Thursday, February 12, 2009

No time for same old, same old

There have been few surprises coming out of Washington, D.C., during the first few weeks of the Obama administration.

Our new president is a refreshing change in oh so many ways. He exudes intelligence. He can articulate his thoughts clearly. He's a thinker. And he is clearly willing to think outside the box. That's a good thing, because he's facing unprecedented challenges as president. And with the nation perhaps facing unprecedented challenges, it's good to know that the president is smart enough, astute enough and shrewd enough to deal with them.

He's not perfect and he will, of course, make mistakes. He will even suffer some disappointments. He already has. But he's already shown he's got the mettle to admit it when he does "screw up."

Unfortunately, none of this may matter much. The occupant of the Oval Office may change, but the permanent government doesn't change much. For members of Congress, their staffers, lobbyists and bureaucrats, it's business as usual, more or less. The bitter partisan divide, the pigs lined up at the trough, the intransigence. These things don't change. Washington, D.C., is its own little universe.

That helps explain why Congress is so willing to sign a blank check to bail out Wall Street investment firms and banks, with almost no accountability for how almost a trillion dollars is spent. But when it comes to helping average people -- people who are suffering largely because of the mess created by the investment firms and banks -- it's time for the same old protracted debate over the relative merits of tax cuts versus spending.

The president's "stimulus" plan proposes to do what we should have been doing all along: reinvesting in America. Produce alternative energy. Modernize our infrastructure. Improve existing mass transit systems and build new ones where none exist. Make our homes energy efficient. Computerize medical records. Equip schools and colleges with computers and modern labs and libraries. Expand broadband Internet access. Invest in science, research and technology. These are investments in our future. These are investments we can't afford not to make -- and shame on us for failing to make them all along.

Instead, we chose to invest in the bottom line of monolithic multinational corporations in the false hope (or on the false promise) that their prosperity would be good for the rest of us, that their wealth would "trickle down" to us little people. Cut taxes. Let the free market operate with as little government interference (read: regulation) as possible. What's good for the barons of Wall Street and the titans of Texas and the sheiks of the Middle East will be good for you and me.

But that doesn't work. It got us where we are today. Moreover, government's hands-off approach to industry and business allowed mortgages to be "securitized" and sold in bundles of tiny pieces. It allowed financial statements to hide risks. It allowed ratings agencies to be complicit in the bill of goods sold to investors -- the triple A-rated funds consisting of funds of bundled, soon-to-be-worthless mortgage-backed securities. It allowed the Bernie Madoffs, the Enrons and the WorldComs, the revolving doors of government that allow industry representatives to oversee "regulation" of their industries and then return to industry to reap the benefits of their (lax) oversight.

Yet in spite of all the evidence that we have gotten it wrong, dead wrong, these past three decades, the talking points of people like Sean Hannity still appeal to the average American. "What historically has worked is capitalism, giving people in this country more of their hard-earned money back," Hannity said the other night, accusing the president of "fear-mongering" by saying this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Yeah! Don't tread on us! Let us keep our money and get government off our backs and we'll be just fine. All things being equal, that could work out. But all things are not equal. We don't have a seat at the same table as the people who are carving up the American pie. I'm not sure we're even in the same room anymore.

Hannity's vision of "capitalism" is what brought us to the brink of disaster. Left to their own devices, Hannity's "capitalists" outsourced American industry and jobs, ravaged our financial system, made health care unaffordable and inaccessible, weakened consumer protection, blocked environmental protection and sucked billions out of our economy, leaving it in utter shambles. Who can reasonably believe that the remedy for what ails us is more of the same?

Copyright 2009 Times/Review Newspapers Corp.


Anonymous said...

Read your rant and others from both sides of the spectrum. What I find worrisome about yours is the fact that you work in the media. You report the news. Being slow to learn from history -- the Dan Rathers, the Walter Durantes, the Jayson Blairs -- I still expect better. In your blog you mention “same old same old”. You were more honest than you realized.

You say Hannity appeals to the average voter, yet over half voted the other way. Then look to congress. Where does the average of political thought lie there? Unless math has changed, the average voter sits somewhere else. I suggest you recompute.

You also complain that deregulation is a major cause of our economic woes, yet you ignore the fact that some regulations were also the cause. You also ignore the blame earned by our liberal politicians. You complain that big corporations are too close with the government, yet ignore that the current administration – the refreshing, the one that exudes intelligence, the one that is articulate and clear thinking – has some of the same corporation CEOs as advisors. You cite the corrupt ENRON but fail to mention that it was a proponent of environmentalism, where it lobbied heavily.

Are these omissions errors of the mind or heart? How are your readers to know the difference? Until you recognize that you too are part of the problem, a major part, we’ll have more of what you call the “same old same old.”

Anonymous said...

Government and Business are not in competition. Labeling big government right and big business wrong is called SCAPEGOATING. There are as many bad apples in government as in business. Government cannot exist without private enterprise to pay the bills so please stop the divide and blame tactics. To be fair both government and private industry made mistakes (pumping the bubble) but we need to move forward. Bashing business will not encourage private investment and create jobs.
In near future years as our governments continue to grow they will become unsustainable. We will then have to live through service/entitlement cuts which will be beyond painful. Social Security and Medicare are unfunded Ponzi schemes that will unwind according to all experts. What is the plan for these can we possibly create more entitlements ? many tens of trillions will we need....who will pay ????

I also find is disturbing that you inject so much irrational partisan anger into your Suffolk Times editorials. It sounds ignorant from my point of view.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Civiletti, I must say your writing is well said but you exclude many factors that have affected for so many years and will continue to affect us all years to come. That is the governments bleeding heart ideology of forcing the bank industry to offer and handle loans and mortgages to people, mostly minorities, who could never afford them.(Acorn)Shame on the liberals(dodd,frank) for not using common sense when it comes to capitalist basics of right and wrong, which led to the greed on the part of so many on wall street.(Madoff and the like)What sourced out American job's is partly greed and partly the high rate of corprate taxes levied on big business including environmental legislation. Trust me, I dont want more of the same and that's the bleeding heart liberal mentality that say's we're entitled to everything everyone else has worked so hard for including a house or a boat or a flat screen tv. What scares me is the government coming down with a NRA type philosophy when it comes to industry and the environment. Environmental protection is great but must be used accordingly as not to threaten the means of our livelyhood. That's exactly what has been going on for too long in this country and if left to continue will only force more government control and more outsourcing of jobs. What say you, ban capitalism or not?

outraged..ceil said...

Hi Denise...Well, I don't feel like the lone voice crying in this wilderness.. I agree with you completely. So here is my rant.

I find Sean Hannity's words "fear mongering an insult to the intelligent folks out here in reality-land.
Reality today is watching your investements tank while the those who we trusted to invest our hard earned money wisely took the escape route lined with gold. Reality today is wondering how your grandkid is going to college.
Reality today is watching a 60 year old friend lose his job and pension; Reality today are the millions who are unemployed and wondering if and when there will be work and the list goes on.....
Reality today is a president who is trying to fix this mess - that he inherited from the Bush Administration.C'mon, for eight years there was not government regulations..So Huh? What happened? Those with power and those without power took advantage.
I know a couple who secured
"liar loan" he had no income to speak of, yet purchased a beautiful home. They walked away from it all and left us holding the bag.
There are folks out there who are very angry because they did it right. They worked all their lives,they sent their kids to college and saved for retirement.
They carried their load faithfully, and now they are carrying the load again, for those who were totally irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Denise - did you just cut & paste this from DailyKos? The mortgage securitization market had been working fine for the last thirty years up until recently. Try blaming something other than government's "hands off approach"

Anonymous said...

In spite of the negativity of many writers, let's hope that the blame game will end and all the posters here will understand that partisanship will not produce a recovery from this debacle. Who cares what the pundits say and newspaper owners(sorry), but when are the readers of this paper going to wake up? If the nation doesn't get cooperation from the outs with the ins, God help

Brad Berthold said...

Right on, Denise!

It's amusing (and frightening!) to read the "same old, same old" comments taken directly from Republican talking points, Hannity, Limbaugh et al, in the comments here.

They're everywhere! They're everywhere!

So far, you've been blamed for being part of the liberal media,omitting the evil influence of ACORN,"injecting partisan anger into your Suffolk Times editorials,"[!] and being "part of the problem." Are we having fun yet?

Sheesh! Makes one fear for the future of the Republic.

Don't let the bastards grind you down, as the old saw goes. Keep up the good work!