetts and at times a Statesman in the Senate. Often overshadowed by his colleague, Sen. Edward Kennedy, it is easy to toss barbs at the Commonwealth's Junior Senator. However, he remains part of the equation that gives the State a Level of Gravitas in Congress.

John Olver has served admirably since taking over the Late Silvio Conte's seat. Although his district contains some of the most conservative regions of Massachusetts, it also has some of the most liberal. The result is a Chemistry Professor turned Congressman who serves a diverse constituency on a wide range of issues. This blog particular lauds Cong. Olver's efforts on behalf of Amtrak, which decidedly under serves his district, but he supports its wider national use and need.

More locally we support Brian Ashe in the 2nd Hampden, knowing full well that WMassP&I is undecided on the General for this election. The district that includes Longmeadow must be a Longmeadow representative. The affluent town, the ATM of Western Mass politics, will only be more intent on seeding itself in other districts if it does not have one of its own representing in name. Moreover, there is concern of a Kateri Walsh Boston ascendancy would bring up Mo Jones to the city council whose connections have been called into question.

In the 11th Hampden, we are unable to come to terms with who should be the superior candidate. Chelan Brown's connections to AWAKE and its iffiness gives us pause. Choose either Swan or Gaines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John Olver does well by his progressive constituencies, but has done little across the spectrum of his district. Most of the projects listed on his congressional website under "My Work in Congress" were actually intiated by and advocated for by local groups to persuade Olver to support - he rarely initiates any of the leg work himself (again, except for his prefered progressive projects). He also use the 'my' right on his home page where its says "Do You Live in My District". After so many years in D.C., he seems to have forgotten that the district belongs to the people who live within it.