Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

hitting the fanI don’t think there was any doubt going in that it was going to be a grilling session during Tuesday’s Senate Hearings on the alleged fraud perpetrated by Goldman Sachs, but could it have gone any worse for them than getting confronted right out of the gate by an internal email describing one of the products they were peddling as “one sh*tty deal?”  Yes, it actually went there, and that tasty morsel became the de facto description of Wall Street’s dealings that would be repeated with vigor all day long.  Too bad it will live on mostly as the bleep heard ’round Wall Street, but you know it must’ve felt kind of good for some of these Senators to finally get a chance to call a duck a duck, without having to toe the politically correct line, instead toeing the “your words, not mine” line.
Sen. Claire McCaskill got in on the fun too, she conjured up bookies and enforcers in a fashion that would have made Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci proud, almost putting a forearm to their collective throat wanting to know about the “VIG” aka the “Juice.”  The casino and betting analogies would also haunt the rest of the day, much to the chagrin of Daniel Sparks, a Goldman Sachs Mortgages Department Head from ’06 to ’08.  He tried to get out of that scrum repeatedly, but finally succumbed in the end, under protest of course.
So what did we really learn?  We learned that there are ways to talk for hours and say very little of consequence.  We learned that Sen. Levin succinctly summed up the day when he said, “You’ve not answered the question as best you can, so let’s move on.”
But a few nuggets did of course shine through.  We learned that the words blame and fault were on the never-ever-accept list handed out by their defense attorneys.  We learned that a bonus structure that rewards people extravagantly when they do a poor job is not considered unethical in the world of Wall Street.  We learned that “Market Makers” can burn the candle from both ends and have no moral problem with leaving everyone else holding the middle when the flames meet – if they can get away with it. We learned that the art of moving and transforming money itself is our biggest American business, while making actual products and realizing revolutionary innovations are quickly becoming a smaller and smaller piece of the American pie. We learned that going forward, Computer Forensics in Manhattan may be a very good business to be involved in, judging by the chaos and accountability all of those “discovered” emails brought to light.  We learned that Wall Street definitely needs a new sheriff in town because they are only wrong if they get caught, and we learned that we better get over this self-defeating political showmanship going on in Congress right now and get some new rules of the road in place for the new sheriff to enforce…NOW!
Daniel Sparks did cough up one hard truth though when he was backed into a corner to offer his thoughts about what went so terribly wrong and almost sent our nation and likely much of the world spiraling into a full fledged depression, after several attempts to not answer yet another direct question, he finally yielded “credit standards got too loose.”  That’s it in a nutshell folks, and the way out is going to be a lot more painful than any of us really want to accept.
We all know how disproportionately the monetary wealth in America is distributed, very few have most of it and the many are fighting over what’s left.  Unfortunately, what’s left is far too often not enough to go around and so, the credit beast was born.  This particular beast is insatiable and it is as sinister as anything a nation can ever face. It is when times are bleakest and at their worst that this beast is fed the most, growing larger and more uncontrollable, gaining in strength and ferocity with every scrap thrown its way. But, eventually, and by design, there will always come a point when the beast’s appetite is larger than the meal you are able to provide to placate it.  This reality applies to everyone, individuals, small businesses, large corporations and governments. And once a scent trail leads to you, this beast will always return, wrecking more and more of your life until it gets its meal, or your soul, in full.
Containing and controlling this beast and the inherent mind-set that provides its sustenance, more than any other aspect of our economy, is going to be the Herculean task that needs to be undertaken.  And yes, it will take some real modern-day heroes to lead the charge, armed with new, stricter regulations on the free-for-all Wall Street has become for starters.  It will take heroes leading by the example of deeds and actions, not empty posturing and talk.   Taking responsibility will have to start with the hero in our own mirror and wind all the way up the chain to all of our legislators and not stop until it reaches President Obama himself.
In my view, the vicious cycle the credit beast preys on must be finally addressed. Credit can be wrecked in a day and it can take years to repair, magnifying exponentially even the smallest infractions and turning them into the very impediments that keep people from being able to climb out of the hole on their own.  If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you normally start out by draining your own savings nest egg, but this time it wasn’t enough.  So you may turn to a credit card to bridge the troubled times, but if those troubled times go on longer than your credit could afford, say because of a global financial meltdown or an event like 9/11 that reaches far and wide, you miss a payment.  Now crazy fees start to pile up and  the minimum payments quickly get even more out of control, compounding the problem, and more payments become late or missed completely.  You’ve tried to find a smaller place to tighten your budget, but the renter asks for a credit report and your report now says you are a bad risk, so you have to cross another place off the list and continue getting swallowed by the mounting debt you simply can’t afford right now.  This whole time you are looking for a job, but your potential employers also ask for a credit report.  Well, guess what, you are too big of a risk to employ now.
Is it really any wonder so many people just finally give up and give in and end up relying on tax payer dollars to survive? If you’re treated like some kind of common criminal often enough, eventually you start to believe that of yourself and your pride and character have taken such a hit, with no path to redeem yourself visible to you, that you just don’t care any more.  But, let’s say you managed to get back on your feet through some kind of divine intervention and pay off your debt, does the social stigma and limitations  caused by bad credit vanish as fast as they appeared, not by a long-shot. So how about some kind of Wipe-the-Slate-Clean act that would allow for some type of fast-track path to credit redemption.  You want to invigorate the credit markets? You want to help whittle down unemployment? Give people a fair shake at getting back in the game, even if life has thrown things like unavoidable illness or joblessness their way. Give them a reason to hope, a reason to try, and a reason to wake up and take on life again with zeal and enthusiasm.  This is not meant for the people that live to game the system, but for the honest, decent, hard working folks that just got caught up in an unavoidable circumstance that could really use some kind of break to get on back on their feet and regain their shattered dignity.
But now that I’ve gone off on a personal tangent, let’s get back to the battle at hand.  Since a recent Wall Street journal poll showed almost two thirds of Americans unified in anger that Wall Street needs reform, and we couple that with the fact that we have a bill waiting to be debated in Congress that is 80% to 90% percent agreed upon by both parties, what in the world is the hold up? How can anyone dare to stall just having a real debate about Wall Street Reform in the light of day?  That is the only way we can all weigh in with our voices to our legislators if we think the solutions they come up with are off track. The beasts we are facing should have been confronted yesterday, but weren’t, so enough with blind political obstruction already, it’s time some real work finally gets done.  After all, isn’t that why we elected them?
Whether you personally like him or not, this much is fact, our democracy chose Barack Obama to lead our nation, and barring some unforeseen calamity, he will be in the driver’s seat until at least January 20th 2013. He sold his vision of the future America should strive for on the campaign trail for almost three years and a majority elected him into power to accomplish it.  But he can’t do it alone.
 If you think we can wait to address anything of real consequence until 2013, be it the monumental tasks of job creation, Wall Street Reform, Climate Change, Renewable Energy, or Immigration Reform, go back and hide under the rock you call home because you must be crazy or ignorant and you certainly aren’t going to be much help to anyone that thinks the future should be met with progress, not stagnation. Just please quit being an obstacle if you are not willing to be part of a solution and let the wheels of progress turn, hopefully with both parties giving it their all to seize the moment and make tomorrow better for everyone, even for those of you wracked by fear of the unknown that need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
The truth is, the sh*tty deals will all hit the fan eventually, and we’ve seen some whoppers already. It’s time to decide if you want to be in front of it, or behind it, when the sh*t hits again. But, if we can all stand together and not bow to the petty personal things that divide us like race, gender and party affiliations, maybe we can finally put an end to the fan-fodder once and for all.
How good would a day like that feel?  As pleasing as a cool breeze delivered by a clean fan on a hot day.  Much better than the alternative, don’t you think?
***
Obama and sealPresident Obama’s State of the Union address was his most potent, well crafted and well delivered work of sheer eloquence that he has conveyed to the American people since his soaring prose moved a nation to elect him and caused the world to learn his name.  He did what Barack Obama has done since his very first days, he took the center lane and tore off the mirrors, because like in the classic racing movie, The Gumball Rally, “the first rule of Italian racing? What’s behind you doesn’t matter” and what possible good could ever come from following any curb too closely.
 
He started by acknowledging decades worth of long rooted anxieties and he swiftly pivoted to a theme he would hammer home later on, the fact that we can not afford to be a casualty of partisan gridlock, not now.  He reminded us of America’s proven stubborn resilience in the face of adversity and he framed it with his ever present hopefulness.  It would be the first time the audience would come to their feet in loud unison, but not the last.  He reminded us that fear and division will not break our sprit and then he came to the first course, the economy.
 
This is where we will hear the first calls of criticism, because any word of criticism for anything he said up to this point would be impossible for anyone that would even try to call themselves a patriot.  Here the boo-birds that are in a froth to find something to nitpick will say, how could he make a joke when he’s talking about the economy, doesn’t he know how much people are suffering, well I’d say that his roots in community organizing should make it a pretty fair bet that he knows exactly how people are suffering right now, so just to nip this in the bud, let me say that it was a perfect binding mechanism to show how we can unifiy to face a common threat, even if it was about being unified by hate over the bank bailout.  He didn’t like it, they didn’t like it, we didn’t like it, nobody liked it, and he rightfully likened it to a root canal.  Love a root canal?  Any takers?  But, I’d bet there were more than a few advertising magnates out there wondering how they could possibly harness that disarming smile.
 
Then he told America in no uncertain terms what his recovery bill did.  It saved a banking system teetering on the brink of collapse, it initiated 25 different tax cuts for the middle class, for home buyers, for teachers, for parents paying college tuitions … for people just like you and me.  He said point blank that not a single person pays a single dime more in income tax and that the recovery bill saved 2 million jobs from unemployment.  It also created 200,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, it hired 300,000 teachers and it is on track to add 1.5 million more jobs, all an impact from the recovery act, better known as the oft’ hated stimulus bill.
 
Then he touched the current of  America’s heated third rail, J-O-B-S.  With an ever present eye on the ideal we all hold on to as the American Dream, he made sure to let us know that he does listen, that for every success story the resolute steel of American ingenuity produces there are many more stories of anguish.  So tonight, he called for a new Jobs Bill that will start putting Americans back to work and try to rekindle the dreams and dignity that come from a descent job and a living wage.  He stressed the need to change tact in the modus operandi of our lending institutions, he stressed that their current practice of lending primarily only to big institutions is choking the great American engine that leads to most jobs, the small businesses that are bleeding themselves dry because they can’t get the credit they need to competitively expand their businesses and provide those new, much needed jobs.  I’m a victim myself, so I can certainly attest to the veracity of this particular problem.
 
Then he began hitting more than one note at a time and started with more complex chords.  He used a bass line of putting Americans to work by building the infrastructure of tomorrow and then added the mid range notes of asking how long we should put America’s future on hold, while reminding us that China’s not waiting, Gemany’s not waiting,  nobody else is waiting, why should we? The he artfully plucked the high tones of American pride, “I do not accept second place for America!” and neither should we or those responsible for governing.
 
And after his recent rollout of banking fees he made sure to make clear that his interest is not a partisan shot to punish banks, but a non-partisan attempt to protect the economy.  He also showed some long awaited moxie by drawing a clear line in the sand, if a bill made it to his desk that does not meet his test of serving the American people, he will send it back until they get it right. He sent a clear signal that rolling over would not be part of any equation.
 
He talked about creating new jobs building state-of-the-art clean nuclear power plants and as an olive branch for bipartisan support he talked about expanding to new offshore areas for oil and gas development, as well as biomass and clean coal,  and yes a comprehensive clean energy bill that will make clean energy the profitable kind of energy, all the while beating the drum we all want to hear, that America should lead the world in these fields of tomorrow, adding the needed emphasis with the hammer that the nation that leads the green energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.
 
Then he expanded on his plans for America in the global marketplace by setting a goal to double American exports in the next five years and add 2 million new jobs in the process.  On the note of maintaining our competitiveness in the global marketplace, he also talked about investing in the skills and education of our workforce and crystallized his ambition to do it by telling us that the best remedy for poverty is a world class education.  How do we get there?  We start by redistributing the money from those unnecessary fees imposed by banks on student loans and applying it to give a $10,000 tax credit for 4 years of college, because “no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”
 
Then he got to the crown of thorns that has been the talk of the chattering class for the last few months, Health Care Reform.  Knowing that this is the bully pulpit’s strongest hour by far, he started off by trying to finally clear the misconceptions about his agenda that have been stretched and skewed by everyone from the Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins of the far right to the Blue Dog democrats staking conservative ground in democrat’s clothing.  Howard Dean even had a lot of, let’s say imaginative, thingsto say from the left. So he started with this simplistic plea about his ambitions for Health Care Reform, “Let’s clear some things up.”  He fully accepted the blame for not explaining his case for Health Care Reform clearly enough to the American people and did his best to rectify that shortcoming.  He went on to say that he didn’t decide to take on this problem that has been lingering unfixed in our nation for decades for any kind of notch on his belt or because, as he jokingly said, that it was good politics, he is pursuing it because of the countless stories of desperation he has heard from all over the country.  He vowed to never walk away from this challenge and threw the gauntlet to the halls of congress for them not to walk away from the American people on this paramount issue either.  Then he opened the floor for partisan obstructionism to put its money where its mouth is, if anybody has a better idea on how to achieve a better health care system that will ensure quality care for every American, he’s all ears.  You have a better idea? He’s listening.  All he asks is just don’t walk away from reform, let’s find a way to come together and finally serve the will of the American people.
 
Then he got into the realities of the budget numbers that he is being so critically judged on by the media and the American public.  He started with the $200 billion surplus that was the legacy of the Clinton administration, then he talked about the multi-trillion dollar mess he had waiting for him before he even walked in the door.  He told us that he knows that many Americans are suffering and have tightened their belts to the limit to try to weather the storm.  He said government should be responding in kind and if anyone was thinking of testing his resolution on this, he vowed that if he has to enforce this discipline by the power of his veto, he will, and just for good measure he also vowed to overturn a recently failed bill by executive order, so if anyone is thinking about trying to strike this guy out, they better bring a pretty strong bull pen of pitchers with them because he wants to take a novel new concept for a spin on capitol hill, common sense.
 
Then we got to see President Obama in his natural element, that of a constitutional law professor.  Those were indeed some sour faces on the supreme court justices when they were getting publicly flogged by the President in the hottest spotlight that an address to the American public can offer, and getting admonished on that stage for changing a century of law by their decision to open the flood gates of limitless influence in American political elections by any deep pocketed special interest group, or even any foreign entity for that matter, must not have made for a pleasant evening for five of them.  I have a pretty strong feeling that he is going to own this ground before all is said and done on this catastrophic decision.
 
Then he finally did what I’ve been waiting for someone to finally do, loudly and publicly, he took to task the monstrosity that partisan politics has become.  He looked congress square in the eye and told them that legislation can not be reduced to things as meaningless as old grudges between senators, and that while blindly saying no may be good politics for self preservation, it is certainly not a wise path to choose to good leadership. 
 
Then he closed with in his patented Obama’esque fashion.  He talked about our connected destiny with those beyond our shores, he talked about doing the right things because we know that they are right by virtue of the long held values that forged our nation, the fundamental decency that is the core of the American people.  He rekindled that spark of enduring hope.
 
And if you were looking for a “read my lips”, or a “the buck stops here” moment for the history books, here is one from his closing sentence and an ample portion of American spirit that should fit the bill:
 
“WE DON’T QUIT! … I DON”T QUIT!”
 
Ladies and gentleman, the state of our union is strong, but it will take something from all of us to make it even stronger.  I hope for all our sakes that everyone from Joe the plumber to the chosen few in the halls of power that have the opportunity to wield the power of change were listening.