Friday, September 9, 2011

The President's Speech On Jobs, And My Call For Him To: "Go after Wall Street -- Go after Wall Street now!"

For many of us who tuned in last night to watch the President's speech, we were reminded of Candidate Obama. But more than that, he sounded Presidential. For the first time, the President sounded strong, hopeful, and - most importantly - sympathetic. The Democrats would rise to their feet and applaud after he would offer sound solutions and then follow up with the brilliant repetition of  "pass this jobs bill — pass this jobs bill. Do it now." On the other hand, most of the Republicans remained seated in their chairs, many of them looking glum and pallid. Some of the cowards even had the audacity to boycott the speech, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was supposedly stuck in traffic and that's why she missed it!

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) looked like he was at death's door. That man could use some sun and smiles. Overall, they looked aloof, cold, and uncaring. I doubt that is what they wish their constituents to perceive, especially when millions of Americans are unemployed, struggling to pay for the basics, and finding themselves slipping into poverty. It was also encouraging that he jabbed at the snake Grover Norquist. It's about time he started calling them out on these things!

He also made a point to ridicule this dangerous anti-government stance. The President stated:
Ask yourselves — where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance? 
Those who wish to starve the beast ought to be aware that a lot of Americans know what they're up to and don't want anything to do with it. That's why we need to vote their asses out of office. I am fed up with having "leaders" who hate government. If you hate government, then get the fuck out of office and let people in who give a shit! We don't want you there. 

I also appreciated how the President mentioned South Korea several times (and I am not referring to the trade agreement comments - I do not approve of those ideas at all). At one point he said:
Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves [my emphasis]. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.
Having been a teacher in South Korea, I was heartened by this point. He's absolutely right. It's absurd that we are laying of teachers across the U.S., and they are hiring! Even worse, they are hiring people like me to teach their children. Now, there's nothing wrong with people wanting to explore S. Korea (after all, I did and it was very enriching), but when that is the only choice - and your profession is that of being a teacher - there is something terribly wrong with that picture. I want more than anything to teach in the public school system here in the U.S. (don't worry! I'd still be running AEM), but at this point there is no chance in hell that I could get a job. And don't presume I haven't tried. There aren't jobs like that available. No job means no income. So, I am not consuming anything. I live with my in-laws who provide me with groceries. How is that for helping the economy, especially one that relies upon consumer buying?

I have, like all of you, so much to offer this country, and I am trying will all my might to give back. I am giving back by running a non-profit, and I knew getting into this, that it would be a struggle. I am my own boss, and I was inspired to do this because of my father's entrepreneurial spirit. The struggle is worth it, but I'd sure like to be able to rent a decent apartment, live in a city of my own choosing  (I'm currently in exile in Texas), and buy basic consumer goods on a regular basis. If I were to move back to S. Korea, I could do all those things. Here? Impossible. Each day, it seems we are falling deeper into debt, and that's having a husband who is successful in his own career!

So, I applaud the President for mentioning such points, among others. However, he failed to point out a huge crisis that is affecting millions of educated Americans. We are indebted for life. Most of us will never be able to pay off our loans for college. It is not because we don't wish to pay off our loans, but the terms and conditions are unjust and outrageous. In many cases, they are downright fraudulent.

President Obama has said in the past to progressives and leftists, "You guys need to push me." This reminded me of a point he made in his speech last night when he said:
Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there [my emphasis]. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future.
That's right, Mr. President, we can't stop with the American Jobs Act. This is only the beginning. And it is my job to push you to consider helping the indentured educated class immediately. I am determined to meet you, in the Oval Office, and shake your hand after we have cracked some good jokes together and - even more importantly - we have solved the student lending crisis.

You offered us a lot of hope again last night, and now we need to ensure that these things happen, so that millions of Americans can get back to work. Then we need to turn our attention to the severe debt crisis that is destroying the lives of millions of educated Americans. On that note, it is baffling that the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is surprised that consumer spending remains weak.

According to a MSNBC article today, Bernanke did acknowledge "that several factors have kept consumers from spending more: from high unemployment and falling home values to still-heavy debt loads [my emphasis] and higher gasoline prices."

The fact that so many of us are carrying heavy debt loads is key here. While economist Zeus Yiamouyiannis's superb piece on the need for a debt jubilee does not speak specifically about student loan debt, it is an insightful read as to why this step is absolutely necessary. (Yiamouyiannis is an economist and knows exactly what he is talking about, and has been pushing for debt forgiveness since 2008). In his piece, "Endgame: When Debt is Fraud, Debt Forgiveness is the Last and Only Remedy," Yiamouyiannis writes:

Finally serious economists are considering a position I have been maintaining and writing about since the 2008 financial meltdown. Whatever its name— erasure, repudiation, abolishment, cancellation, jubilee—debt forgiveness, will have to eventually emerge forefront in global efforts to solve an ongoing systemic financial crisis.
If we are to get out of this mess, policymakers would be wise to take this suggestion seriously. Why is it important that we erase debt? Let's get away from the moral hazard arguments, something I know dominates conversations in the White House and elsewhere in DC. This is necessary for several reasons. Yiamouyiannis explains:

Debt forgiveness, therefore, accomplishes two important things. It eliminates the increasing and outsized portion of productive enterprise to pay off unproductive obligations, and it clears the ground for new opportunities, new thinking, invention, and entrepreneurialism. This is why the ability to declare bankruptcy is so essential in the pursuit of both happiness and innovation.
Here's another critical point as well. Consumer protections rights for debtors must be reinstated. End of story.

The system is completely out of whack. As you all know, I continually point out the way in which people make money off of us being indentured. The damned terminology on the market calls these things indentured bonds!!! Hows' that for spurring economic growth, invention, and entrepreneurialism?!?

Yiamouyiannis adds:

Currently we are mired in a 'new normal' and calls for 'austerity' which are nothing more than the delusional efforts of a status quo to avoid the consequences of its own error and fraud and to profit evermore. So bedazzled by the false wealth created by debt multiplication and its concomitant fantasy of ever-higher returns, this status quo continues to be stupidly amazed that people are not spending and that the economy is not picking up. But how could it be otherwise?
Productive wealth has been trapped in a web of parasitic theft, counterfeiting, liability evasion, non-regulation, and prosecutorial non-accountability. All the fundamental attributes of a functioning exchange economy have been warped to reward creative criminals.

Last night, President Obama spoke about the way in which Americans used to be able to succeed if they worked hard. Well, we now reward criminal behavior at a massive scale in the financial industry. Even worse, all aspects of the economy have been corrupted and invaded - it's the financializiation of all sectors of production. That needs to be altered. The financial industry should not have this much dominance. It used to serve a specific purpose. Let's get back to the basics and rein in its destructiveness. It's eating us away. Bit by bit, it's chomping us to pieces.  Mr. President, if you wish to do something bold, go after Wall Street. That's right! I said: Go after Wall Street  — go after Wall Street. Do it now.

On another note, I worry that the American Jobs Act will be crushed (thank God they came up with a simple, clean name, so that the Republicans can't simplify it and destroy its meaning). We all know that there is a slim chance that it will pass in the House that is filled with a bunch of rogue (or downright stupid) economic terrorists. (I was happy to see, however, that Senator Jim McCain expressed a willingness to consider the bill last night after the speech on CNN). But let's assume it does pass. If you have any understanding of Keynesian economics, you know that this bill is not enough. It's simply too small. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote in an opinion piece today for Salon in which he gave two cheers for the President, but one jeer. Why the jeer?

"A jeer because the jobs plan he presented isn't nearly large enough or bold enough to make a major dent in unemployment, or to restart the economy [my emphasis]," he explained, and added, "$450 billion sounds like a lot -- and is more than I expected -- but some of this merely extends current spending (unemployment benefits) and tax cuts (in Social Security taxes), so it doesn't add to aggregate demand."

I imagine economist Paul Krugman will say the same thing (if he hasn't already). After all, Krugman has been calling for a robust plan time and time again.

I fear that President Obama has committed political suicide precisely because he is not calling for enough money. Perhaps I am mistaken, but if he called for something truly bold, then he could use that as campaign fodder and say, "hey, look, I tried my best. I offered a pragmatic and simple vision that would have allowed  this country to get back on track, that would have helped the unemployed get back to work, and would have  helped those of you who are struggling to pay your loans back for the college degrees you obtained . . . But the guys on the other side of the aisle didn't want to step in and help out. They refused to negotiate on a bipartisan basis, and we now know who to blame for a worsening economy."

Who knows? If we continue to push him, perhaps he'll end up saying just that, and meaning it.


Anonymous said...

Debt forgiveness? Anyone who expects legislation that will permit debt forgiveness or relief of any kind is kidding him/herself. The Repubs control one house of Congress and are very unlikely to lose control in 2012 [thanks in some measure to districts freshly redrawn mainly by Repubs in state legislatures nationwide after 2010). Plus, senate Dems must defend 23 seats while the senate Repubs defend only 10. It seems very likely that the Repubs will control both houses of congress after 2012 even if they lose the presidency. Thus, even if reelected, Obama will get next to nothing of any substance passed. It will be a stalemate and there is no way that Repubs will pass student loan relief of any kind. This is just my two cents so feel free to keep trying. I could be wrong but political reality is what it is.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anon 10:36 Trust me, I am realistic too. And when it comes to loan forgiveness, I don't see it happening (even though it would be great!)

Recently Congressman Hansen Clarke called for loan forgiveness. I met with his office, and appreciate his concern about the crisis. We'll see what he unveils.


One Who Survived said...

Your sentiments are noble, but asking Obama to "go after Wall Street" is like asking Idi Amin to "go after the Generals". Wall Street is Obama's power base. Wall Street owns him.

And he didn't "sell out". The plutocracy were who chose him and groomed him in the first place, shrewdly understanding how large plurality of the brainwashed American masses - and a majority of self-identified "liberals" - would confuse Obama's semi-dark skin with national purification, like a living and breathing voodoo doll.

But it's not really fair to compare Obama to Idi Amin. Idi Amin actually ordered fewer personal assassinations than Obama has done.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@One Who Survived - again, I know the cabinet members he appointed, and I have looked at the big donors from his first campaign. WALL STREET is written all over it. I get it. But a girl can dream! Dreams still mean something, and I ain't backin' down. I WILL meet this President and we WILL solve the crisis. It won't be just me. It will be millions of people who back me - that's what counts. That's how we'll get their attention. If I don't have that kind of big plan, then AEM might as well not exist. But it does, and people want it to succeed, because it's represents all of us. I've gotten the attention of a lot of Democrats, and those in high places. We have to keep chippin' away.

Nando said...

Those cockroaches, pieces of trash, pigs, rats, corporate whores, cretins, morons, mental midgets, emotional retards and religious wackjobs that comprise the far right should not go into "public service" if they HATE and DESPISE "the evil gubmint" so much.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that every president since JFK has had to be loyal to the CIA (such as the Bush family) or else they blackmail him with small and large scandals to make him "behave".

I don't think Obama sold out to anyone, he just can't do anything because of some irrelevant dirt they have on him.

Anonymous said...

Where are you gonna get the votes to do any of the things you are talking about? President Obama and the Democrats had two full years in control and could have passed everything you describe. They chose to do nothing about debtors' rights. Nothing at all. They simply did not and do not care. And now, at a time when every federal dollar of new spending is loudly decried as a "bailout", you somehow imagine that the Democrats will summon the political courage to address the problems of debtors?

Anonymous said...

Hey Baby!

Are you taking care of those great big, baby blues? (with all due respect of course).