Sunday, December 5, 2010
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
If I was President Obama……
I’d be far more interested in taking the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission—which did a good job of bursting economic balloons on both ideological camps—fashioning them into a comprehensive deficit reduction plan and using the next year and a half to push and fight for it in toto or in pieces (and maybe saving his own candidacy in 2012) then fretting about losing the hosting of a soccer tournament!
BFD. If a sports tournament is played elsewhere in the world. Does the aggravation, security and cost of hosting all of those countries, their teams and fans equal whatever goodwill or praise the tourney generates?
I say “no.”
How many Americans really care whether the Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) recently voted to send the next two soccer world championship to hosts Qatar and Russia?
Hasn’t the President learned not to get involved in these matters since his maiden effort on trying to get the next Olympics sent to Chicago? George Bush ticked off the world with his tin ear and hardheadedness and now Obama reaps his share because his political influence is waning. Stay away Mr. President, your help doesn’t help!
Most of the FIFA voting countries and their citizens will run to the US for assistance when their chestnuts really fall into the fire and in the coming era of strained budgets and curtailed government spending we’ve likely saved ourselves from all of that phony hype and soccer “hooliganism.”
We should thank FIFA!!
Speaking of the deficit Commission’s recommendations. Its co-chairman, former Wyoming GOP Senator Alan Simpson, is one of the most cynical and funniest men you’ll ever meet or hear. He has a favorite story, which he’s probably told a thousand times but which still makes his audiences laugh.
It seems that an old Wyoming rancher had married a very comely young wife. One morning, at about 3 AM,the farmer answers his phone, listens, and then screams into it,
“How in the hell should I know. That’s a thousand miles away!”
His bride asks him who was calling and the farmer said, “I don’t know, some &^%$# guy asking me if the coast was clear.”
It Might Happen, but I Am Not Holding My Breath
Back to deficit cutting and our President. I desperately want President Obama to be less laid back, tougher and more inspiring. Yes the November elections were a setback, but not one without political precedent and not one that a strong leader can’t overcome (see Bill Clinton).
I can only speculate at how a Lyndon Johnson or a Ronald Reagan would have responded to this red ink era. Johnson, personally, and Reagan through surrogates behind the scenes but upfront nationally in the media, would have tried to forge a political coalition to achieve as many of the deficit cutting proposals they could, while ostracizing their opponents, political party friend or foe.
Put in a political context, I believe they would have seized on the deficit and the public’s unhappiness to force policy changes and establish a stronger foundation for jobs growth. (For Obama that might mean screwing the trial lawyers, labor unions, and some senior citizen advocates, but so what?)
His own tax and spending priorities would get a far better reception, if he shows that he can kill some Democrat sacred cows as he prioritizes.
That’s what a leader does and that—to me—is Obama’s key to winning in 2012, unless he opts to not run for reelection (which wouldn’t surprise me).
Playing patty cake or political volleyball with the Republicans is not where victory will be for this man. He needs to discover or rediscover his “inner Lion” and ROAR on behalf of those he wants to lead.
I believe there will be an end of the congressional session deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. I hope President Obama gets something in return from the GOP for his support.
“North Korea is Too ‘Nuclear’ to Fail!”
Harrowing thought, but that whacko country--led by a very reclusive and bizarre man, Kim Jong-il, who seems intent to hold onto power through his son, even after the father croaks--likely has nuclear weapons, the means to deliver them widely, and a neurotic willingness to unleash them if pushed one inch the wrong way.
Kim,no matter how provocative his country’s actions, never seems to incur the wrath of China, the only nation which might influence him.
While the Chinese may dislike Kim and his tantrums, they certainly don’t want a democratic and western- leaning South Korea running the North, if a reunification ever occurs. But, the Chinese government seems reluctant to exercise any restraint on its neighbor client.
The North which starves and denies its own citizenry basic freedoms seem to have little concern for its populace save keeping it controlled.
The United States speaks loud and seems to carry a tiny stick, while South Korea only speaks loud but waivers because its modern society has too much to lose in a shooting war with the backward North.
Options are few when dealing with aberrant nations.
Here’s one thought. The next time North Korea kills a southern soldier or civilian in an obvious act of war, the US should drop enough nukes on the North to break Kim’s—or his son’s--control and then let nature take it’s course when the northern and southern Korean population mingling. Some of the North’s citizens will try and flee to China and we then should let the Chinese worry about them, reflecting the nation’s early indifference to the monster is harbored.
That should take care of the United States’ “North Korea” problems for a generation or more and also send a strong signal to other bellicose nations (see “Iran”), that even President Obama has a tipping point. It probably gets Barack re-elected in 2012, too.
“So That’s Where the Money Went,” Gretchen Morgenson
One of my favorite financial columnists is the New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson, who does a fine job of getting to the heart of most issues and pointing out fascinating and often embarrassing things about her topics.
She didn’t disappoint in her Sunday column’s discussion of a slightly tardy Fed report--issued last week--detailing which firms, foreign and domestic, got most of the money distributed by the Fed when it was bailing out the US’s financial services markets in 2008-2009.
Naturally, Morgenson suggests that the very large financial conglomerates, commercial bank/investment banks, took down most of the funds and returned the least for the Fed’s help.
Here is an excerpt from her commentary and a link to her Times column.
Better late with the data than never, of course. And the release of these figures just ahead of Friday’s grim employment data — the jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent in November — makes them even more compelling. Clearly, the federal government was much more willing to deliver mountains of money to big banks that made big mistakes than it was to lend a financial hand to rank-and-file Americans struggling through foreclosures.
Federal officials have always argued that plowing money into errant banks and trading shops was the best way to rescue the economy, but to Edward J. Kane, professor of economics at Boston College, details of the Fed’s largess are reminiscent of a famous Winston Churchill quotation.
“Never have so few owed so much to so many, and given them so small a return,” Mr. Kane said. “We see, for example, how little these institutions have given back to troubled homeowners whose houses are threatened with foreclosure.”
Mr. Kane’s point is important. Certainly, the low interest rates the Fed charged to institutional borrowers during the disaster translate into a significant subsidy, indeed a gift, to many of the firms that set the financial collapse in motion.