Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is President Obama the One... for this Job?

I have no deep thoughts to share on this question. I am simply wondering these days if he is the right person to lead us out of this financial quagmire. Is it just me, or does he seem to be missing from the news these days? Has he been drowned out by the numbers? Unemployment? Retail sales? Home sales? Billion-dollar bailouts? His days of speaking to large crowds in the stadiums seem to be a thing of the very distant past. Today, telling Americans that it was a good time to buy stocks, he sounded, dare I say it, rather ordinary.

(Hilary Who? I don't know anyone these days who's talking about foreign affairs. It's a pity that she was roped into taking Secretary of State. At the very least, I think she should have been given another chance to tackle health care. I think she could have been doing so much more were she still in the Senate today.)

I was not thrilled to hear President Obama recently stake his re-election chances on the success of the stimulus package that just passed. It seemed like a tactically incorrect thing to say. Like he was taking his eye off the ball. You never take your eye off the ball. Unless you can't see it in the first place.


Planetx_123 said...

I hate admitting it, but I agree that I have been a little nervous as well. I love Obama, and I think he could do so many things in a different environment. He has a unique position of authority because of the circumstances of his historic presidency. Its just unfortunate that he wont be able to focus on the things he is most qualified to focus on given the economic climate.

I keep reminding myself:
(a) I do not believe that a free market is possible, nor is a pseduo-free-market (like conservatives describe) better than a regulated economy;
(b) I know Obama is intelligent and is communicating with leading economists in the field to educate himself.

Because of these two things I am trying to stay positive. I feel that I (and most people for that matter) are not educated enough to really have an opinion/authority about the way the crisis should be fixed. Thus, I have to go with agreeing on axioms (free-market is impossible, et al) and trusting in others intelligence and credentials. Obama meets both of these characteristics-- so all I can do is brace myself.

The one thing that really angers me is politicians trying to over-simplify the problem just to appeal to ignorance.


J.T. said...

hey Steve,

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree with pretty much everything you said. The conservatives are on some serious drugs if they think they can continue selling us this "free markets" crap.

Here's what's really making me cringe right now. The Democrats are arguing that we need more regulation of the financial sector while the Republicans are saying we simply need to enforce the regulation we have. They are BOTH missing the point. What we need are individuals who see how all the rules and laws (and not just the ones governing finance) work together, someone who understands how everything is connected. The world is a very complex machine. Politicians can only see their own little portion of it, or even worse, claim that their own little portion is the most important part of the mechanism. What we need are people who can see the BIG picture, not just the contents of their own cubicle. I really believe President Obama is trying to move the debate in that direction, but it will take a long time. People have been looking at the world in such small, selfish and fragmented pieces for such a long time, they may not have the ability (at least, not this generation) to look beyond, essentially, themselves.

I pray for this next generation. That they are able to see things in a more holistic light. To understand that everyone is connected. That the Earth as a living organism matters. And oh yeah, that they're not crushed by the trillions of dollars of debt we'll be shoveling over their baby cribs.

Planetx_123 said...

I agree. One side of me hopes that these super-humans that can see the whole picture clearly, without distraction and bias exist. The other, more pessimistic side, remembers that history seems to show account after account of humans making bad decisions--letting their primitive, animal past cloud their otherwise rational mind.

But its probably 'better' to maintain hope...regardless of the odds against a positive outcome.


Raven said...

I don't see how this crisis can be fixed. Our previous economy was based on a culture of debt and on companies and people spending beyond their means. That can't continue forever. But I don't know where we go when it ends, as it seems to be doing now.

What I've seen from Obama so far points to a man who's still stuck in the mindset of the old economy. He thinks he's going to fix things by spending more money we don't have. I believe he's contributing to the problem, not solving it.

J.T. said...

Ouch Raven, and here we thought we were all voting for "change". I am getting the same sinking feeling I get when I see my friend lose $5000 at the black jack table--he borrows $5000 more off his credit card so he can go back to the black jack table, praying he will be able to make up his loss. That's what's going on right now, isn't it? And if he doesn't win it back, he's beholden to the credit card companies at interest rates of 24%.

So Raven, are you saying that America should just "walk away from the table" and call it a night? Let it EARN, as opposed to borrow from China and Japan, some money before it's allowed back at the table? Normally I'd say yes. The problem is there are so many desperate people right now begging Uncle Sam to stay at the table for a few more hands.

Let me tell you something, it's no fun watching a friend sink $15,000 in one night. That's the horror I'm feeling now.

Planetx_123 said...

At risk of doing what I said people should avoid in my previous commments:

Even though I agree with your sentiment and your frustration Raven-- we have to agree that these are different situations. A large chunk of populations 'spending beyond their means' (don't forget at the encouragement of predatory lenders, and greedy fund managers) and a country issuing more government debt are different. If the debt can cause a spark that will cause growth again, then its worth it probably because currency value (which is foremost effected by high deficits in recessions) lags behind (as seen in the last year). All I'm saying is they aren't the same, so we can't try to fit the same theories and anecdotes to solve them. Micro and Macro react completely different.

I definitely agree with your sentiment that many are stuck in a mindset that isn't optimal for solving this problem. What is the correct mindset that we should address this problem? Even if the 'investor class' could recognize that their greed contributed to this--would they change or would it help? I don't know-- I just want them to 'manage' the situation enough until some other radical something can shift the landscape. I don't have much hope for any solutions soon-- correct mindset or otherwise.

P.S. 15,000$$ in one night at BJ? Good lord thats a gambling problem to me! I enjoy black jack but like a couple hundred dollars...is it really that much more exciting with higher stakes?


J.T. said...

Steve, I'll address the easier question first: Playing at the $100 minimum table is exciting as long as you're winning. If you're not, it's mind numbing--you don't stop to think that one of those black chips is what some Africans live on for 6 months.

I'm no expert on economics, so I'm probably in over my head on this discussion. But I have heard enough people say that this stimulus package IS a gamble; that there is no guarantee it is going to jump start the economy, (i.e. we are going to recover our losses); that as long as banks continue to keep bailout money in their vaults and stop making loans (i.e. stop placing bets on the table) there CAN'T be any recovery.

How long is the American government going to be able to issue more debt and spend beyond its means? Only as long as China agrees to continue buying our bonds. When that stops (and Hilary made her first trip to China to make sure it doesn't), God help us all.

Rob said...

This whole mess is oddly familiar to a developing country crisis (too much leverage, bad economic policies, asset bubbles and all) with the benefit of having the world's reserve currency.

The sad truth is that the only "solution" the Fed, the Bank of England, etc. are coming up with will be to flood the world with cash hoping to create inflation and thus bailing out the borrowers at the expense of savers (including all of the foreign governments that kept the party going).

Somehow I don't think the government can create yet another massive bubble to keep the same unsustainable economic imbalances going.

Better keep working until we can dig ourselves out of this massive ditch.

Raven said...

What Rob said. And JT, I don't know what we should do. Maybe we should walk away from the table. I really don't know whether that would end up hurting people more than trying to keep playing. I'm not sure. I have no answers, only thoughts and fears.

Steve, I don't necessarily disagree re: micro and macro because I don't have enough facts to speak one way or the other. But I do have to ask what "growth" is for this country at this point. Is our economy diversified enough to support growth or would supposed growth just mean spending ourselves deeper into debt to provide the appearance of growth?

Whatever we do, I still believe we should do it with the money we have, because debts eventually come due, even for governments. I know this for a fact. I live in California. :)

Runaway inflation is one of my biggest fears right now. Sure, it would solve everybody's debt problems. But, as Rob said, it would be at the expense of everyone who behaved responsibly with their money. What kind of message would that send? That the government cares more about the irresponsible and that the government itself is irresponsible?

Also, we should be worried about China buying our bonds. Seriously worried.

J.T. said...


I'd rather be living in your blog and dreaming of Rio than writing my drivel...

Luuworld said...

maybe you should give him some time. miracles don't happen over night.

and maybe you don't see him on the news as much now, because the media are prioritizing other things.( just because you don't see him, doesn't necessarily mean he's hanging around in the white house doing nothing. )

media coverage is interesting. i seem to hear about obama doing this and that all the time on the norwegian news...

J.T. said...

LOL at Luu,

I am POSITIVE that Prez Obama is playing on his new swing set outside the Oval Office (the bit about it being for his daughters was concocted by the CIA of course) and the rumor is that he's playing with his new dog ALL day long, ignoring Cabinet meetings and meeting with foreign dignitaries.

Rob said...

Yeah ... Rio eye candy is better than this mess! In fact I do miss the glory days when news networks would obsess over "issues" such as Britney Spears' problems or "worries" such as how the shrinking deficit was creating a shortage of US Treasury 30 year bonds which was creating problems for insurance companies that needed long term paper.