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Conflucians Say: “Fire!” over Social Security

Well, the Obots can’t say they weren’t warned about Obama.  We told them he wasn’t a liberal.  It looks like he is onboard with tinkering with Social Security.  If I were him and actually *cared* about the economy, I would back away from Social Security reeeeal slllloow like.  It’s not just a retirement fallback, it’s an insurance policy against risk.  Without it, how many Americans in the past 6 decades wouldn’t have changed jobs or started their own businesses?   There are too many short term thinkers with tunnel vision where social security is concerned.  Social Security makes entrepreneurship and creativity possible.

But leave it to Obama to want to have a “fiscal responsibility” conference to discuss how we might cut benefits for those under 55.  That would include yours truly who just lost a whopping amount in her 401K.  Yep, at this rate, I’ll be working until the day I die.  If I’d known that, I would have demanded more vacation time and higher wages.  Leave it to the well heeled to pull the rug out from under you when it’s too late to get back on your feet.

So, how do we raise the alarm?  And how do we coordinate our messages with the people who scorned us last year but are having a case of buyer’s remorse now? Stayed tuned for Conflucian’s Say tonight at 10PM EST to find out if we have any answers or just more questions.

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Afghanistan: “Obama’s War”

This was the lead story – front-page, above-the-fold-in yesterday’s edition of USA Today: Obama’s war: Deploying 17,000 raises stakes in Afghanistan.

I found this striking because almost every other news venue was covering economic issues, devoting attention either to the slightly expanded mortgage-holder relief program that the Obama administration is beginning to push or the new requests for billions of dollar in corporate welfare requested by GM and Chrysler.

Like most Americans, I cannot judge how much of a threat to international or national peace the Taleban continues to pose: I simply do not have access to the relevant information. But I do think we need to keep an eye on foreign military adventures as we ride the all-too-adventurous roller-coaster of economic affairs.

This deployment to Afghanistan, while not at all expected, is scheduled to occur before any draw downs in troops in Iraq. That’s worrisome. But what is also worrisome is the tendency Presidents have to use military buildups to jumpstart the economy. How will be know whether the build-up in Afghanistan addresses national security (we have the same Secretary of Defense we had under the George W. Bush administration) or whether it is serving as a locus of unquestionable spending, rather like Operation Desert Shield during the George H.W. Bush term or Grenada during the Reagan years?

For those of us who would like to see government spending meant to help the economy concentrated on domestic infrastructure, rebuilding our own country rather than ravaging another one, how will we hold this administration accountable for assuring us that it is not using the good old military-industrial complex and the new tactic of shouting “terrorist” to siphon funds to the special interest groups that will push for military spending in Afghanistan but who have little or no interest in domestic improvements?

Thursday: Japan or Sweden?

Planet Money discusses the Swedish model of bank nationalization in its latest podcast.  In 1994, Sweden went through its own financial meltdown.  In some ways, it sounds similar to what is happening here in the US.  The economy heated up and people borrowed and spent like there was no tomorrow.  That short term thinking turned out to be a big part of the problem.  Banks took a lot of risks and found themselves on the brink of insolvency.  In the end, Sweden nationalized its biggest bank.  It was very painful for taxpayers but in the end, the bank was restructured and everthing is hunky dory.

It sounds like Sweden got a grip on their problem and correctly diagnosed it more quickly than Japan did.  As you may recall, Japan tinkered around the edges, stimulated the economy but didn’t nationalize the banks.  The banks held onto their toxic assets hoping that they would be worth something someday.  It wasn’t until the crisis had dragged on for almost a decade before Japan got tough with the banks and the economy started to turn around.  But Japan has been in the news again recently.  Their economy is suffering once again because there has been a drop in exports.  That’s to be expected in a global economic crisis but I’m getting the impression that Japan is a little more vulnerable because of its lost decade.  There is something intrinsically not quite right.

Our present course seems to be dangerously close to the Japanese model than the Swedish model.  Tim Geithner has been painfully vague about how much control of the banks the public will have.  Maybe that’s to keep the stock market from tanking. It’s also true that Sweden didn’t try to nationalize so many banks.  Our problem is on  a much bigger scale.  But it is disturbing that the Obama administration came into office with so much confidence and so little advanced planning.

The second part of the podcast features Paul Krugman taking reader questions.   Finally, Paul is asked what his favorite blogs are.  Alas, The Confluence is not among them.  I know, I know, it was probably just an oversight but I was hurt nonetheless.  Paul, Paul, what do we have to do to get your attention?

{{sigh}}

Buncha Bigots

unicorn-rainbowEric Holder, America’s first African American Attorney General under America’s first black President, said in a speech to Department of Justice employees celebrating Black History Month, that we are a “nation of cowards”  because we don’t like to talk candidly about race.  This is wrong on so many levels.

Any time we still have to describe people and their accomplishments as “history making” based on skin color, we have a problem with race.  It’s 2009, for Goodness sakes, and we still have cause to celebrate racial “firsts.”  Not only that, we’ve barely scratched the surface; we have yet to have our “first black” lots of things, like, Senate Majority Leader; hell we’ve barely had any black Senators, given that the nation’s fifth is now president.  We, as a nation, have never had a Native American much of anything politically significant, either; the same is true for many other racially diverse groups.  And, as we all know, our history regarding women’s history, contributions, and employment issues, not to mention those of LGBT people living openly, and people living with disabilities, is woefully deficient.

But, does not talking about it make us cowards?  What good does endless recriminatory discussion do?  Does that really advance anybody’s cause, or does it merely inflame passions needlessly?

In this little community we’ve established here in this little corner of the blogosphere, nobody is required to declare their race, ethnicity, gender, or anything else, nor are they expected to check them at the door, unless they choose to, and we seem to get along pretty well.  Our commonality is based on things other than physical characteristics, like opinion and ideology.  How we think and feel is much more important than how we look, love or pee.

Barack Obama should not be president because he’s black, Eric Holder should not be attorney general for that reason, either.  Because that issue was promoted as justification for their attaining their respective positions, many of us were offended, while, to be honest, many more felt vindicated.  The disappointment was not limited to people of any particular group, though African Americans disproportionately embraced the counter opinion.  Just as many men felt, and still feel, that Hillary Clinton was the better Democratic choice, and many white Republicans felt similarly about John McCain, many black Americans, like me, feel that Barack Obama was not.  Race and gender most often had nothing to do with it.

I call our president Black Obama because his racial background played far too large a part in his election.  When he secured the nomination of his party, fraudulently in my opinion, that fraud was validated by “the historic nature of his candidacy,” blah, blah, blah.  His, and his campaign’s, deliberate, subtle, and blatant exploitation of his racial background was shameful to me.   Race should never trump integrity.  Just because we’ve never had a black president is no reason to embrace this one.

Yet, once he was elected, all sorts of racial baggage was either laid at his feet, or more often, exonerated, while the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement’s triumphs was awarded to him simply because of who his father happened to be.  His own lack of accomplishment, experience, preparedness and qualification was magically rendered irrelevant because he’s a black man.

Seems to me, as long as all we’re expected to do is talk about what’s wrong, and what has been wrong in the past, those things will continue to happen, and continue to be wrong.  Once we decide that these things don’t deserve discussion, contemplation, or consideration, there won’t be anything to talk about, anyway.  When it comes to equality and diversity, let’s all just shut up and do the damned thing.

That being said, when racism, sexism and/or any other “-ism” rears its ugly head, it should be immediately, and uncategorically, rejected by all.  The only caveat, and it’s a big one, is that “-isms” are like pornography, hard to define quantitatively.  While we claim to know it when we see it, ultimately, offense is in the eye of the beholder.  On those occasions, just like any other when one experiences hurt at the hands of another, protest is only to be expected.  Yet that protest should be limited to that particular incident; revisiting old issues only opens old wounds and diverts attention from the problem at hand, greatly increasing the odds that nothing will be resolved.  “You hurt my feelings,” will usually result in an immediate apology, “you always hurt my feelings,” will probably result in a fight.

Eric Holder said:

…”we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

I think he’s half right; we, as average Americans, don’t talk to each other, period.  If we did, race would probably never come up.  And when, and if, it did, we’d probably be able to work it out.

Cross posted at Cinie’s World with one modification; I removed a link to the post below, since, it’s the post below.