So all of this talk about getting the right information from the right sources and who do you trust and who do you question and in the end, what the hell is real?
Don’t go looking to CNN. They’ll just a have a round-table discussion and let you watch, but forget about them taking ownership of any facts. That’s for journalists, dammit, and we’re entertainers. We have flashy little dials and heartbeat lines that judge the reactions of 30 people IN OHIO that might give you a sense of what THE PEOPLE are really thinking and how they’re responding to the presidential debate points.
Imagine that. 30 people pent up in a wooden-paneled room made to look cozy and American, like a rich colonialist’s living room. Ten republicans, ten democrats and ten independents all sitting on bar stools with pong controls in their hands that wirelessly transmit their oh-so-accurate readings to the colorful lights on your screen. When I heard that I remember wondering how long they keep them there for one stretch at a time. How often are they fed and how often do they get to see news from other places?
How often do they get to see sunlight?
Can you imagine a team of FBI agents consoling families of these victims in a white and green government building somewhere in Dayton while a group of SWAT maniacs tears down the doors to the situation room? They’d find, after a few hours that the lot would be reduced to snarling animals frothing at the mouth, clawing at the walls and each other with their pants around their ankles, howling unholy things at Wolf Blitzer while he paces frantically along his widescreen podium. Two rookies would vomit in the corner and the rest of the team would have to stomp them all like rats in a closet.
Shit. You won’t find that gibberish here.
What you will find is help. If you don’t yet understand your opinion on how to fix the financial situation, here are two brilliantly-written articles from The Nation:
To the skeptics and others not familiar with The Nation: yes, it tends to be a left-leaning paper, and yes, they support Barack Obama. No, they do NOT support John McCain. That said, they do, in my opinion and as far as I can tell in my research, report factually in their journalism. Their articles tend to be on the short to medium size and usually include plenty of analysis based on experts with clear and well-respected credentials. They often speak to the electorate but offer options that a person in Congress would do well to read.
I don’t know how well their rhetoric reflects that of the American Mass, or the Global one for that matter. It suits me, however, just fine.
If you simply don’t understand this financial mess at all, let alone have an opinion on it, fear not; I will give you more of what you trust:
…Jesus. I’m looking around but not finding any one stop shop to explain the important parts of this situation. So. I’ll do it myself:
I’m not going to explain to you about interest rates and the different kinds of mortgages or anything at all that has to do with bonds, mortgage-back securities or other such things beyond what normal people care about. I mean, I COULD – I did read about it.
Seriously. I went to wikipedia and spent 3 hours reading through wiki’s tangled web of links and trying to finish a sentence without opening another page and well… you don’t want to get into that mess. Initially I just started reading about the terms and then I got into history and recent events and now? Now I have a subscription to like, 10 different financial newsletters, I might’ve purchased a stock portfolio closely resembling George Soros’ and as a result of it all, I can no longer remember some small things like whether it’s Corn Flakes of Special K that I prefer. I’m sure it’ll come back to me, though.
But I’m not going to do that to you here. Instead, here’s what you need to understand about this financial fiasco:
**What it means to be “in a financial crisis”:
** The current crisis is only a crisis in the sense that some very big corporations that used to have a very high stock value now have stock that is worth very little. If you had money invested IN them, like, if you owned their stock, then you lost a lot of it, maybe all of it. If you had money WITH them (like a banking customer) then you’re insured for 100K by the FDIC and *technically* you don’t have to worry about your money (though you should really consider how much the government would actually pay of 100K to each citizen, right? – THAT’s thinking critically).
How this will affect the general economy and eventually, you:
Yes, Mr. President, it turns out there ARE “linkages” across the entire financial system. When these large banks start going bankrupt and can’t get any loans to pick themselves up, other institutions that are doing ok (Bank of America, for example) will still be more hesitant to loan money. To anyone. That’s what will trigger the actual “crisis”. This thing that’s going on now is just a few rich yoyos losing a lot of money. The actual crisis will be when small business can’t get loans and start closing down, not hiring, not building, not expanding. It will be when even comfortable employees in large corporations are still receiving their salary but can’t get credit to buy that new TV, or refrigerator, or a loan for a new car, or equity in their home to remodel. This will snowball into fewer plumbers, construction workers and electricians with work to do; fewer cars being sold, leading to layoffs in the auto industry and a fall in stock prices there; fewer demand for consumer electronics, causing layoffs and stock decline in that industry as well…
Yes. It’s then that we’ll begin to recognize how much like the Great Depression this fiasco could become. But that’s a few weeks or months away. For now, all we have is, like I say, a lot of rich yoyos losing a lot of money and asking the taxpayers to give it back to them so that they can pay their CEO’s severance packages of a few million dollars.
**Why did the stock price all but disappear over a few days?
** These companies were running so low on money that they started being forced to report their accounts, what they earned, how much debt they really had, etc. in order to sell off their dead/dying parts. Suddenly the numbers were too low and people didn’t want to pay so much for a share in the company.
**Why did these companies have no money?
** These companies invested heavily into risky scenarios like bad mortgages (SUB-prime… that’s literally what it means, if you didn’t know that). When those risky people started defaulting and not being able to make their home payments, the banks (as they should’ve known) didn’t have the money to cash out on it. Instead of letting people know there was a problem developing, they kept it to themselves. No sense in letting the stock price go down by telling people that they have no money. Right?
That’s the “greed” of Wall Street that you keep hearing about. It’s the notion that they could get more clients and charge more interest by taking large risks in loaning money to people they should’ve known wouldn’t have been able to pay in the long run. They DID know, and instead of not doing it, they found creative ways to loan the money “for now” and worry about the rest of the deal later.
And that’s the gist of it. Bad loans to people they knew couldn’t pay the whole thing but would pay a lot NOW. Banks that made bad decisions sold these debts to large financial institutions who gambled (with tax-payer-insured guarantees) that the housing market would stay up (nothing does) and when it didn’t, they kept it to themselves.
Until last week. Then all hell broke loose.
Wanna wait and see for what’s going to come out of Washington in terms of a salvation? I didn’t. I’ve written to both of my senators and the congresswoman for my district and told them all what I want to see in any bailout package on which they vote and that if they vote Yes on anything that doesn’t include what I consider to be basic and decent provisions necessary not only to ensure success but also to preserve the dignity of the American people and the office they hold, I will vote them out in the next election cycle. It took all of 3 minutes to find all 3 of their home pages and the “contact me” link therein. It took another 5 minutes to draft a decent and clear letter stating what I wanted. It took another 3 seconds to copy and paste that letter into the email boxes of the other 2 legislators. It’s WORTH it.
Look, I’ve already received my absentee voter ballot. I’ve already read through all of the measures and taken a position on them. The only bubbles that haven’t been filled in yet are those for Ellen Tauscher, my congresswoman who’s up for re-election this term. Come next week, when a vote should be taken, her name WILL have a darkened bubble next to it. And it’ll only take a second.
I’m making this simple for them. Maybe you should too.