Monday, October 27, 2008

Election Day Flash Cards

Be Prepared When You Go To The Polls







Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nearly Four Score Years Ago

If we forget our history or fail to even learn it in the first place; if we fail to learn the lessons of our history we are all too likely to repeat it.

In 1929 the Stock Market crashed. Arguably, one catalyst for this series of events was wild speculation by many including the general public. Many were allowed to trade on margin. This meant they didn't have the money necessary to pay for their losses when the stock values declined necessitating a margin call. Hmmm, a little like Mark to Market? A little like uncollateralized loans?

So a sitting president, a Republican who believed too much government intervention was not a good thing because it would make people dependent on the federal government, was reluctant to use legislative relief, was therefore inaccurately blamed for doing nothing during the crisis and thus became very unpopular by the end of his term, thus ushering in a 4 term dynasty of a Democrat and a Democratic controlled legislative body who expanded the government through social welfare programs as a means of moving the country out of The Depression. Sound familiar?

Perhaps not entirely. The Republican was still in office, raising taxes on the wealthiest and on businesses and approving public works projects. The public spending projects he started were expanded considerably by his Democratic rival though. Labor Unions grew in strength and number under this new president. Oddly the Socialist Party suffered. Perhaps it was the direct competition they were getting from the Democrats at the time. Social Security was also proposed and signed into law by this new president. Why wouldn't all the people love him? They were now all dependents of his sweeping, broad beneficence. Social Security was modeled after and designed to take the place of private company pension plans because after all unemployment had hit 25%. That 25% had no pensions to speak of at the time. Hey, I just had a thought. You know what else a lot of companies tend to provide their employees? Health insurance. Estimates put us at only 16% of the current population (not quite 25%) without health insurance, but hey, if the Federal government is going to provide everyone a pension plan (even though the plan is running out of money) why not provide health insurance now too? Now if I could just get my 'ole Uncle Sammy to take on the burden of my mortgage and pay for my kids to go to college I could stop relying on my employer all together. But I digress.

UCLA economists Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian argue that the "New Deal labor and industrial policies did not lift the economy out of the Depression as President Roosevelt and his economic planners had hoped," but that the "New Deal policies are an important contributing factor to the persistence of the Great Depression." They claim that the New Deal "cartelization policies are a key factor behind the weak recovery." They say that the "abandonment of these policies coincided with the strong economic recovery of the 1940s."[from Wikipedia] Cole and Ohanian claimed that FDR's policies prolonged the Depression by 7 years.

Even more poignant is this quote from the same 2004 article. "Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

But we all know that the Great Depression ended as stated above (with the possible exception of the "Man on the Street" interviewees of Jay Leno fame). So if it wasn't FDR's policies then what did bring an end to this long dark era in the American and World economies? World War perhaps?

The country had been reeling from the human sacrifices of a complex, confusing and for the U.S. citizenry, a largely unpopular war in Europe before that aforementioned Republican president even took office. Like the not so Great Depression, the moniker of this war was also "The Great" War.
Regardless of who was to blame, American's felt they had sacrificed too much by way of blood and money. So America became quite isolationist. Easier still to go the way of isolationism when you are focused internally/nationally on your own economic recovery. It would be a little like, I don't know, feeling that spending billions of dollars in a region of the world so culturally and geographically removed from your own little cul-de-sac was almost the cause of not having the largess to pull yourself out of a completely separate economic crisis even though the weight and source of that dollar figure on the one end of that lever halfway around the globe would hardly budge the other side of the stick an inch.

So three score and a decade ago a psycho with peculiar facial hair and a little-man complex as well as a passionate but misplaced hatred of Jews rose to power, built a stockpile of weapons while his impoverished people suffered and then started a massive assault on his own little region of the world. Many other nations tried to negotiate an end to the unprovoked and unchecked aggression. The U.S. sat idly by on the sidelines. Eventually there was a World War, a holocaust and millions of people including a large number of innocent civilians died.
Wow, that's a mouthful! Let me clear my throat a second: Ahmened-e-gonna-get-a-nuke-and-blow-up-Isreal-jihad!! Meanwhile Russia and China would race to the region to secure much of the world's oil reserves for their own growing industrialization; to a region with a power vacuum now that America's new president has stayed true to his original word and withdrawn all U.S. troops from Iraq only months after taking office. Cough, cough. Achoo! Bless me. Bless us all.

Some see signs of a Biblical Apocalypse in the chain of events we have lining up before us. Some may be praying for that teleological end rather than bear witness to it all.