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The First National Bank of (Your Name Here)

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There is an unsettling feeling, dark and oppressive, it's the feeling one has when we put our hand on the funeral home door. A feeling of wishing to be anyplace other than here, but we understand and accept that we must do what is right despite our personal preferences. That is the price of maturity, to accept our duty to do the things that we would rather not do.

I was reading about the volcano in Iceland and there is a lesson in that mountain for us, that this technology-driven society may appear to be very rugged when it is in fact very frail. Ash defeats aircraft, no decrees or UN resolutions can alter it. There aren't enough police to arrest the ash nor jail cells to hold it all. In a larger sense it reminds us that change comes suddenly. Lenin prognosticated that revolution would come to Russia within a year or two and it came within weeks.

When Nicolae Ceau├...┼Şescu was the leader of the Communist Party in Romania he watched as other Soviet-backed nations began to topple. He felt safe enough; he had a large police force and an army to protect him, but one morning he woke up in his palace and they were all gone. Change had come in the middle of the night and the guns which once protected him were now pointed at him. His supporters had abandoned him; they no longer wanted to be affiliated with his regime. Likewise, in seven days the President of Kyrgyzstan went from political strong man to political fugitive.

After John McCain's defeat Republicans abandoned him just as they had abandoned George W. Bush. Recent Republican straw polls have shown a preference for Ron Paul. Paul is the least Republican and yet most Republican of candidates. He operates outside the mainstream corporate sphere and unnerves mainstream Republicans with his talk of auditing the Federal Reserve. Then he returns to mainstream Republican loopiness with talk of doing away with the Department of Education.

On the Democratic side who is the leader of the loyal opposition? Roosevelt was one of the most popular Presidents of all time but he had Huey Long in the loyal opposition spurring FDR further to the left. Lyndon Johnson had Robert Kennedy calling for the end of the Vietnam war and Harry Truman had Adlai Stevenson. Discordant voices are a sign of health in a party. Their absence is a sign of weakness.

There was Dennis Kucinich who in one week destroyed a reputation built up over two decades. The old Japanese proverb says the nail which sticks up gets hammered down. Kucinich spoke up and told the truth about healthcare reform and as punishment was forced to swallow the lie whole. As a leader it destroyed his credibility, reducing him to being just one more worm in the bait bucket.

So, on the Democratic side you have a single opinion monolith; on the Republican side you have followers moving away from the corporate model. Congressional Republicans are merely corporate snipers taking pot shots in the name of their corporate masters. This is smoke rising from the mountaintop as the question is asked, "How will Democrats do in the upcoming by-year elections?" Here is a better question: "Why is Obama's deficit-cutting committee going to withhold its results and recommendations until after November elections?"

The Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote, "Be neither for the blue nor the green," meaning don't just blindly align yourself with one team or party because it is results that count. Or as Aurelius wrote, "That which is not good for the bee hive cannot be good for the bees."

What is going on in America is not good for the beehive and it is supported by both the blue and green. It cannot continue not just because it is bad Democratic policy, though it is. It cannot continue not just because it's bad Republican policy, though it is. It can't continue because it is just bad policy and it is killing the beehive and injuring the bees.

I want you to pretend that you are the CEO of the First National Bank of (Your Name Here). As president of the bank you face losses from the downturn in the economy, and when you go to the Federal Reserve to borrow money they say, "We will give you one million dollars but you have to pay us back one million and twenty five hundred dollars. If you can't pay us back you can borrow another million and pay us back two million and five thousand dollars."

Now, as the CEO of the First National Bank of (Your Name Here) you could make small business loans, but the economy is not that good and interest rates are low so you pass. You could help homeowners in mortgage trouble to refinance their homes, but the economy is bad and it's a lot of paper work and the government only pays us fifteen hundred dollars to do one of those. So, as a responsible CEO of the First National Bank of (Your Name Here), you want that big fat bonus check. There is no second prize for Ms. Congeniality.

You could invest in China where the economy is growing by eleven and a half percent! Or you could invest in Wall Street where stocks are going up, up, up. Then you ask yourself, why are stocks going up, up, up? Could it be that everyone with a First National Bank of (Your Name Here) is doing the same thing?

"April 15 (Bloomberg) -- The latest surge in U.S. stocks may have more to do with historically low interest rates than any rebound in the economy and corporate earnings, according to Peter Boockvar, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.

"The central bank's target rate for overnight loans between banks, or federal funds, currently stands at minus 2 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis. This figure is based on the upper end of the Fed's range, zero to 0.25 percent, and the year-to-year change in consumer prices.

"Yesterday, the S&P 500 closed above 1,200 for the first time since September 2008. The milestone followed a two-month rally that accounts for most of the index's advance since the real rate fell below zero."

This would be just fine and dandy except everyone who doesn't own a First National Bank of (Your Name Here) must pay the difference. The Republicans who scream about deficits in the cost of unemployment insurance have no problem at all with subsidizing the banks. Democrats who lament that there is so little money available to help struggling homeowners or the unemployed have no problem with subsidizing the banks to invest in the stock market or in Chinese growth.

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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 (more...)

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