Monday, September 8, 2008

While You Were Sleeping More Financial Institutes Went Bust!

**Update 1130am Washington Mututal CEO gets the axe...but still has a golden parachute.

While we're all being intentionally distracted by the latest celebrity scandals, disasters and bogus political intrigues there have been a record number of banks and finance companies gone kaplooey. We're not just talking about Bear Stearns and Countrywide, but upwards of 100 institutions are being bailed out by the Feds. Now we can add Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the list. The banks have tended to be smaller institutions servicing local areas, but make no mistake the national banks are on very shaky ground as well. They're just trying to hide it, partially to prevent a panic and mostly to keep people in the dark about how bad things really are. 

Can you imagine how many people would be taking it to the streets but for misinformation and willful ignorance? Do you think people would be sitting by discussing the parenting choices of an inferior candidate if the lead story on the news covered the things that really affect us? Depending on whether the Dems or Repubs win this election certain things will continue to be withheld until after the current administration is out. Then it's all gonna come out, people will be mad and expect pixie dust to fall from the sky to wave away all that has gone wrong. If Obama does win do NOT expect a quick solution to problems that have been festering for years. Just like in the X Files, the truth is out there. The solutions are available but that will require certain sacrifices from people. Why should my nieces' and nephew's generation and their future children have to pay for our mistakes and our debts? 

If you notice trends in mergers it has a lot to do with consolidating shrinking revenues. The days of Wall Street are over. Or are they? Those smaller banks are often the only banks in a convenient vicinity to the areas they serve. If you live in a small town and your local bank goes under - even if it's FDIC insured and you only have $5 in your checking account because you're living paycheck to paycheck where will you go for your banking needs? What if you don't have direct deposit and need to cash a check? Those other places charge you a 3% fee - or three times that if it's a personal check. 

My sister has a position working with an elderly population. Some of them lived through the Great Depression. Some have expressed their concerns for the immediate future as they feel a sense of recurring history and looming collapse. It is why some of them, who may have been staunch Republicans in their younger years plan to vote for the Democratic ticket this time around. They don't trust their political party has their best interests in mind anymore or a plan to stem the financial hemorrhaging. I imagine a lot of people feel as they do lately. It's a sad irony how Fannie Mae, a shining example of the Roosevelt's New Deal, has been laid to waste.

As horrible as it must have been, the Great Depression was an equalizer of sorts where the formerly wealthy shared a similar plight with those who had had less. So everyone had an vested interest in restoring balance and hopefully prosperity to the citizens of this nation. There was no pretense about the situation. There was no borrowing money and encouragement to go shopping. When some complain about "illegal aliens" they fail to understand trade policies and lack of oversight for companies that can lead to wiping out the economy of a village, town, city, state or country. I'm fairly certain a lot of people would prefer to stay in their country of origin if not for the lack of food, safety and opportunity to survive and thrive. 

When your farm has been wiped out due to the NAFTA or similar agreement it's not really fair trade. Another farmer in another country gets paid a flat fee to grow a crop whether they meet their minimum or have a surplus and can flood the market without impunity. The leader of another country that refuses to sign such an agreement is labeled uncooperative, not willing to negotiate or worse a dictator unless they agree to do what the other country wants. Hmmm, sounds like such a leader may be in fact looking out for their citizens. 

When you live in a 'developing' country isn't that just a nice way of saying your land had been occupied by a more powerful country and isn't anymore? They took everything they could get their hands on and left it barren - or you managed to fight them off long enough that they retreat. Only they're just biding their time to fund an opposition party with people they're paying off to bring 'independence' to the people. Or you've negotiated a 'fee' to pay them, but it's so high they're planning on keeping you in debt so you can't rebuild or feed your people. Then more fighting starts and the cycle never ends. The World Bank and the IMF are your frenemies. Only this isn't a quirky little tv show about four women of privilege. 

Even in the US it's not all about a McMansion, Hummer and partying like a rock star. Housing prices far outstrip income. There is no bigger population without places to live that exists today. Salaries do not rise with inflation. We have the privilege of 'choice' according to one political party. Yes, but too often it's a 'choice' to eat or pay for medicine, to work when you're sick or lose your job, to not feel safe enough to walk down a street where a group of men congregate when you're a young woman or to hope it's all been a crazy dream that you will certainly wake from. We'd be much more content with less materialistic pursuits by the way. 

One glaring omission from the Republican convention was any mention of George Bush, his administration's mistakes and McCain's policy agendas for resolving them. See not mentioning this is akin to sticking your head in the sand. Saying you'll be forceful and use your personality to affect change is equal to sticking your finger in the air and waiting for wind. Not to mention how his own record of voting against the GI Bill, equal pay and health care for children is all I need to know why he is NOT FIT FOR POTUS! Now if Bloomberg had run that'd be another story. 

Those that believe candidate Obama to be lacking in experience clearly haven't bothered to check his voting records for they'd find he has in fact sponsored hundreds of bills related to easing poverty, negotiating with foreign countries, funding education and lots and lots of things we like. Just to recap: he's a politician not a civil rights leader. 

McCain urged us to put country first. Let's really try to look past wedge issues and personal agendas. Don't fund companies that break the law. Send a message to the political party whose agendas caused more harm than good as well as the individual politicians from both parties that rubber stamped them.   

The most important thing we can do is become engaged politically, improve the conditions of our neighborhoods and affect policy change. 

I really think our best option for taking McCain's advice is to not vote for him. He can't be a maverick when he's compromised his positions so thoroughly.  He can't be a change agent by co-opting his opponent's message either.

It's our choice and I sincerely hope there are enough of us who will come together to bring about real change.

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