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.


Anonymous said...

I don't believe that there are many thinking Americans left who believe that we will escape the mess we're in without pain. Many people I've spoken to would rather accept the pain than see things continue to worsen year over year, which seems to be the choice.

Certainly, predatory lenders and greedy speculators were a big part of the problem, as were people who purchased homes that they couldn't afford.

But rather than assigning blame, (Those Masters Of The Universe! Those Foolish SubPrime Borrowers! The Republican Administration! The Democratic Congress! President Clinton!) it's time to face the pain that we're already feeling, and the inevitable pain to follow. Once the acceptance phase has sunk in, then it will be time to begin the slow, painful crawl back to safety and stability.

Whoever is elected the next President is taking on a project of epic proportion, with little chance of significant improvement in four years. I'm reading and hearing a lot about how important consumer confidence is to the equation. I'm hoping for a leader with an ability to inspire hope; someone who can begin to repair our ruined global reputation; someone smart, with diplomatic skills and interests. Someone who, rather than using fear to inspire change, uses logic and reason. I'm not seeing that with McCain and Palin.

Nina said...

Sadly for me, anonymous, I'm not seeing logic, reason, or leadership from either side. I see sloganeering, I see patisanship, but not much leadership, and certainly no track record on leadership on a global scale. From either candidate.

far from blaming President Clinton, I really DO miss him. He led. He was, dare I say it, a maverick in his own party, who often "crossed the aisle" to get things done. I'm very disheartened by the superficialty and reflexive liberalism of Obama, and can hardly believe that I may not vote Democratic, but there it is.

Listen to the spin. It's all about blaming someone. The Lehman testimony in Congress today was a case in point.

Anonymous said...

I miss Clinton too, and I agree with you there.I know you weren't blaming him but I have heard others do so.

I think that during the heat of a campaign there must be campaigning and unfortunately, as we learned during Bush vs. Kerry, the high road doesn't always get you to the goal. I do believe that Obama is keeping the personal attacks to a minimum without allowing himself to be "swiftboated" as Kerry did. I also believe he is better at sticking to facts instead of resorting to fear tactics a la Bush/Cheney. We only have two choices. One hopes that the leadership we're all looking for will come when a leader has been identified.

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way... There are two restaurants on the street. One has terrible service and gave you salmonella. Try the other one next time! It might not be better..but try it, instead of going to Salmonella Cafe again.

Nina said...

Oh anonymous, if only that metaphor made sense. It's not the same restaurant, and the new restaurant knows that. In fact the new and old restaurant have exactly the same level of "newness" but one has been forced to bear the burden on the bad press associated with the former management.

I was disappointed again with the debate last night. A chance to demonstrate leadership was squandered, which makes me think there is no leadership to demonstrate, I heard a lot of one-liners, and same-old same-old.

In fact, I think I saw more leadership in the third paragraph of your first comment, than I've seen from either candidate. If you would run, I would vote for you.

Anonymous said...

I'll be your VP.

Nina/Anonymous 2008!