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    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

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The only thing to fear

is

Absence of Leadership

It took President Bush until Wednesday night to address the American people about the nation’s financial crisis, and pretty much all he had to offer was fear itself.

There was no acknowledgment of the shocking failure of government regulation, or that the country cannot afford more tax cuts for the very wealthy and budget-busting wars, or that spending at least $700 billion of taxpayers’ money to bail out Wall Street and the banks should be done carefully, transparently and with oversight by Congress and the courts.

We understand why he may have been reluctant to address the nation, since his contempt for regulation is a significant cause of the current mess. But he could have offered a great deal more than an eerily dispassionate primer on the credit markets in which he took no responsibility at all for the financial debacle.

He promised to protect taxpayers with his proposed bailout, but he did not explain how he would do that other than a superficial assurance that in sweeping up troubled assets, government would buy low and sell high. And he warned that “our entire economy is in danger” unless Congress passes his bailout plan immediately.

In the end, Mr. Bush’s appearance was just another reminder of something that has been worrying us throughout this crisis: the absence of any real national leadership, including on the campaign trail.

Given Mr. Bush’s shockingly weak performance, the only ones who could provide that are the two men battling to succeed him. So far, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama is offering that leadership.

What makes it especially frustrating is that this crisis should provide each man a chance to explain his economic policies and offer a concrete solution to the current crisis.

Mr. McCain is doing distinctly worse than Mr. Obama. First, he claimed that the economy was strong, ignoring the deep distress of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have already lost their homes. Then he called for a 9/11-style commission to study the causes of the crisis, as if there were a mystery to be solved. Over the last few days he has become a born-again populist, a stance entirely at odds with the career, as he often says, started as “a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.”

After daily pivoting, Mr. McCain now says that the bailout being debated in Congress has to protect taxpayers, that all the money has to be spent in public and that a bipartisan board should “provide oversight.” But he offered not the slightest clue about how he would ensure that taxpayers would ever “recover” the bailout money.

Mr. McCain proposed capping executives’ pay at firms that get bailout money, a nicely punitive idea but one that does nothing to mitigate the crisis. And that is about as far as his new populism went.

What is most important is that Mr. McCain hasn’t said a word about strengthening regulation or budged one inch from his insistence on maintaining Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. That trickle-down notion has done nothing to improve the lives of most Americans and, even without a $700 billion bailout, saddled generations to come with crippling deficits.

Mr. Obama has been clearer on the magnitude and causes of the financial crisis. He has long called for robust regulation of the financial industry, and he said early on that a bailout must protect taxpayers. Mr. Obama also recognizes that the wealthy must pay more taxes or this country will never dig out of its deep financial hole. But as he does too often, Mr. Obama walked up to the edge of offering full prescriptions and stopped there.

We don’t know if Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama will do any good back in Washington. But Mr. McCain’s idea of postponing the Friday night debate was another wild gesture from a candidate entirely too prone to them. The nation needs to hear Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain debate this crisis and demonstrate who is ready to lead.

from today’s New York Times editorial (the above link is mine, not the Times‘)

Also worth reading: Timothy Egan’s NYT blog post yesterday, “Crash”, with references to Mad Magazine, Herbert Hoover, and road-kill rabbits and Carter Doughtery’s article, “Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way”, about how the country “extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders”, not from taxpayers.

I have emailed and telephoned my Representative and my Senators to let them (Rangel, Schumer, Clinton) know I would like them to vote NO on any and all bailout schemes, and that I am exceedingly disappointed with the rush and the whiplash-inducing leap from asleep at the switch to socialized capitalism, for my sake and that of my three dual-citizen children and future voters.

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3 Responses

  1. But here’s how the crisis is affecting those of us living far from Wall Street.

    In our small town in northwest Montana, the local bank (generally accepted to be well run) has virtually stopped making consumer and commercial loans. We have a small business, employing fifteen with an additional thirty people who are subcontracting work from us. We are absolutely reliant on a line of credit from our bank. If our bank can’t renew this line of credit, we’re up the proverbial creek.

    A friend, again a small businessman who has approximately 25 employees, has to make a payroll Monday that as of today he knows he cannot meet. One of his major accounts, who had told him “the check is in the mail”, just filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy notification was what was in Friday’s mail. Our friend’s line of credit can’t cover Monday’s payroll, and.the bank is probalby not going to be able to expand the line of credit on Monday morning when our friend goes in to meet with the commercial loan officer.

    Our sales continue to be decent, and our friend would say the same. The problem we’ve encountered is that our large accounts are so slow in paying that we’re facing cash flow problems that are so severe my husband cannot sleep at nights. It doesn’t matter how well we run our business or how hard our employees are working. When our biggest customers aren’t paying in anything close to a timely manner, we may not be able to meet payroll.

    Small businesses across the US are finding they can’t get the bank financing they need to maintain daily operations.

    So, as disgusted as I am with what has happened, I don’t think allowing Wall Street to sink works. I can’t ignore what the repercussions are on Main Street. This has nothing to do with responsible business decisions made here, far from the financial markets. The economy is so interconnected today, and so complicated, that bad decisions made in New York have an impact in small town Montana.

    My husband was saying yesterday that he expects small town bankers will be contacting the Montana congressional delegation to beg for help fast.

    Elaine

  2. I understand, Elaine, and I’m so very sorry to hear about your situation. One story I heard several times growing up from my mother was the difficulty my parents had getting a bank loan to start their business before I was born. Not a single bank they approached would help. And interestingly years later when the business was a going concern, banks unsolicited would inquire whether they could use a loan. Humph.

    Some sort of a plan is needed, but from everything I’ve read and heard, Henry Paulson’s bailout proposal, from hurriedness with which it was made to the hurried acceptance it demanded, with no strings, doesn’t lend much confidence that this is the answer Main Street, as well as Wall Street, needs. There’s nothing to say that the original bailout, with its billions, would actually work and stave off disaster. Joe Stiglitz wrote about “A Better Bailout” yesterday in The Nation,

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081013/stiglitz

    and if I have to choose between Stiglitz and Paulson, my money — and my children’s and grandchildren’s — is on Stiglitz. I dearly wish that the Administration would open the search for a workable solution to real experts, rather than a grandstanding lame duck who sees his legacy heading down the toilet, toadying members of his Cabinet, and at least one grandstanding Presidential candidate loathe to inherit the mess and looking only to November, not years down the road. And if McCain wins, there’s always chance that a failed Paulson bailout will have to be dealt with by a President Palin, and I have no confidence in that whatsoever.

    Again, Elaine, I’m so very sorry to hear about your situation and I hope it all works out, and soon. Thinking of you : )

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