Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama and The Economy: Is there Light at the End of the Tunnel?

I am no expert on the economy but it seems not too many claim to understand how to fix what is going on, although today was the first time I heard someone on the tube say we were in a mini depression. Mini-my arse. I am very pleased with Obama's presence on the American scene politically and his position on the economy appears to be left of center with an emphasis on helping people with lower incomes rather than continuing to coddle the well to do. He also seems capable of making big decisions when necessary not little incremental ones. That I like. However, I think the public should be realizing by now this economy is not going to be fixed in a year or two or three.

There are too many problem that have gone unattended to for too long. Unregulated capitalism has turned on itself and the greedy managers and owners of most of our wealth are reaping the negative spoils that come from not investing in our infrastructure for the last 40 years instead trying to make money by manipulating paper and electronic money machines. Bernie Madoff is not the only crook in this sorry story. There are plenty of investor manipulators who made a mess of our economy totally legally. It is true all the finger pointing is aimed at the housing market as it seemed to start there. It was clear housing prices have been inflated for the past ten years and credit was too easy to obtain more recently. But that was probably the straw that broke the camel's back more than the real cause of our economic distress.

I do not claim to be an economist or even a person who is terribly knowledgeable about economic matters but I am a citizen who has lived in this economy for 67 years and know that the problems we face stem from an insensitivity to the needs of the public and the average person especially toward those who struggle every day to make ends meet. The greedy capitalists forgot that their profits are made off the many little people they exploit and depend on to keep the economy working smoothly. You can only "Let the Buyer Beware" for so long until the buyer begins to reject if not outright bite the hand-the economic production machine- that feeds him or her every day.

If Obama can give relief in the form of universal health, enough job creation, and educational incentives, then, perhaps, the uphill economic struggle we face will not be so steep. On the other hand, I do not see how the economy can turn around to help the former middle class falling into disarray unless the basic economic engine we depend on is overhauled to take the needs of its poorer and more vulnerable individuals into consideration. Given the way things are looking even the well off can be affected severely. No one is exempt from the whims of a system built to some extent by groups and individuals who make money by gambling and hoping that certain investments and companies will not succeed- the Contrarians and others who think the way to happiness is to get rich quick off the backs of the very ones who once had the potential to make this country strong and safe-the average consumer who gets swindled every day he or she buys a box of cereal with little in it or drinks a carton of milk tainted with unhealthy additives. More to the point the average consumer who has decided not to consume the very items this economy depends on to have a going economic future-cars, houses, other big ticket items.

We were taught the Great Depression that happened in the thirties could not return again. We have safeguards and I do believe
FDIC covered accounts are what is keeping us from going over the deep end. But something seems astirring. Things just don't feel right. One man, one President can't undo all the wrongs Bush and his Republican ilk foisted on us for so many years. The Dems are not guiltfree either. Clinton said "the day of big government was over" when he took office.

Though I don't fault Clinton as at least he kept the budget under control and didn't take us into any inane warfare. He kept The Peace as best he could. The Iraq War was a terrible waste of humans (soldiers and the others we killed or maimed) and money that went to an immoral War. Obama has to clean up the muck that Bush created and no one will ever be able to really clean it up. It has stained all of us to some degree or another. Obama is pushing us in the right direction. The issue is will the push be fast and big enough to make a difference.

I like the fact Obama seems unafraid of the naysayers and his critics. He is going full steam ahead. I can only hope he keeps on going all the way until he takes every single one of us with him, the homeless who need shelter, The Lesbian and Gay man who want the right to marry and to have social security too, the family needing health care, the boy or girl questing an education, the disabled who need special services, the old who don't want the budget balanced on the backs of the old who really need the kind of medicare and social security coverage that matters. I know it is a big balancing act but I hope the balance makes a left turn on rights. From my point of view, the light at the end of the tunnel will come only if the economy is restructured enough to include the hopes and dreams of the many not just the few.

Sharon Raphael