As we approach the coming November 2nd elections, a number of fuzzy political/business issues and nuances are now becoming crystal clear to me.
I realize that nothing good ever comes from pontificating about religion and politics. So I promise to stay clear of the latter, while I air my grievances solely about the former. Maybe some won't like my views. But, what the hell. I think it could be a little cathartic for me because my general disgust with politics, the economy and those who are supposed to be leading us is boiling over.
First things first. I am an Independent (and an infuriated one at that). My wife likes to say to our friends that I hate all politicians and all politics. I think that's one of the most accurate statements she's every made about me.
Now, in no particular order, here's a litany of bad behavior going on these days. Sorry in advance if my rants aren't pretty or politically correct.
I had great hopes with our current President. I think he is smart, truly cares about people and is a decent man with morals. He was an easy vote for me (the anti-right wing one). But to date, he hasn't done nearly enough to revive our economy. Let me be precise here. I don't blame him for the recession we're in. But, I am beyond frustrated that he is such a lousy politician within his own party. Because Obama can't lead (or persuade) his liberal colleagues, our economy suffers. Most pointedly, he hasn't found a way to pump enough money into the areas that matter in our economy to make any difference. Americans are going to vote many Republicans into office in a few weeks. It's inevitable now. It probably won't get any better, but I tend to think it can't possibly get much worse than the political stalemate we're stuck in today.
My feeling is that neither party is any good, though. The Democrats have little spine to make anything substantial happen (witness a watered down health care plan that provides very few real solutions). And, what used to be a party that leveraged ideals to (sometimes) create a variety of pragmatic solutions, seems to now live in Alice in Wonderland's fairy tale world.
On the flip side, I don't recognize the Republican Party anymore. The witches, wackos and Washington special interests force feed most every decision they make. Let's just call a spade, a spade. This political group should be renamed ‘The Radical Party,’ because there isn't much left that looks like the Reagan or even George Bush (the first one) Republicans anymore. The ‘Radicals’ scream that Obama has created big government and over spending. Well, the fact is that we need to spend more in bad times to stimulate business growth, more jobs and consumer confidence (just like in good times, our government needs to have the discipline to cut back). And, it was their President, Mr. Bush (that would be the second one), who actually started all that spending.
The problem is that while our administration is spending, it has failed to ensure that those essential institutions (i.e. banks) actually use this money to open up their coffers and provide necessary credit and funds to tens of thousands of small businesses and consumers who deservedly should receive it. Thus, businesses aren't hiring and consumers aren't spending. What a travesty that is.
I'm also sick and tired of seeing and hearing from the same old career politicians. Sorry to pick on the Democrats here, but what kind of morons are we to allow career politicos like Chris Dodd and Barney Frank stay in office? It's laughable that they led the bill to create new financial legislation which is supposed to protect us from Wall Street. The oh so bitter irony here is that these bozos created the actual legislation some 25+ years ago which forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to start doling out mortgages to consumers who weren't credit worthy. Yes, that means they helped to create the mess. And now, this dynamic duo are primed to be the heroes who've come to save the day from those evil subprime Wall Street villains? Puhlease...
We also need to be fair on this issue. All sides deserve some blame for this mortgage mess. I think it's a tad pathetic that over the last week, we've seen how the biggest banks were forced to succumb to political pressure (thereby putting a freeze on all foreclosures). Don't get me wrong, consumers should always be protected in cases where banks committed fraud in how they packaged these risky loans. But, seriously... we're all adults. And, adults need to stand up and take some responsibility for lapses in judgment. The fact remains that many people didn't have the income or credit to take on these large mortgages. And, they are just as guilty for sticking their heads in the sand versus trying to understand the risk/reward associated with the loans they were so gleefully receiving.
Of course, nothing has really changed for the banking community. Many took TARP money to survive. Now, so many of them are reaping record profits, just two years after their near distinction. How can that be (you may ask)? Well, they aren't creating anything of real value for society. Nope. As interest rates shifted, they simply made a ton of money trading the spread on the TARP money they were given. Something about that simply doesn't make any sense, even in this chaotic world. One could always look at that as being a half full glass (I guess). Making Wall Street whole again certainly pumps a lot of needed money back into our economy (especially New York City)... which is good.
Still, I believe in equity. I think most Americans would have loved to see the government actually create a system which penalized any company that received government money for at least a few years. Think about it. That penalty could be realized through restraints on just how much compensation the company can shell out to those traders, investment bankers and other employees, partners and senior executives who are back to filthy rich yearly bonuses. I'm sure that Wall Street leaders would tell us that they can't be competitive if that penal system existed. I think that's nonsense. Since they all took TARP money, it wouldn't matter. They'd all be operating and competing under the same restraints. There's nothing more equitable than that.
Now that I've gotten all of that out of my system (and feel so much better), where does it leave me? Well, I can still say with most certainty that as bad as it is, I'd run for the Canadian hills if the American people ever lost their minds completely and voted Sarah Palin into The White House. Absent of that, we still have a democratic, capitalistic system which beats most every other one on this great, big planet. Still, I'm a disillusioned, Independent voter looking for better answers. I want to believe again. I'm just begging someone to show me how...