Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More Awards, Understanding and Survival Skills

September 16, 2008, 10:15 a.m.

Currently Most Popular Blog Entries

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Unprecedented: Two Consecutive "Hats Off" Awards to Press-Citizen

Yesterday's Press-Citizen editorial earned it a "Hats Off" journalism award -- in this case "civic journalism" in the best tradition of putting the interests of readers/taxpayers ahead of the interests of government subsidized businesses. Editorial, "Center to Open Without Public Assistance," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 15, 2008, p. A9. See Nicholas Johnson, "Taxpayer Rescue," September 15, 2008.

Today they've done it again: Editorial, "Lock up at night, but don't narrow Sheraton walkway," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 16, 2008, p. A9.

I don't know if anyone's put lipstick on the Sheraton, but it's sure had its snout in the trough more than once. It (and its predecessors) squatted down over Dubuque Street, promising to at least keep a walkway open. Now it wants to seize more of that City property for its own -- without paying taxpayers a dime -- while asking us to pick up at least half the cost of the remodeling necessary to complete this land grab.

Since neither the City nor the University is prepared to do anything meaningful to cut back on the downtown drunkenness, with all of the attendant consequences that predictably flow from our surfeit of bars and illegal sales to underage patrons, the hotel has also reasonably requested that it be permitted to close off the walkway after 11:00 p.m.

The common sense resolution? Permit the post-11:00 p.m. closure. Deny the narrowing of the walkway and the movement of taxpayers' money to the hotel's bottom line. That's what the Press-Citizen is proposing. Will the City Council have the courage to take this course? Watch this space and see.

Financial Crisis: How We Got Here, Where We're Going

There are lots of analyses. One I found especially useful is Louise Story and Edmund L. Andrews, "A Sense That Wall St.’s Boom Times Are Over," New York Times, September 15, 2008.

And there are significant lessons here for this year's presidential election, and regulation generally.

As I've often conceded, when it comes to servicing their major campaign contributors (big corporations and the wealthiest 1/2 of 1%) George Wallace was right: "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between Democrats and Republicans.

Having said that, the Republicans are both more comfortable, and skilled, at doing so. Democrats never have been very good at "Republican light."

President Reagan summed up the ideology: "government is not the solution; government is the problem." An unregulated market is the consumer's best friend. "Deregulation" and "re-regulation" are heralded as the rising tide that will lift all boats. "Get the government off our backs" -- unless it's about to put money in our pockets -- they say.

Well, in my view the consequences of unrestrained and unregulated greed and selfishness have left in their wake in our economy and society what Hurricane Ike left in its wake in Galveston.

This financial collapse is just one example. The collapse of coal mines on miners is another. The growing disparity between the wages of workers and those of CEOs is another. The examples are endless. Just look around.

I don't think either McCain-Palin or Obama-Biden are inclined or able to return our country to sanity with regard to business' excesses. I just think the Democrats will be marginally better, and that the margin is well worth our voting for.

As Story and Andrews report:

"During the Depression, Congress separated commercial banks, which take deposits and make loans, from investment banks, which underwrite and trade securities. The investment banks were allowed to do business with less oversight, while commercial banks operated with tighter supervision.

"But after Congress repealed those Depression-era laws in 1999, commercial banks began muscling in on Wall Street’s turf. As the new competition whittled down profit margins, investment banks used more of their capital to trade securities and also began developing financial derivatives to fuel profits."

On a lighter note . . .

. . . if you haven't yet seen the September 13 NBC "Saturday Night Live" routine that's all over the Internet, take five minutes to watch:

[Credit: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, NBC "Saturday Night Live" Source: http://entertainment.msn.com] With a whole lot of common sense, courage and a sense of humor we'll get through all this.

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