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Saturday, December 27, 2008 ISSUE #531
 

2008 in review, not a pretty sight

#531 December 27, 2008

 

            COLUMBUS: Looking back on a wacky year, in the words of Will Rogers Today...

            The first primary was held in Iowa January 3, ten months before the election. Already the newspapers and television folks are predicting who should win.

            Congress and President Bush wanted to stimulate the economy so they gave us $150 Billion with the proviso that we spend it quickly. If they really want it spent in a hurry, give it all to women.

            Television reporters are saying these March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas will decide the election. Of course the same reporters said the February 5 primaries would decide the election.

            In March, J. P. Morgan stepped up again to save the country, like he often did in the 1930s. JP Morgan Chase volunteered to pay a couple of dollars for Bear Stearns if the government committed thirty Billion to make sure they didn't lose any dough on the deal. Some homeowners behind on mortgage payments are complaining: why should a big investment bank getting bailed out, but not us. Well, I can assure those distraught folks that Mr. Morgan will be happy to take the house off their hands if they are willing to accept two cents on the dollar. He won't even ask for a government guarantee.

            In Pennsylvania Senator Obama went bowling. Senator Clinton went out drinking beer and whiskey, conceding the Baptist vote.

            Rev. Jeremiah Wright came out of hiding, speaking to 10,000 in Detroit. Senator Obama wishes his preacher would lay low for a few months, but Barack has as much chance controlling him as Hillary does with Bill.

            (By May the field had narrowed to three candidates. I resurrected a plan from 1924 when three were locked in a battle.) Put in all three and put on three eight-hour shifts. Divide the work. Of course nobody saw fit to adopt my plan in either '24 or '08. But still... can't you see Mr. McCain taking the morning shift, then Mr. Obama relieving him in the afternoon. That leaves Mrs. Clinton fresh for the midnight shift and all those phone calls at 3:00 a.m.  Now this arrangement may seem to give Hillary the lighter load. But with these three couples sharing the White House, she'll have her hands full seeing that Bill doesn't get too frisky with the other First Ladies.

            The Senate invited the Big Oil men to Washington for a meeting. When they went in, oil was $130 a barrel, and by the time they got out it was $135. The more those Senators lambasted 'em, the higher the price jumped.

            In early June Senator Clinton ended her race with 18 million more votes than she started with, but twenty million less dollars. She praised her 18 million voters, then gave a final plea for 'em to support Obama, but to mail her $1.10 each so she could break even.

            In July, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both lost half their value in one day, which seems logical when you find out they are owed $5 Trillion for mortgages. But Congressman Barney Frank came to their rescue, saying they "are fundamentally sound, not in danger of going under." I'm not sure it helped. If I was owed $5 Trillion, and needed a spokesman to boost the public's confidence in me, I wouldn't call on a man from an organization with an approval rating of 8 percent. Better to hire a  used car salesman.

            Gas is $3.61, about fifty cents less than two weeks ago when Mr. Bush made his little announcement about off shore drilling. It just goes to show what a President can accomplish when he don't care what Congress says.

            (August)  We lost another bank. This whole mortgage mess came from people speculating that house prices would only go one way. And it was caused by giving a mortgage to people with no way to pay it back. One little change could've prevented the entire calamity: instead of paying bankers huge salaries for making loans, only pay 'em on what they collect.

            At the Conventions, most of the excitement centered on the Vice-Presidential picks. Remember Joe Biden ran for President, got 9000 votes in Iowa and dropped out, causing Senator Clinton to ponder on why she wasted six more months gathering 18 million votes, with nothing to show for it. Mr. McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin. He selected her to appeal to women voters who are good mothers, have competed in beauty pageants and love to hunt moose.

            Your government saddled you with more mortgage debt than you could imagine, your share of Five Trillion Dollars in IOUs. Thanks to the ineptitude of the financiers who ran Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, their stock dropped from $60 to less than a dollar. Their CEOs each suggested, with a straight face, we should give them a $10 Million bonus. What we should give them is ten years.

            Treasury Secretary, Mr. Paulson, pulled an early Halloween Trick or Treat. He knocked on our door and demanded Seven Hundred Billion Dollars. Or else. He said he was acting on orders from Wall Street, the big bankers and insurance companies. Well, you can have the money on one condition: For all those birds responsible for creating and perpetuating this mess, we get to set the length of the prison terms.

            Congress and Wall Street are still arguing over the bailout. They can't agree on whether to call it a loan, or a purchase, or an insurance policy? I would just call it a ripoff.

            The $700 Billion bailout was passed to "stabilize the economy". Since it was first proposed 3 weeks ago, the economy has stabilized all right, about $7 Trillion below what it was at the time. Gasoline is $2.80. It may go down to a dollar a gallon, but we won't have a dollar to buy it with.

            As the election campaign winds down, the candidates have been knocked out of the spotlight by Joe the Plumber and Tina Fey.

            This election campaign is coming down to a clear division point between the candidates. Senator Obama says he is representing the 95% who expect to be on the receiving end of the excess wealth of the country, and Sen. McCain says he is looking out for the 5% expected to contribute it. With those percentages it's no surprise that Mr. Obama draws crowds of 100,000, and Mr. McCain averages 5000.

            On Nov. 4 we witnessed an election of historic proportions. As recently as two years ago, no one gave Senator Obama much chance to be nominated, let alone win the Presidency. And at the same time, Senator McCain was seldom mentioned among the Republican contestants. Just like 1932, the loser Tuesday may have been the winner.

            Mr. Obama is lining up his staff and Cabinet. So far, he's leaning on President Clinton's administration to provide most of the hired help, including Hillary. Barack checked with Bill first, "I just want to borrow her for 4 years. As Secretary of State she'll fly all over the world;  most of the time she'll be out of the country ." Bill said, "Sounds good to me." He's meeting with Senator McCain this week. Don't expect John to be as generous as Bill.   

            If Congress and Secretary Paulson want to fix this financial disaster, they should use a chain saw and a hammer. Use the saw to cut off extraneous spending. Then line up everyone responsible for creating this mess, take the hammer and hit 'em right between the eyes. You may dent the hammer, but it'll do more good than all the loans you'll pass out in a year. If Congress is wielding the hammer properly, quite a few blows will be self-inflicted.   

            Citibank wants us to give 'em SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS!

            There is some good news. Gasoline is down to $1.50 a gallon. The OPEC oil ministers held a meeting and announced no cut in production. They said, "We would prefer $75 a barrel, but $50 is better than no money at all."

            Chicago jumped back on the front page. Gov. Blagojevich was trying to fleece a few million for a Senate seat. Meanwhile, Bernard Madoff was showing the world how to run a scam. Madoff made off with $50 Billion in what's called a Ponzi scheme. Freddie and Fannie and Wall Street bankers lost more than a Trillion, but nobody has yet invented a name for that fraud.

 

            Let's end 2008 on a positive note. I just read where the United States leads the world in productivity. That ought to be cause for celebration. Our workers produce more per hour of labor than any other country.

            Paraphrasing Will Rogers as we look ahead to 2009, "These bankers and Wall Streeters are optimistic of the future. Lord, who wouldn't be optimistic with all that dough."


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