Thursday, January 21, 2010

Roller Coaster: Bumps Ahead

I wonder what it would be like if we put speed bumps on the track of a roller coaster? I can wonder, but I wouldn't want to find out.

Years ago, I took our daughter to Disneyland as a surprise reward for a good 7th-grade year in school. All of her friends had already been there years earlier. But we could never see the logic in taking a pre-schooler to a big, expensive amusement park when a visit to the swing set at a local park would be more memorable.

I recall that as my daughter and I stepped into one very busy coaster ride we were delayed. Operators were scrambling around, and I saw red lights flashing and heard alarms on the operator's console. I looked at the fasteners, wheels and bearings of the carriages. I decided I wanted no part of a ride that was having some kind of traffic problem or mechanical malfunction. We got off. I've never regretted doing so.

The year 2009 was a tough one for most folks I know. A friend lost his business that he and his wife had sunk their hearts, prayers and a substantial chunk of money into. My annual income was the lowest in more than 30 years. We took a hit on health insurance and took on higher co-pays and higher deductibles.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs had a banner year:

As a deflection of criticism for their fat bonuses, they diverted $500 million into their charitable giving in the final quarter. Thanks. I guess.

But here's the deal. For years, one-half of our political talking heads has told us that if government just took a little less of people's money they would all run out and start new businesses and create jobs hand-over-fist. So it should stand to reason that if a few smart, educated, money-savvy folks did really well and made gobs of money we should be awash in jobs now with vacancies going begging and urgent pleas to government to bring more workers in from overseas to do the work.

I'd like to see a follow-up report on the Wall Street bonuses. How many new businesses have any of these folks started? When have they gone out to the lines of unemployed and said, "Here, come work in my vineyard until you're ready to retire. And by the way, we offer affordable health insurance for you and your family."

Tuesday, the stock market took a nice upward leap with the expectation that Scott Brown would win the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts (the only state that is not a state but a commonwealth). Rising stocks of health care providers led the rally, apparently in anticipation that nothing was going to stand in the way of their rising earnings, certainly not any proposed health care reform in the country that already pays more per capita than any other industrialized country. So much for making health care more affordable.

Yesterday, Wall Street took an equally-sized tumble, apparently with this realization:

OMG! We're now headed for three years of complete Congressional gridlock!

As if the Congress had been such a productive bunch before.

Almost makes you wish for speed bumps ahead. Even potholes. Anything besides what we have.

They used to manufacture aircraft engine magnetos and instruments in downtown Brooklyn. They used to make wooden and metal toys there. They used to make clothing in New York City. All kinds of stuff. People actually worked there at jobs other than convenience stores with bars on the windows. Yeah, bona fide manufacturing in the heart of the Asphalt Jungle. I wonder how many new businesses the Wall Street boys are starting there today? I wonder if they'd be willing to buy my friend Kevin's motocycle shop, give him a bailout that would keep him in business for a year?

It wouldn't cost them more than a couple of days' bonus. Not pay, bonus.

Or maybe trickle-down economics is really what a prominent Republican once named it: voodoo. Until he was tapped to be the vice-presidential running mate. Does having more money make people more generous? Maybe. Maybe not. Help 'em do the right thing? Maybe, maybe not.

Maybe high taxes/low taxes/no taxes don't have much at all to do with creating or saving jobs. Maybe what government needs to do is establish and maintain the framework for long-term common good. Example: if we'd have set the goal years ago of reducing carbon footprint, oil imports and being the world's sustainable energy leader, our free enterprtise system would have figured out how to get there. We'd have made hybrid cars before Japan. We'd be the leading manufacturer of wind and solar energy products, not Spain, Denmark and China. We'd be the leader in co-generation production of electricity, not Denmark. Woulda created all kinds of jobs without stimulus. We'd have people actually paying taxes instead of receiving unemployment checks.

Woulda been the right thing to do. There is no such thing as the right thing being too expensive. The right thing, after all, is the only thing we can afford, don'tcha think?

Meanwhile, praise the Lord and pass the potholes. Bumps ahead.


No comments: