Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Electoral Silly Season

We are fully engaged in the silly season that unfortunately always precedes a major election in this country.  People on left and right of the political spectrum are spouting rhetoric designed to curry favor with their political supporters rather than to try to find solutions to real problems.  Voters who are in the political middle are trying to figure out which set of politicians they should support even though the problems facing our country are so complicated that it is virtually impossible for the public to understand what is involved - even if we had access to the necessary data.  The fact that this political system works at all is amazing.

My own take on all of this is fairly straight forward.  As I see it, our most pressing immediate problem is that we are spending too much money and have already accumulated a staggering debt that is threatening to destroy the country.  If you are still confused about this point read some of Paul Ryan's analysis, or listen to a couple of Ron Paul's or Michelle Bachman's recent tirades.  If you are confused about what our President intends to do if re-elected, listen to any of his speeches where he fails to address the major causes of our debt crisis and explains his plans to spend more money in the future.  If you are confused about who is to blame for our current problems look in the mirror and face up to the fact that the American public has gotten fat and lazy.  Over the years, we have elected politicians on both the right and the left who have promised more than we can afford.

As the 2012 election draws nearer, I am clear in my feeling that Mr. Obama must be replaced for all of the specific reasons outlined in earlier posts to this blog.  I wish that I could, in good conscience, champion one of the current Republican contenders for the presidency, but I can not.  None of them are an ideal candidate.  I can see things that worry me about each of them.  It is particularly difficult to understand what they stand for at this point in the election cycle because they are still talking primarily to their political base.  Their statements are carefully crafted to avoid angering their most ardent supporters within the far right.  They need those folks in the primary fight.  In addition, some of the potential candidates have not yet declared, so we know even less about them.  I continue to root for Chris Christy, but do not expect him to be able to walk on water.  He just looks like the kind of no nonsense manager that we need at this point in time.

When all is said and done, I will almost certainly vote for the Republican candidate - not because I believe that he or she is perfect, but because I believe that America can not afford another four years of Mr. Obama.  I believe that this country needs a course correction and our political system provides no other way to achieve it than to change the political balance of power in Washington.  If we do elect a Republican to the White House in 2012, I do not expect that I will be totally satisfied with all of his or her decisions.  I am not deluded into believing that Republicans can do no wrong and I believe that America will still need to be watchful of our political leadership to ensure that it is truly looking after the best interests of this country.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

S&P Downgrade is Symptomatic

The S&P downgrade of the credit worthiness of the United States of America was predicted.  It happened.  We are shocked.  We should not be.  S&P told us what we had to do for them to continue to consider our economy worthy of a Triple A rating.  We chose not to do it.  They downgraded us.  (Please note that they are telling us that they will do it again unless we get serious about improving our economic posture.)

My guess is that we will now argue about whose fault it is and continue to quibble about what it all means.  Eventually we will all get used to the situation and will move our national conversation on to other more important matters like the relative merits of Twitter, Facebook and Google +.  We will take solace in the fact that the rest of the world is in a bigger mess than we are and rich people all around the world will probably still invest in America because it is less risky than most other places.  If they insist on more interest on their loans we will pay it - after all it is just money.  We can always print more.

Our president wants to even the economic playing field within this country and, although he probably did not plan on this downgrade, it should be noted that it is helping to do just exactly that.  It is making all of us poorer by the minute.  Those among us who have managed to save a little money and put it in the stock market understand the situation better than those who have not managed to save anything, but it is affecting all of us - rich and poor alike.  This added to the other stupid policy decisions that we have been making is destroying the country that I love. 

I am sad and mad at the same time.  The S&P thing is not terribly important in the big picture.  What is important is that we are spending ourselves into oblivion and too many of us think that it is a good idea.  Ladies and gentlemen we are doing it to ourselves and that makes us the dumbest group of folks that I know.  Congress is out to lunch (they call it summer recess) and the President is off to Camp David for some relaxation after all of the hard work that he has been doing lately.  Nobody begrudges these folks a summer vacation, but there are a lot of Americans that wish that they had a job from which they could take a vacation.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Deal is Inadequate

We have some sort of a debt ceiling deal, but everybody is reluctant to tell us exactly what it is because not very many folks were involved in crafting it.  As noted in my last blog, I really don't like the fact that major policy decisions are being made by a hand full of people in secret, but I will not belabor that point today.  Most political pundits are calling the deal a compromise between Republicans and Democrats.  Depending on their political point of view, they laud some aspects of the agreement and attack others.  Some of the more extreme Talking Heads call it a "sellout" to the other side.  Nobody claims to be satisfied with the outcome and the markets are definitely not happy with it.  The argument about who created "this mess" continues.

As far as I can see both political parties are responsible for our current economic problems.  Leaders in both parties have long been pandering to wishful thinking within the public in an attempt to create a better society.  Most of these leaders have been and are "good people" who want the best for their country.  There are many divisions within our country, but generally speaking Democrats are focused on the problems of minorities while Republicans champion a free enterprise system that rewards hard work.  Both are "right."  Many minorities in these United States are less advantaged than they should be were it a perfect world, and hard work should be rewarded.  At various times in our history our political leadership leans left or right as one philosophy gains traction over the other.

Mr. Obama represents a major lurch to the left.  No matter how lofty his motives are, his policies are destroying the economic engine that has made America an economic powerhouse.  The last mid-term election represents a move back to the right and an effort to redress at least some of the damage that this president has done to our economy.  This debt ceiling deal, whatever it is in detail, is talking about insignificant numbers in the context of the problems facing our economy.  About the only thing that it might do is to slow down further deterioration a tiny bit, but even that is in doubt.  No one, right or left, believes that it will "fix the problem."  It is clear that the only way to restore the vitality of our economy is to vote Mr. Obama and as many of his Democratic allies in Congress as possible out of office in 2012.

When I talk this way to my liberal friends, they immediately tell me that although the current administration has obvious inadequacies, there is no assurance that voting Republicans into office will result in a better situation.  They frequently say that they don't see anybody on the political right that they really like very much.  That kind of response puts too much faith in the individual and underestimates the impersonal political forces that are at work in this country.  The hero in history is important, but is much over-rated.  What we need right now in this clumsy political system that we have is a course correction.  We need to elect enough conservatives to move our decision-making process back to the right for a bit.  If we do not save this economy from collapse we will not have the where-with-all to deal with the social issues that understandably concern us.