Friday, October 24, 2008

Tsunami leadership

Now that a former fed chairman has used the word "tsunami" to describe the global financial crisis we are in, maybe the President will read my blog.  Who calmed the world and got financial aid streaming to the victims of the tsunami?  Bill Clinton and George Bush I.  That's the team we need speaking for us now.

At the considerable risk of repeating myself, neither of our presidential candidates nor our current president have any credibility on this issue.  I could go on and on about how the Obama campaign continues to disappoint me (way to lead, by going after the poor guy who had the audacity to question the "spread the wealth" taxation policies---Joe didn't get the memo that to question the inevitability and wisdom of Obama is to invite scorn and public humiliation---I could have warned him) and how adrift the McCain campaign appears to be, but that's not the point.

The point is that this a real crisis, and calls for real leadership.  All we've heard up to now is posturing and inauthentic attempts at authority.  Panic feeds on itself, and in a crisis nothing spreads faster than rumor and fear.  Every other public attempt to lead on this issue has deepened the crisis.  Only Clinton and Bush, speaking together and with calm assuredness, can deliver the message that we are strong enough to weather this storm, that the fundamentals of the economy (the innovation and resilience of the American people) are sound, and that this crisis is the one that will define this generation.  We have not been tested in this way before, but we can do this.  To be sure, we haven't done it yet, but we can do this.

Bill, George.  We need you.  We need you now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

community supported agriculture

Even as the temperature here is unseasonably warm (which I LOVE) I can tell that autumn is here from the box we get from Spiral Path, our community organic farm. We've moved from melt-in-your-mouth tomatoes to acorn squash. I love getting our weekly box of produce and smelling the wonderful aromas of food that was picked only hours before.

I don't like the cooling weather and the longer nights, but they do bring wonderful fall greens. I'm looking forward to wilted red swiss chard baked with asiago cheese. It's so wonderful it can make a grown man cry.

It's making me hungry to even think about it . . .

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bush/Clinton NOW

All I know about the economy, I learned at Columbia from Doug Holtz-Eakin (DHE).  Sure, I learned some in college, some by working in banking and investing, and some by just trying to make a living in this world, but the fundamentals that shaped my understanding of markets, market behavior in turbulent times, market responses to imperfect information, and the theory of rational expectations, I learned from him and it guides me still.

I am not an economist, and certainly can't ascribe to DHE the economic positions I take in this blog.  From where I sit, however, some things appear clear to me.  The theory of rational expectations tells us that if people think something is going to happen in a a market, they will act in such a way as to precipitate it actually happening.  So, if people believe that the market will crash and burn, they will act in a way that makes it crash and burn.  

That seems to be happening.

I would respectfully recommend the following to the President, who seems to be short on ideas at the moment.  

1.  Stop talking
2.  Tell your cabinet members to stop talking
3.  Ask the Fed Chairman to stop talking
4.  Suspend trading on Tuesday, and give the market an extra day to calm down.
5.  Meet with other Heads of State and send out a coordinated message that banks will not fail, and that Iceland will not declare itself insolvent  (where is the World Bank when you need them?)

Engage former Presidents Clinton and Bush to speak to the nation together about moving forward.  Both are respected leaders in the US and abroad, and they respect each other.  This is a crisis that cries out for leadership that is above politics.  Right now in the US, we can't trust what Obama or McCain is saying---the political climate is too intense.  No one trusts what President Bush is saying.

We need a credible voice, or voices.  We need to hear from Bill Clinton and George Bush I.  Soon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm Sedentary . . . .

But not for long, I hope.  I joined a group of people taking the 10,000 step challenge and I'm trying to improve my overall health. 

 I have cervical spine "issues" and I live a lot of my life in pain.  So, what's happened to me over time, and to a lot of people who have conditions like mine, is that I've become sedentary.  Because it hurts to move around, I don't.  I sit a lot.  That builds on itself, of course, so I've become increasingly unfit, and increasingly unlikely to move around.  That makes me cranky, antsy, and generally off my game  (just ask my family.)

I'm pleased to be taking this challenge along with people I work with.  I'm a long long way from 10,000 steps a day, but I'm wearing my pedometer, and will keep you posted on my progress.  Right now I'm squarely in the beginner category, but I'm hoping to stick with it.   

 Wish me Luck!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

heavy sigh

I've been reading many editorials on our financial crisis, and watching for signs of leadership. I'm finding a lot to read, but not a lot of leadership. Like all Americans, I have skin in this game, and have lost more money than I care to think about over the past 6 months, and even days.

So, because this is the way I process information, I've been looking at the string of events over the past 8-10 years which have led up to this. I've been looking at Glass-Steagall and the signing of GLB by President Clinton. (Oh, how I miss him, really I do.) I've been looking at FNMA, FHLB, FHFA, and FHLMC and how we/they changed their mission over time.

I say that "we" changed their mission over time, because, really we all did it. After the dot com crash, many of us wanted to believe that real estate was different. We wanted to believe analysts when they reported that because real estate markets are all local, there could be no "bubble" in the way there was with technology stocks (or with tulip bulbs.) We all wanted to ignore the speculative aspects of real estate, and also wanted, in our egalitarian way, to encourage home ownership for all--especially for those who fell in the "sub-prime" category. Who among us objected to the goal of making home ownership, "the American dream" available to more people. FNMA had an "American Dream Team" who worked with local Realtors to help low-income families buy the "house of their dream." Some Realtors still have it on their websites. Here's a link to the Texas Department of Housing, and it's not unique.

I can't really blame this crisis on lack of regulation--intentionally under-enforced regulation maybe, but not under-regulation. I blame it on us, and our representatives in DC who wanted to keep the party going at all costs. As a group, American voters don't like to hear bad news. We reward people who tell us what we want to believe.

So, this year we will likely reward the Presidential candidate who tells us we were duped by bad people on Wall Street, and that we are innocent victims of predatory lenders. Voters want to hear that someone can fix the problem, and that we will feel no pain. Only rich people and big bad corporations will pay the price--and they are all suspect anyway. This election will be won by the candidate who dumbs down the issues the most, who promises no pain (again except for those who deserve pain) and who, most importantly of all, exonerates likely voters from their role. Egad. No wonder I'm not enjoying this election cycle. It just keeps getting worse.