Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Of bailouts and Blagojevich

I wasn't going to blog again tonight, but after watching the House vote on the auto bailout on CNBC, I felt that I had to.

It's been a very interesting time in our country, to say the least. I had always considered myself a politically minded person, but now that I look back on it, I was only involved on the fringe--that is, until now. I'm paying more attention to the Dow than ever--and I really wasn't paying much attention to the Dow before, mind you, save for barely listening to the closing bell report on WCBS 880. And I'm watching--and getting involved--with the Sunday morning political roundtable shows. I really like Meet the Press and This Week. Fox News Sunday, however, I'm still trying to get used to (even though I kinda like Chris Wallace--but that's a family thing. I adored his father, Mike. 60 Minutes just isn't the same without him).

I started getting interested in the world of finance not only through my own financial meltdown, but our country's, starting with the Lehman Brothers and AIG fiascos in September. That's when the word "bailout" became as much of a part of our American lexicon as "9/11". The near-collapse of our financial system is just about as catastrophic as 9/11 was. Back then, it seemed like Congress was touting the $700 billion bailout as a magic cure-all that would miraculously save our economy. Now it's almost three months after its passage, and where are we? The credit markets are still frozen, and hardly anyone's lending any money. A congressional panel grilled the man chosen to supervise the bailout, a man who is ironically named Kashkari (that's pronounced "cashcarry", Kittens) today, and the panel was none too thrilled with the progress so far.

What bugs me is that neither Congress nor the media have been forthcoming as to how much worse the financial crisis could have gotten if the original bailout had not passed. Chris Dodd, the head of the Senate Banking Committee, has repeatedly said that the bailout was necessary, but he didn't give specific examples of what could have happened had Congress defeated the measure. I will admit that I was in favor of the bailout when legislation was first proposed; it was the beginning stages of the meltdown, and I was still rather naive in terms of economics and finance. Now, three months later, I'm viewing it as a band aid to our economy--a band aid that's having trouble healing the wound.

And don't even get me started on those @$$holes at AIG, the ones who are still insisting on their bonuses in spite of their company's fiscal situation, the ones who still go for spa treatments on the company dollar.

Now we're mentioning bailout again--this time, for our Big 3 automakers. I have had personal experience driving GM, Ford, and Chrysler vehicles. Mama Cat drives a Voyager. She loves it. I have driven it on very rare occasions, and it's a very nice ride, a very well-made car. Very trustworthy. This, however, is in stark contrast to the Volare station wagon that my family had growing up. The carburetor flooded constantly, and often times Mama Cat would be backing the car out of the garage when it would stall on her in the middle of the driveway. I can't tell you how many times that car broke down on us.

We got rid of the Volare in 1986 and traded it in for a nine-passenger Chevy Caprice station wagon--a car which became legendary amongst my circle of friends. We called it the "War Wagon" because you could fit so many people in it. People around town knew when my mother was coming 'round the bend. It was more reliable than the Volare, thank goodness, but it was still subject to a couple of recalls and breakdowns. It was especially prone to overheating.

Papa Cat once drove a two-door, mud brown Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, which he inherited from his father. That car broke down a lot. There are too many stories to mention about its numerous breakdowns.

My first car was a Ford Tempo. I got it near the end of my junior year of college and had it for about five or six years. It was a very trustworthy vehicle--trustworthy, that is, till I moved into my first apartment and it started falling apart on me. First it was the fuel pump, then the transmission...

My point is this: I've had bad experiences, with the exception of my mother's minivan, with American-made vehicles.

My parents still believe in supporting the American auto industry. Mama Cat still has her minivan, and Papa Cat drives a Ford truck.

Sister Kitten and I, however, are still quite leery. We want to buy American, but we both had bad experiences with American cars. (She, too, drove a Tempo, and had worse luck with hers than I did with mine). After college she bought a Mitsubishi Galant, which she wanted to keep for up to 200,000 miles, but then she got into an accident that totaled the car. She drives a Volvo now. I drive a Kia, and have never had a problem with it, knock wood.

I do not want to see the American auto industry collapse, but how do I know that they're going to improve the quality of their vehicles? How do I know that the next American car I buy is going to be reliable? We're not going to know that by March!

As you can see, I have very mixed feelings about the measure that just passed the House. It's not just the auto industry, though, that's getting to me; it's the fact that the whole rescue of our financial system is being dealt with on a piecemeal basis. First the financial sector asked Congress for money, we're giving it to them. The Big 3 asked for money, now GM and Chrysler may receive it (depending on what the Senate does tomorrow). What industry is next? The government can't just keep giving checks to businesses saying, "Here ya go!", even though the legislation has a lot of stipulations attached (which, with this auto bailout bill, at least I'm glad that the bill included an oversight board). This is the kind of thing that should have been done for Detroit years ago.

All of this is just to tide things over till the Obama administration takes over in a month and ten days.

Speaking of the Obama administration...

How 'bout that Rod Blagojevich?

We here in Connecticut are certainly no strangers to corrupt politics, but Rod Blagojevich did far worse than John Rowland ever did (and John Rowland did some very, very bad things, to say it mildly). At first glance, the fact that he used the F-word in professional business dealings makes him look unprofessional. But when you examine the contexts of his conversations, it's just downright deplorable. FranIAm has an excellent post with some great links about the Blagojevich transcripts; click here if you want further information.

What really frosts me about the whole thing is that Blagojevich has no plans to resign!!! He's still at work, with a great big smile on his face! At least John Rowland had the decency to resign; by not leaving his post under the circumstances that he faces, Rod Blagojevich has proven that he has no shred of decency.

So what does this all mean for Barack Obama and his transition team? They're still investigating, but once this scandal broke, I knew that the Republicans would be all over this one. They certainly are! How long do you think it'll be before they add the word "gate" onto the end of this one?

So I will be watching the news even more obsessively than I do now as the week ends. This has become like crack to me; I know I shouldn't watch as much as I do, but I really need to be informed.

I can't be ignorant in this day and age. No one can. We were all too ignorant of our country's financial and political situations for too long.

And look where ignorance got us.

It certainly didn't give us bliss.

1 comment:

FranIAm said...

OMG Kitten- first the shared love of the honeycrisp and now we find that we are connected through the flooded carburetor of the Volares of Christmas past.

(FranIam shudders)

The Volare was one of the worst cars I ever owned. It was a horrible piece of crap and cost me a zillion in repairs. Finally, even in my poverty I replaced it... With a brand new Pontiac 1000 (the Pontiac version of a Chevette. Need more be said?)

Another craptastic piece of Detroit gone wild.

Deep sigh.

I have a 10 year old Honda Civic with 96,600 miles on it. Best car I ever bought. It needs to keep running and I take loving good care of it.

And "@$$holes at AIG"" is a phrase to live by.

Thanks for the linky love too!