It comes as no shock my close friends that I don’t have any sort of allegiance to any one political party. I view politics the same way I view professional sports; just because I might like something that one person does, does not mean I want to be a die-hard fan of theirs or the team they’re on. This does give me a somewhat unique viewpoint when talking with my politically minded friends, as I’m not bound by any sort of unspoken oath of fealty to either major party.
Last night, as many of you are aware, President Bush addressed the nation for what may be his last time in office. I somehow managed to record it to my DVR (more on that later) and was watching it in my living room with a mixture of disgust, anger, and somber acceptance. In it, the President explains how we’ve fallen into the financial crapper and how we can’t get up. He thinks we can at least make the crapper not feel like a crapper by whipping $700B USD into existence (maybe more, we haven’t decided yet) and giving it to lenders and banks, and maybe some to ourselves too. I’m paraphrasing, of course, and you can watch his actual address here (along with detailed analysis by someone smarter than me).
So why does this get such a mixture of responses from me? Well, because I’m not rich. Simply put, unless you are either blind as a politician or make over $250K a year, you’ve known we’re getting to this point now for a few years . . . not the couple weeks the President tries to make it out to be. Some of the first signs that the market was going out of whack was the sudden change in house values across the nation, but instead of doing anything about it, companies decided to just make money. Now we’re in 2008 and all those messed up property values are back on the market, but no one can buy them because no one can get credit.
It almost seems like half of our economy was inflating while the other half was staying still, effectively pricing EVERYTHING out of reach of the common American. Previous generations have preached to us about saving money from every paycheck for a rainy day, but what do you do when there’s no paycheck left to save? When everything has gone into your inflated health insurance, exurbanite fuel prices, rising utility costs, and housing that you have no chance to afford.
An apartment manager I had when I was younger told me once that she looked at people’s net income to determine if you got an apartment: If the cost of the apartment was more than 20% of your net monthly income, she’d deny you. That sort of thinking makes a lot of sense if you think about it, since that way you know you aren’t going broke on trying to sleep in a heated place. I crunched the numbers and I (making the average median income for my state), can afford either a room in student housing or a studio apartment.
Now before I get accused of placing the blame solely at the feet of George W. Bush, please know that I realize he is not entirely to blame. For better or worse, however, he is the figurehead for the problems we’re in; it’s just the nature of his position.
Like everything done during this administration to make us feel like things are going to be OK, it has come too late and gone in completely the wrong direction.
- Telling us to go shopping because you don’t want the depression and sorrow of a nation to hurt the economy isn’t quite as nice as doing something to prevent terrorist attacks in the first place. Maybe you could have done it instead of spending 9 months on vacation within your first year in office.
- Giving us an economic stimulus check was nice, but it would have been nicer if the government had just kept the money and poured it into the education funds . . . instead of cutting financial aid to students.
- Going to war . . . yeah probably not the most fiscally sound thing we could have done. I won’t argue whether or not the war is justified or not (’cause I get so tired of that argument), but you have to admit it isn’t cheap to keep our forces in daily operation in so many places.
- Giving us another stimulus check that went straight into our gas tanks. Not very helpful at all.
- Spending $700B to bail out lenders so they can continue offering credit to people who will just continue the downward spiral of debt. Not as helpful as perhaps using that same amount of money 3 years ago when all this really started downhill to overhaul the system so we wouldn’t be here!
Probably the most “WTF” moment of his speech came when he explain that (paraphrasing again) “We know the system in place doesn’t work. We’re going to wait for things to get better on their own, however, before we fix it.” Huh? If it’s not working, how is it going to fix itself? You know he wasn’t fooling anyone, especially himself, as he was delivering these lines; the poor guy had a look on his face the entire time that said “yeah, we’re screwed, and I can’t spin it any other way anymore.”
What really gets me mad is the fact that people in high places know exactly what’s going on, and choose to do nothing about it. American lawmakers know exactly how to help American Business without helping the American People. For example: in the late ’70’s a bill was passed to place a tarrif on all foriegn made trucks coming into the country for sale. This was meant to help American car manufacturers maintain a lower price and thus be more attractive to consumers, but instead they kept their prices the same as the foreign cars and increased their profits instead.
Another good example of backwards lawmaking (again in the automotive realm) is the gassguzzler tax applied to all cars that don’t make a certain MPG. If you buy Dodge Viper, you pay a tax for having a car that will take more fuel than would a Toyota Carolla. Well what’s wrong with that? Nothing, actually . . . except that Chrysler-Daimler wasn’t charged with you for making such a car in the first place. It sounds like I’m only ranting about car makers, but this sort of thinking is everywhere in our economy and it only ends up hurting the lower-middle class in the end.
Probably the most infuriating thing about the President’s address last night, however, had very little to do with him telling me stuff I already knew (because I, and 90% of America, have already been living it), and more to do with the fact that he talked over the first 15 minutes of the Knight Rider premier!!