Patty Dineen

The view from here

Archive for September 2008

Everything but the obvious — An apology

leave a comment »

After the failure of the bailout bill (the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008”) to pass in the House yesterday there’s been lots of finger-pointing, predictions of disaster, and expressions of surprise.  People in finance and the media are shocked…shocked that representatives were so tuned in and responsive to their constituents’ anger.  Who knew that the public still had any influence on government?

Some commentators late in the day yesterday predicted that the public would see the light once they saw their IRA’s and investments evaporating and would repent and beg for another chance.  (In fact steep declines in the market started well before the vote even began.)  This morning some members of the media watching the early rises in stocks seemed disappointed and commented that continued decreases in the market would be better to help the public “come around.”

The most obvious and simple thing that could be done that would be most likely to help the public to “come around” would be for some key players to offer a public apology for their role in letting the economy get to this point.  One person with the guts and integrity to apologize could make a big difference; multiple apologies (a variety of players got us into this after all) would be far better.  Certainly, as the leader of the country, President Bush should admit mistakes and tell the public he is sorry for them.  Alan Greenspan; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); all, or any, of the regulators who failed to regulate; any of the people who convinced other people to sign documents putting them into mortgages they couldn’t afford; and others could simply say they are sorry to have played their part in helping to create, or to allow, this mess.  It would be a huge and stunning step in the direction of turning this around.  So simple, but apparently so difficult to do that it is nearly unthinkable among the people most at fault.

Advertisements

Written by dineenp

September 30, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Experts Can’t Solve This Problem for Us

leave a comment »

If expertise and experts could save us from our current financial crisis, it would have happened by now.  To be fair, experts have valuable information to share, but they will not be deciding what to do about this problem.  Experts and academics have failed miserably in explaining what they know; sharing what they know with the public or with government in helpful ways; and — tellingly– failing to reach anything even close to agreement among their ranks about either the remedy for the problem or the possible consequences facing all of us.  The only player with the potential to resolve this problem is the one player not yet at the table– the public.  The public’s anger, disgust, fear, and dismay is suffusing the air in the room, but the public is not there.  The public needs to find a way to bust through the door and pull up a chair.

Written by dineenp

September 26, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Public Trust – Running on Empty

leave a comment »

I once picked up our car from the dealership after taking it there for the third time to have the same engine problem taken care of.  When I got home and looked at the invoice I found the work order still attached – probably inadvertently.  Under “comments” at the bottom I read “low customer rust level- third time in for this problem.”  Rust level?  I thought what’s ‘customer rust level’?  I looked more closely and realized it said “trust” not rust.  I think I had missed the correct spelling the first time because I hadn’t expected (but was heartened) to find that the dealership had some appreciation for how I must feel; and anyway, it was better than reading “customer is probably really pissed that we’ve told her repeatedly that we fixed her car and then she has the problem again.”

As I continue to listen to commentary, and President Bush last night, about the impending emergency $700 billion bailout legislation, it is sounding more and more like it is probably (who can really tell in all this fog?  The experts don’t even seem sure of anything) necessary to do something.  But sadly, it is just too late in a number of ways, for anything to work very well, let alone solve the problem.  The public is furious and in no mood to be reasoned with.  Government has squandered it’s capital with the people – asking for our patience, our cooperation, our money, and possibly the most precious thing of all, our trust, time after disastrous time.  At this point we’re just fresh out of trust.  All used up.  Being the resilient and forgiving people we Americans are, we’d probably even now be willing to hand some over if we had any.  But sorry, it’s all gone.  Whatever our elected leaders decide to do, they will be doing it on their own this time.  Best of luck.

Written by dineenp

September 25, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Give us your money, or else. Or else what?

leave a comment »

I have been reading and watching as players on Wall Street and in government are running around with their hair on fire as they try to decide how to address the financial crisis.  What I understand about both the problem, and about the proposed remedy, is probably next to nothing compared to what the financial experts know.  Still, it seems to me that there is more vagueness than necessary.   I thought maybe I was the only one left (and reluctant to display my ignorance) who didn’t have a clear picture of what, exactly, we are trying to avert — “disaster,” “catastrophe,” “collapse,” “quite adverse,” “ruin,” — okay that is scary and I’m scared.  But, uh, what exactly are we talking about?  Does anybody know, and if so why don’t they say so.  So far the descriptions have included things like not being able to get a car loan, a student loan, or a small business loan, a delayed recovery of the housing market, and having a drag on the economy.  “Those things (loans) would be all cut back…” so says Ben Bernanke.  Those things are undesirable, sure, but hardly seem to rise to the “abyss” that we are being warned of.

My suspicion is that there is more at stake, but for some reason, we, the public are not being let in on the real nature of the problem and the potential consequences of not bailing out Wall Street.  Why? Because we would panic?  Because we aren’t seen as able to understand?

I was surprised and reassured to see in a September 23, 2008 New York Times article that there is at least one expert who would also like to know more about exactly what “disaster” we are on the brink of.   Martin Baily, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton Administration and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “remains troubled by the dearth of information combined with the abundance of zeroes in the bailout request. ‘I’d like a clearer statement of what we are afraid was going to happen that requires $700 billion.  Maybe they don’t want to talk about it because it would scare everybody, but it’s a bit much to ask.'”

I agree.

Written by dineenp

September 24, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Have any spare change?

leave a comment »

If the presidential candidates are trying to “be the change they want to see” they– and we– are in for a world of hurt.  There’s no question that the campaign is giving us “change,” but it’s not good.  They are both serially sniping at each other in silly and disingenuous ways.  They are sounding more and more like whiney children being consumed in sibling rivalry.  “Did too.”  “Did not.”  blah, blah, blah.  Time outs for both of you. 

There is a golden political opportunity in all of this mess.  Either one of them could break this cycle; take a higher road and leave the other to stew in their own partisan juices.  By all rights this should be Barack Obama, leading us beyond this uber-partisanship.  After all, he promised he would.  It’s how he got our attention in the first place.  What happened?  He needs to take a moment and pull himself together.

Or…John McCain could be a real maverick– as he has been in the past– and do some straight talking about what he would do if given a mandate to bring change to Washington.

At this point, I almost don’t care which one, but I very much wish one of them would move ahead and show that they can change something, anything at all, but a good start would be to show that they can change how a campaign for the office of President is conducted.

Written by dineenp

September 12, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Dream Team to Run the Country

leave a comment »

As author Ann Lamotte has written, no one is more competent than an 8-year-old girl.   Based on experience I have to concur.  Based on observation, I think I’ve found my dream-team that could probably cut through all the baloney and actually get some things done in the country- 7-year-olds Piper Palin and Sasha Obama.  By all appearances these two small females are smart, savvy, totally comfortable in their own skins and in whatever setting they’ve been schlepped to by their parents.  Watching Sasha lob questions at her dad, or Piper tame her baby brother’s hair with her spit and then apparently reminding family members when and where to stand and how to wave, I was impressed and reassured for the future of this country.  And they’re not even 8 yet.  Give them a year and they may rule the world.

Written by dineenp

September 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sarah Palin strike a nerve or two? Or three?

leave a comment »

Whoa!  The feeding frenzy swirling around Sarah Palin since John McCain announced her as his VP pick has been breathtaking.  And distressing.  Criticism and snarky comments started immediately and have gained intensity and decibel level faster than the tropical storms in the Atlantic that are a looming threat.  The infamous split-screen we’re getting now is a radar view of the Caribbean and the Atlantic on one side, and one of various photos of Sarah Palin– holding a baby, holding a gun, apparently appraising the governor’s mansion for the first time…

The message is clear; hurricanes pose a threat to life, limb and property.  Sarah Palin poses a threat to…let’s see, what are the possiblities here…to the viability of John McCain’s campaign?  to the future welfare of the country should President McCain die and leave the office to her?  to the interpretation of the Obama campaign’s promise to deliver change (just not as much change as SHE represents…god forbid…we don’t want that much change, do we?) to the media who spent countless weeks, days and hours amassing information on all the possible VP picks only to be scooped by the candidate himself- how dare he, he needs to be taught a lesson in the acceptable ways to be a maverick…

Although I was anxious to get a closer look at who she is, and more importantly, what she’s done and how she’s done it, trying to get informaiton from the mainstream (and not so mainstream) media has been like drinking from a fire hose.  There has been information about her personal and political policies: pro-life, pro-hunting guns, pro-earmarks for her state, maybe pro-creationism… but it’s been almost all buzz words and labels.  Do they represent win-at-all-costs hard-core ideology, or the more nuanced, complex views of some of those same issues that, let’s be honest, most people hold.  I would like to know.  And the media–and the bloggers–have been no help so far.  In fact they staked out their trenched-in positions and started lobbing grenades with blinding speed.  So I say to the media:  you are not helping.  You might think you are, but you are not.

Give it a rest will you?  Just let the woman speak, for heaven’s sake.  Most of us citizens out here aren’t stupid.   Given information we can rely on, we’ll listen, we’ll talk amongst ourselves, and we’ll decide for ourselves, thank you very much.

Written by dineenp

September 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized