Sunday, February 22, 2009

Political Questions

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep the news of the day kept rumbling around in my noggin. I couldn't get my head around the fact that some people were opposed to the third leg of the Obama rescue plan. I am referring to the housing bail out plan designed to stop the hemorrhaging of foreclosures. I will call those oppositionists the 'complainers'.

The people against it are complaining because they don't want to be forced to pay for their neighbors mortgage because 'said neighbor' lied to buy a house they couldn't afford. (I will refer to those people as 'losers'.) The mantra goes like this: Why should I pay for the houses of people with their extra bathrooms who bought a house they couldn't afford when I have been responsible and played by the rules and made my payments on time?

The first point I would make is that this is a gross exaggeration of the people who are losing their houses. Yes, some did buy houses when they clearly couldn't afford them, but others were just as responsible as the complainers. They made their mortgage payments on time, could afford the house when they bought it, but, through no fault of their own, are now unable to make the payments. Usually, this unfortunate circumstance is due to the loss of the job of one, or both, of the breadwinners. To the complainers I would say, "Be careful because you could be next."

The second point I want to stress is that those losers won't be bailed out. It's the people who have equity in their houses that this program will help. The irresponsible losers have no equity (remember the banks were happy to sell them houses with no down payment). Not only did the losers obtain the house with little or nothing down, but all the payments they have made have gone to interest. Ergo - no equity.

The third point I would make is, if the government doesn't stop the downslide of the housing market the complainers own houses will continue to lose value as the foreclosure signs go up around them. An abandoned house deteriorates very rapidly and is a magnet for squatters. Would the complainers rather have a drug dealer next door or the neighbor who was evicted? I grant you that this might seem like an extreme argument until you look at some neighborhoods where the foreclosures were many.

The fourth point I want to stress is, if nothing is done the economy is done for. The housing bubble started this big hole we are all in and it must be addressed along with bailing out the banks and auto industry. If it isn't stabilized, new homes will not be built and how many jobs will be lost because of that? Just as the auto industry has other businesses dependent on it's survival, so does the housing industry. Just think about all of the things that go into a house.
From the Realtor's first selling the lot to the last piece of furniture, hundreds of jobs are at stake. Isn't this what the stimulus package is supposed to do? I thought the whole object was to 1) create jobs and 2) save jobs.

The complainers are classic examples of failing to see the big picture while they focus on their own narrow view. It is crisis time. We all have to sacrifice because we are all in this mess together.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Elder Attitude

Here's a bit of elder philosophy to keep you smiling over the weekend.

I am busy getting ready for my step-daughter's visit on Tuesday. Please bear with me as I ignore my blog for now. Posting will be 'iffy' but I'll try to add something once in a while to keep you visiting. ;-).

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making
my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful.
But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers,
or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and
compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their
hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore.
I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever,
but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day(if I feel like it).



Monday, February 16, 2009

Larry, the Cable Guy

John McCain and Sarah Palin may claim Joe the Plumber as their source of wisdom; I'll take the teaching of Larry, the Cable Guy. What do you think?

The Wisdom Of Larry, The Cable Guy

1. A day without sunshine is like night.

2. On the other hand, you have different fingers.

3. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

4. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

5. Remember, half the people you know are below average.

6. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

7. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

8. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.

9. Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have.

10. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

11. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

12. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.

13. How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand.

14. OK, so what's the speed of dark?

15. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

16. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.

17. How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?

18. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

19. What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?

20. Why do psychics have to ask you your name?

21. Inside every older person is a younger person wondering, 'What the heck happened?'

22. Just remember -- if the world didn't suck, we would all fall off.

23. Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

24. Life isn't like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your butt tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Hodgepodge

I looked out my front window a few minutes ago and noticed these clouds. We had rain this morning and you can see that some clouds still hold moisture. Our mountains are snow capped today and some snow fell in the lower elevations. However, our area just got rain. Believe me, I'm not complaining. Here are three views as I saw them from my front door.


I haven't listened to the news so I don't know what the pundits are saying about Obama's speech last night. I do hope he was able to change the subject from the Republican fear mongering about the stimulus package. I thought he did a good job, but may have been a bit too cerebral for Joe Sixpack. His job was to stress the urgency for action without causing panic. In that, he was successful. He is certainly good at pointing fingers without being nasty. And if the public chooses to listen to the blowhards like Rush and Sean, then I guess there is no hope for them. Wasn't it wonderful to see Helen Thomas in the front row again instead of being banished to the rear by Bush? She is one who will always ask the hard questions and Obama isn't afraid to take them.


Chancy, who writes the blog Driftwood Inspiration wrote about the Facebook tag that is going around. I'm sure you have heard about it: 25 random thoughts about me. Chancy said that anyone reading her post could consider themselves tagged. So I think I will 'give it a go.'

1. I hate buttermilk.

2. I am a chocoholic.

3. I love to shop.

4. I love reading mysteries; especially ones written by P. D. James.

5. Mark Harmon, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and George Clooney make my old heart race.

6. I am nostalgic.

7. I am an insomniac.

8. I try to be a perfectionist; and fail.

9. I read music, but not fast.

10. I read in bed.

11. I hate injustice.

12. I love dogs.

13. I have a fear of drowning and
heights .

14. I wish I could stay in a luxury hotel for a month.

15. I am not good in math.

16. I can play over 200 melodies by ear on the piano.

17. I hate to throw anything away.

18. I love 'dining out' in a nice restaurant.

19. I have gained too much weight and can't stick to a diet.

20. I don't care. (see above)

21. I have been a widow for 24 years.

22. I never want to marry again.

23. I hate asking for favors.

24. I have a quick temper. (It has mellowed with the years.)

25. I talk too much.


Back to my Arizona skies. I love the blue, blue skies and that is one thing I miss most when I am away. I hope you enjoy seeing a part of my world.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hypocrites and Irony

I spent this Sunday morning punishing myself again. Yep, I watched the Republicans on the talk shows. I have a few choice words for them; unless you can contribute something meaningful, shut up, already.

First that Neanderthal, Mitch McConnell, made the absolutely absurd statement that the Democrats had not learned from history. Huh? He
was referring to the economic stimulus package and, by inference, stating that the Republicans had created a good economy with their tax cuts for the upper 1%. Please, Mitch, give me a break. Your tax cuts were financed on
our National Debt credit card and that is one of the contributing factors in the fine mess we find ourselves in now. Sorry to enlighten you, Mitch, but you had control of both houses and the presidency while laying the groundwork for the economic quagmire we find ourselves in. So who hasn't learned from history? Mr. McConnell, I suggest you go take a good look in the mirror.

It is the height of chutzpah for the Republicans to accuse the Democrats of wasteful spending. I do believe they are the party that went on a spending binge that lasted for eight years while, at the same time, cutting taxes. Please tell me how this was fiscally wise? Call me dense, but it seems to me that if you cut your income while you are buying luxury items (like an inconvenient war) you are going to have to pay the Piper at some point down the road. Well, that bend in the road is here and it's a very dangerous curve.

To add an insult to one's intelligence, John Ensign, Senator from Nevada, pontificated on all of that terrible spending in the stimulus package. Horrible, wasteful things like aid to the states. When Barney Frank pointed out to him that if the States didn't get the money they would have to fire teachers, policemen and firemen. That kind of translates into
lost jobs, doesn't it? Oh but wait! Mr. White Hair (not white hat) had an answer to that. The States could find cuts in wasteful spending without firing anybody. Excuse me? After George Bush put the States on a starvation diet for eight years they have already cut their budgets to the bone. Ask any governor where he plans to cut next. Ask California's Republican governor, Schwarzenegger, what part of that bloated budget he will slash.

Oh, but Ensign had an answer for that, too. Aiding the States wouldn't stimulate the economy for several years down the road. Well, it's just such short sighted inability to see ahead that got us in this fine kettle of fish we now find ourselves in.

Oh well - never mind. Unless aid to the States is restored, that item has been slashed from the package by
the ideologue Republicans. Obama had to give them that sop to get votes.

Then of course, Mr. Loser, John McCain, loves to rant about all that pork in the package. What pork? Oh yeah, little items like education and health care. One man's pork is another man's beef (pun intended).

Oh my head is swimming with the illogical logic being used by the opposition to the package. And when their logic comes up faulty they harp on things like condoms. I guess they would rather have the States pick up the tab for abortions or unwanted babies. Of course the condom issue is ludicrous unless you are a very conservative Christian of the far right. The term 'red herring' comes to mind.

Aha, but I finally learned what they are really up to. While accusing Obama of partisan politics (the irony of it all) the Reublicans know that no matter what we do now things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. It will take several years to turn things around and then
just in time for the mid-term elections the G.O.P. can say, "Obama's stimulus package didn't work". Now does anybody who is paying attention think that they have your best interests at heart?

I thought I was through being angry at the political games being played once Obama was elected. I was wrong.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Have you ever had one of those days when your mind is a total blank? That describes my cerebrum and cerebellum today and it's really, really irritating. In the middle of the night I think of all of those wonderful subjects that I want to explore on this blog, but in the morning I can't remember a single one.

When this happens I always promise myself that I will put a pad and pencil on my nightstand so I can write a reminder for further perusal. Naturally, I promptly forget the reminder to make a reminder. Oh, the agony of it all.

I did so want to explore a deep and interesting subject on today's blog. Maybe something like 'why do men part their hair on one side and is it significant as to which side he uses?' Now there's a subject you can really get your teeth into.

I am heartily sick of the doom and gloom that invades our equilibrium when we turn on the news. If that is true, why do I listen?

Do I really think all those petitions I so faithfully sign are read by my representative in Foggy Bottom?

Do the Republicans give a rats ass about the country?

Will the partisanship that started with Ronald Reagan ever disappear from Washington?

Will Obama finally tell the obstructionist Republicans to put a sock in it?

Will the public ever stop listening to a big fat blowhard named Rush Limbaugh?

Will Fox news become honest?

Will the stimulus package pass before it is so diluted it will do no good?

Will John Q. Public ever stop letting someone like Hannity tell them what to think?

Will it ever stop snowing in the Northeast?

Will the sun come up tomorrow?

Well, you get the idea. My mind is pure mush today.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cyclists and Structuralists

Robert Reich, who oversaw Clinton's economic upturn as Secretary of Labor, has written an article that every Senator and Congressman who are opposing the Stimulus package should read. The often repeated quote of Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" certainly applies to the Republican Congressmen who voted against the Stimulus package.

Math was always my worst subject so I don't pretend to be qualified to make judgments on the economy, but, as you know, I am pragmatic and if something makes sense to me I accept it as being close to factual.

It would be nice to forget politics now that the election is over, but the hard part is just beginning and it has been proven that a loud and vocal constituency gets the attention of our representatives if done en mass. It is easy to voice our concerns now with
Internet access . Find the web site of your representative, write them an e-mail, and tell them your views. If you have a story on how the subject impacts your life be sure to include that. Pay special attention to votes coming up and write asking them to vote yea or nay on the issue. Right now the Stimulus Package is due for a vote in the Senate. Let your rep know how you want them to vote.

Please ask your friends and relatives who agree with your position to write or call their representative also. With the Internet we can multiply our numbers easily and the greater number of letters or calls a representative gets, the greater the impact. After all, we are the ones who pay attention and vote.

Following are excerpts from an editorial written by Robert Reich, Clinton's Secretary of Labor. I have omitted the first part of the Reich editorial for brevity, and have made, what I consider to be, the salient points in blue. If you don't have time to read the whole article I urge you to read those points.

And now to the editorial:

The moment the economy appears to be on the mend, conservatives such as Feldstein will want the government to cut spending. In their view, this is the only way to get the economy fully back on track. But others believe that it is precisely the track we were on that got us into this mess in the first place.

Those who support the stimulus as a desperate measure to arrest the downward plunge in the business cycle might be called cyclists. rs,Others, including me, see the stimulus as the first step toward addressing deep structural flaws in the economy. We are the structuralists. These two camps are united behind the current stimulus, but may not be for long. Cyclists blame the current crisis on a speculative bubble that threw the economy's self-regulating mechanisms out of whack. They say that we can avoid future downturns if the Fed pops bubbles earlier by raising interest rates when speculation heats up.

But structuralists see it very differently. The bursting of the housing bubble caused the current crisis, but the underlying problem began much earlier - in the late 1970s, when median U.S. incomes began to stall. Because wages got hit then by the double-whammy of global competition and new technologies, the typical American family was able to maintain its living standard only if women went into the workforce in larger numbers, and later, only if everyone worked longer hours.

When even these coping mechanisms were exhausted, families went into debt - a strategy that was viable as long as home values continued to rise. But when the housing bubble burst, families were no longer able to easily refinance and take'out home-equity loans. The result: Americans no longer have the money to keep consuming. When you consider that consumers make up 70 percent of the economy, the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent.

What happened to the money? According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don't spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do - after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That's why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It's not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation's income.)

Other structural problems are growing as well. One is climate change and our dependence on oil. Another is the United States' growing reliance on foreign capital, mostly from China, Japan and the Middle East. Neither is sustainable.

Meanwhile, our broken health-care system drains more of our dollars yet delivers less care. When President Clinton tried to tackle health care in 1994, it represented 14 percent of our GDP, and 38 million Americans were uninsured. Now, the nation spends 16 percent of its GDP on health, and about 44 million of us are uninsured. Most cyclists acknowledge these problems, but they tend to think of them as separate from the current crisis - issues to be tackled after the economy has recovered, and then only to the extent that we can afford to do so.

But structuralists like myself don't believe that the economy can fully recover unless these underlying problems are addressed. Without policies that put the nation on the path to higher median incomes, higher productivity, renewable energy and a more accessible and efficient health-care system, we'll face deeper and more prolonged recessions, followed by ever more anemic upturns. Bill Clinton's inability to do enough about these problems in the 1990s, followed by George W. Bush's negligent disregard of them, allowed them to grow to the point where any major triggering event can cause a vicious downward spiral.

As early as next year, the business cycle may hit bottom and begin climbing. At that point, cyclists and structuralists will want two different things - and which side the president chooses will be, as Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute puts it, the "central drama" of the Obama administration. The president recently sought to placate the cyclists by promising to focus on controlling the future costs of Social Security and Medicare. Perhaps Obama has in mind a "grand bargain" that would allow him to continue his structural agenda after the business cycle turns upward in return for limiting spending for those two giant entitlement programs.

Let's hope he has something more in mind, something more fundamental: a debate about public investment and sustainable growth. For structuralists, the size of the federal debt itself is irrelevant. Debt has to be considered in proportion to the economy as a whole. According to government projections, the national debt will exceed half the nation's gross domestic product by the end of this year - not including the stimulus package. That's certainly high, but not close to a record. The debt was far more than 100 percent of GDP at the end of World War II. That mammoth debt, not incidentally, put Americans back to work, financed industrial production, underwrote a new generation of science and technology and created a wave of demand for consumer goods when the war ended. In short, it got the economy on a new and faster track, thereby allowing the United States to pay down the debt and ushering the country into a new era of widely shared prosperity.

Even a high ratio of debt to GDP isn't especially worrisome if much of that debt comes from investments that put the economy on a path toward solid growth. One recent study from Columbia Teachers College, for example, shows that cutting high school dropout rates in half would generate $45 billion in new tax revenues and savings on expenses such as welfare and incarceration.

We cannot assume, however, that gains from these sorts of public investments will grow the economy enough to reduce the relative size of future debt. We must consider the tax code's structure as well. Should marginal taxes be raised on the most affluent? That could help finance what must be done to put the economy on a sustainable growth path.

But I don't think that our new president should wade into this debate right away. He has his hands full. He needs to implement the stimulus package and reverse the downturn. Bill Clinton had to choose sides almost right away - and had little choice but to cave in to the cyclists and forfeit most of his long-term economic agenda. The severity of the current crisis gives Obama more time.

But he will need to open the larger debate sooner rather than later. This downturn is revealing the U.S. economy's underlying flaws. Once the business cycle turns up, the public and its representatives may be less inclined to tackle the things that truly drag us down. Clinton was, after all, reelected in 1996 on the wave of a cyclical upturn in the economy. But the structural problems that he failed to address - widening inequality, sagging median incomes, a broken health-care system, crumbling infrastructure and global warming - are that much larger now, making the current crisis all the worse.