Monday, January 26, 2009

Why re-regulating finance isn't enough

Today, I read a WaPo article on a possible larger role for the Fed in regulating the activity of large businesses, supposedly to prevent a repeat of the behaviors that led to the Great Depression of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, I no longer feel that more regulation alone will be sufficient.

I've spent a lot of time lately -- in fact it would be fair to say I've become addicted -- on discussion boards, especially Newsvine, where people of all persuasions discuss articles they've just read. Even after eliminating the opinions of the people referred to as "trolls," many of the opinions expressed on these boards are extreme, the anger palpable, and the total lack of understanding of the subject under discussion, blatantly obvious.

In the case of the economy, while people of all stripes are angry that they personally are suffering financially, there is a widespread lack of connection between their anger and the realities of the financial metldown. Naturally, progressive, liberal posts tend to more often have substantive facts to back up their claims that free market cowboys have ripped us all off. And, equally naturally, the conservatives believe that all the fault lies with the Democrats, especially Rep. Barney Frank and that poor over-site of Fanny and Freddie are the root cause of the meltdown.

Conservative posts often express the fear that Pres. Obama's approach to solving the problem(s) will lead us straight into socialism. I wish this were true, but I know that, while much better than Bush, Obama is still constrained by the overall stupidity of the American electorate, especially as expressed by right-wing radio and TV and by Republicans in Congress who, as I write this, want to hold a stimulus bill hostage to adding provisions that will make the ruinous Bush tax cuts permanent.

It is an oft-expressed belief on the postings I've read that a major cause of our economic woes is over-taxation, so I think the anti-tax position of congressional Republicans accurately represents the beliefs of their constituency -- beliefs that include some of the following:

*Government is bad, big business is good
*Taxes are bad
*Using money on domestic services and improvements is socialism
*Using money for "defense" is necessary for freedom and democracy around the world

In a nutshell, my fear is that the regressive attitudes of a sizeable percentage of the American population will cause us to continue the ruinous neocon economic policies of the last 30 years. Further regulation alone will not be able to negate the widespread cultural ignorance of the US population.

Improving regulation of the finacial systems without a concommitant rise in American consciousness would be like stationing someone outside the chicken coop with a rifle to shoot the foxes as they come out the front door -- while someone else is busy sending new foxes in the back door.

Thus, systems improvements without a positive change in attitude of our population will simply extend by a few more years the day of reckoning when our national selfishness, bellicosity, and superficiality will lead to something even worse than the Great Depression of the 21st Century.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Possession is Nine-tenths of the Law

The Israelis know that possession is 9/10ths of the law; if they can stay put long enough, build enough settlements, and kill, imprison, or place in camps anyone who tries to resist -- if they can do all this long enough -- eventually their longevity will lead to legitimacy.

After all, is this any different from the ways in which the USA expanded? Indians are now safely ensconced on reservations, while collective national guilt is used to award them the occasional tax-free gas station or casino license. But no one is going to suggest giving the country back to them. Nor would an invasion of Texas by Mexico be tolerated. The USA has gained the legitimacy awarded by longevity.

On message boards attached to articles about Israel's current genocide in Gaza, many angry pro-Israel posts use examples based on the US situation -- but without reference to the bloody US history of expansion -- to justify what Israel is doing in Gaza. A common theme is "what if the Mexicans started lobbing rockets into Texas -- would we allow that?" The answer is that, of course, we would not.

But, what if we were alive during the original acquisition of US territory by use of war, bloodshed, genocide? What would our moral obligations be?

That is my argument vis Israel -- 100 years from now, when Israel has killed, driven out, reduced to subhuman status all the people who used to live in their land before it was taken for the founding of Israel, Israel will be legitimate. But we are living NOW, when we as moral human beings can have an influence on the kind of actions taken by Israel. We as fellow human beings have a moral duty to condemn what is being done NOW, simply because we are here and we can see and hear the misery being vistited on the Palestinians by Israel.