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These Dreams

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I woke up this morning after having nightmares all night. I slept later than usual because it was cooler than normal. The heat keeps me from sleeping well and I guess keeps the nightmares away, too. In this dream I was in a hotel and I'd been there for three days and I only had twenty dollars in my wallet. I wasn't sure how much the room cost but I knew I didn't have it. I thought about who I could call but my parents are dead and my wife had left me so I was on my own.

I thought about trying to skip out but no matter what door of the hotel I went through it was the wrong one. I ended up in the bar and the gift shop and the laundry trying to find my way back to my room. I wanted to put my things in my old brown suitcase and hit the road in my 1972 Chevrolet Kingswood Estate station wagon. I woke from that nightmare only to find myself in this one.

I live in a garage and I wash myself in a Tupperware tub and I'm proud to have that. I pulled it out of a dumpster and it was brand new. But before I go any further, this isn't about me. This is about the millions of you out there who, like me, go from nightmare to nightmare. Job layoffs, unemployment, home foreclosures, food stamps. The other day I sent my letter back for an extension of my food stamps and I had to put it in a local mail drop and I worried all night about whether it would get picked up.

I read the news and sometimes it gets so depressing that even I can't stand it. I seek out the irony of financial magazines that call it "the sharpest recession since the 1930's," and then when the subject is Financial Reform they call it "dangerously stern measures to be taken in the greatest economic downturn since the great depression." I see a lot of that, minimizing the plight of the people and maximizing the plight of corporate America. In part they are whistling past the graveyard, pretending that all is well. Behind closed doors they are scared to death because the phony recovery that wasn't a recovery but was called a recovery is over.

If you ask most working people about it they will answer, "What recovery?" The Wall Street players and bankers deluded themselves into believing that there was a recovery when all it really was was spring. Sales of industrial chemicals were rising. Yes, farmers order a lot fertilizer in the spring. Logging and mining were up and working more hours. Well, most loggers and miners agree that you can get a lot more done without a blizzard blowing in your face.

Yes, but even manufacturing is up! Manufacturing fell for forty-eight consecutive months and then rose two tenths of one percent on a monthly average. There are only two roads; either manufacturing goes down to zero or it improves. But to claim some recovery on a small number is absurd. It's like saying yesterday I was broke but today I found a dollar, I'm saved!


This is why I have been writing about FDR for the last few days. The greatest sign of true leadership is the ability to tell the truth even when the truth is darkest. It takes trust in the people that they can accept the truth because until we face the truth we will never find the door out of this nightmare. During the London Blitz Churchill made it a habit to visit bombed out areas and the people cheered his arrival. Nazi leaders never visited bombed apartment buildings because the propaganda said that there weren't any.

As the war went badly for Britain, Churchill's first speech as Prime minister was "I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.' We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering." He told the truth and people took heart. It is easy to trust leaders who tell the truth; when the truth is bad it's hard to trust leaders who shave the truth or won't admit the truth.

The Congress and the administration march along proposing noble legislation that somehow at the eleventh hour gets gutted or becomes distorted so that health care reform became the mandatory purchase of a product that most agreed was the problem in the first place. The GM Chrysler deal put retirees into a government program and caused thousands of managers to lose their retirements entirely. He saved GM all right, he saved them a couple of billion dollars while at this very moment GM is hiring workers in China and Mexico.

It is forecast that North American auto production will rise from 12 percent to 19 percent in Mexico in the next decade and take three guesses where those jobs are coming from. That's not being honest or telling us the truth, or as Roosevelt put it: "One other objective closely related to the problem of selling American products is to provide a tariff policy based upon economic common sense rather than upon politics--hot air--pull." The idea of no tariff, free-trade deals with nations whose workers earn less in a day than Americans earn in an hour is insane. It is a Kamikaze trade platform.

Yet our leaders will not tell us the truth. The new financial reform legislation has been called draconian by the right and meaningless by the left. It is a complicated bill and to truly understand it you probably have to work in the financial services industry, but I do know this much: the tax that was to pay for a fund to prevent future bailouts was scrapped in favor of using TARP money. So rather than banks and brokerage houses earning billions of dollars in profits being taxed, Congress will let you, the taxpayer, finance it. It is like holding a turkey shoot to fight animal cruelty, and it's not telling the truth.

The bill contains provisions for an office of consumer protection. Remember all those bad mortgage loans sold to people who couldn't afford them? Remember Bernie Madoff and a host of others who bilked the public? Bear Stearns and Countrywide? Americans will now be protected from such bandits and salesmen of shoddy financial products by an office housed in the Federal Reserve headquarters. I get this image in my head of Bill Lumbergh, "M' yeah, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and move your desks down to the basement. That'd be great."

No metaphor is extreme enough; it is putting Al Capone in charge of the FBI or putting David Duke in charge of race relations. The Federal Reserve is a private corporation that works hand in glove with the banks. So how can you trust a political leadership that says, "This is fine! Yes, this will do nicely!"? I read an article today that, considering the source, was very good. It was titled: "How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late" http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-01/how-to-make-an...


In the article the author Andy Grove explains that starting a business is relatively easy but once you begin to grow it becomes difficult to build and staff and supply new factories. It's hard work and it takes a lot of smarts but today you need only to pick up a phone and say, "Hello, China? We need to set up a new computer chip factory." It's easy and it's cheap and 1 percent prosper while 99 percent suffer. As Groves points out, you lose not just the computer chip jobs but you lose out on the support and supplier jobs as well. Eventually you lose the ability to be able to set up such factories

"Today, manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is about 166,000 -- lower than it was before the first personal computer, the MITS Altair 2800, was assembled in 1975. Meanwhile, a very effective computer-manufacturing industry has emerged in Asia, employing about 1.5 million workers -- factory employees, engineers and managers."

As Roosevelt pointed out again and again, the goal of regulating banks and the financial markets was not to punish them but to guarantee their fidelity. The elderly could sleep at night knowing their retirement savings weren't being invested in Enron. Our leaders, starting with Reagan, told us deregulation would be better for all, but it's a lie and our leaders won't walk back. They stamp these bills "DONE!" with a big rubber stamp and then move on to the next.

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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that I (more...)
 
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