Thursday, March 05, 2009

And On That Note...

...A random comment on a blog discussing the Stewart/CNBC piece from last night links to this great video from August of 2006. In it, Peter Schiff (president of a brokerage firm, libertarian, and well-known face on cable economic news shows) accurately predicts the coming economic meltdown with remarkable specificity. The other guest on the show, Arthur Laffer (of Reagan's Laffer Curve fame), laughs this all off and discusses how people are working two jobs not because of bad economic conditions... but because they love the low taxes. Genius!

I give Schiff credit for this (though I'm sure I disagree with his politics in many regards... he's not a fan of government intervention), though I don't think it took a genius to predict this outcome. Hell, I found in my blog archives here a July 2006 post in which I described the economy as "a well-stacked Jenga pile with no real substantive support". Am I an economist? Some brilliant analyst of world events? No, but a) I have eyes, and b) my head is not inside of my ass.

It's amazing how many people were in denial-- and, for the most part, still are-- about the serious, deeply-rooted economic problems staring them right in the face. This goes well beyond stock numbers and mortgages. It's about what our priorities are, what we produce and what we don't, our trade deficiencies, debt, a system that increasingly focuses on the top instead of the bottom, and more. And it seems that the worse things get, the more we lose sight of that bigger picture.

Like most Americans, I remain (cautiously) optimistic about President Obama and his ability to steer our country in a better direction. On many issues, he appears to be doing that. Still, many of his efforts-- ie. the stimulus bill-- are aimed at short-term aid rather than long-term programs and changes. Of course, his presidency is young, there's still time. It should be remembered that Clinton also inherited a bad economy (though nowhere near the level we are now) and turned things around, creating a celebrated expansion, and remains popular today. But he will never go down as an all-time great because, ultimately, he didn't make any fundamental changes to America in the way someone like Roosevelt or Kennedy did.

I have a few problems with Obama (he seems to be picking his Cabinet based on name recognition rather than specific expertise except on the energy and labor fronts, he's doubling down on Afghanistan without a real plan, and he allowed Republicans to water down a stimulus bill they were never going to vote for... and appears ready to make the same mistake again on health-care), but my biggest concern is that he will settle for competent, likable leadership rather than going big and changing the system in a way that will ensure that we don't have to keep having this same debate over and over again.

Call me greedy... I want a zeitgeist shift. This old one is getting really boring.


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