The National Mall – The National Disgrace

A few weeks ago we visited Washington D.C. and while there we took the time to visit the National Mall. It had been years since I’d seen the White House or that Lincoln Memorial, and I had yet to see new memorials such as the World War II memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. You visit a memorial to pay respects and the be impressed. I left the mall feeling a bit sick to my stomach at the condition of the mall.

Some of the things I saw:

  • The reflecting pool is filled with green, fetid water
  • Duck and geese feces litter the areas surrounding the pool
  • The grass that immediately surrounds the pool has been worn to a 15 foot wide dirt path

Word is that there was $200 million removed from the stimulus package that would have been dedicated to fixing major problems. According an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer article, earmarks are another issue. One thing I do know is that this is a disgrace. Many people will say that we have other things to worry about in this day and age and I don’t disagree. But worrying about other things doesn’t mean your forget everything else; we pay our public officials to multitask? It’s as if we have decided to not clean or take care of our house because we have to work. When someone walks into my house and it hasn’t been cleaned or taken care of, I’m embarrassed. I feel the same way about the mall – I’m embarrassed to allow visitors to see it. We’ve been lazy and derelict in our responsibilities.

I found a  picture  of the  reflecting pool facing the Washington Monument  from 2005 – a few short years ago, and the difference is remarkable. Just because “these are difficult times”, doesn’t mean we can simply ignore all of our responsibilities. As much as we need to keep things up for today’s sake, we need to maintain our cities and infrastructure for future generations. Because the District of Columbia doesn’t have representation in Congress, it’s the responsobility of our elected officials to maintain the house in which they work and that has come to represent our country to others.

If this is how we treat a national symbol – imagine how we treat the rest of the country.

The first shot  is a picture found on Wikimedia Commons that shows the National Mall as recently as 2005. The other shots were taken 3 weeks ago by myself on our visit.

You versus the economy: Banks get the smackdown

The big news coming out of Washington this week has to do with the Obama administration and congress industry putting the smackdown on the credit industry by actually attempting to reign in their predatory lending habits. A friend had the following comment on my Facebook page:

It’s insane that our entire banking industry relies so much on people being in debt.

I love that comment.   Over time our the health of many companies has come at the expense of tax payers.   Consumers are getting squeezed everywhere because corporations need to make more money.

A lot of people will say they don’t use credit cards – instead relying on debit cards.   Others will say that they will pay off their cards monthly.   Not everyone can do this though.   Many people rely on credit cards to make it through a rough stretch, and while it’s not a good idea, if you don’t have a choice, it’s a nice option to have. The problem is that the credit industry holds you hostage by ruining your ability to get more credit say to buy a house or a car, and in some cases can prevent you from getting a job through credit histories.   This is too much power to give over to banks.

What’s worse is that when the law was changed in 1979 banks moved to Delaware and South Dakota who attracted them by getting rid of usury laws. So your vote in your home state can do nothing to regulate these banks.

While the new law is welcome, it’s not enough.   Limiting interest rates on loans is a crucial next step. For some reason congress is loathe to really go after the banks even though they’ve brought the world economy to it’s knees. A lot of these banks are getting bailed out so we need to use the new found leverage we have to make these companies more consumer friendly.

This is change this country need.

Bleeding jobs

This feels like I’m blogging for the first time. Anyway, I picked the most action two weeks since the election to not blog. The list of things I haven’t blogged about – The Obama Inauguartion, the first 10 days, Rod Blagojevich, Rush Limbaugh?

What brings me out of my shell are layoffs. They’re everywhere – hitting very close to home for all of us. One thing that has bothered me is the massive number of layoffs and location closings hitting the news. Starbucks, Circuit City, Home Depot, etc. A few years ago these companies couldn’t find a location they didn’t like. Across the street is another Starbucks? No problem.  The growth of these companies during the last 10 years has been dizzying.  Their growth has also been foolish.  

Here’s the analogy I’ve been using –  Say someone bought a lottery ticket and won a thousand dollars.  Good right?  What if this happened the next month and the month after that?  Excellent huh? Here’s the question: What would you say if that person, looking at their recent track record decided that the winnings had to coming month after month, and buys a bigger, nicer home based on the belief that these winnings were coming month after month?  You’d think that person was a fool.  Well this is essentially what many companies did.

Instead of growing at a sustainable and manageable rate – they grew thinking the good times would never end.  Fueled by a low interest rates, cheap money, an insane real estate market, these companies grew without any regard for the future.  Shouldn’t companies grow at a rate that allows them to withstand the bad times without upsetting the apple cart? Didn’t these have a responsibility to be there for their employees?  But greed won out and all they could think of is more, more, more.

All this is too late – people are losing the jobs, over 100,000 this week. The people in charge should be in jail, but they’re living off of their crazy bonuses.  One report had Wall Street bankers taking in $18 billion in bonuses last year.  How much is that?  Enough to give the automakers the bailout they asked for plus an additional $4 billion to “buy something to make themselves pretty”.  It’s enough to employ 300,000 people at $48,000 a year and pay for their health insurance for their family of four.  It’s enough to buy every Major League Baseball team and have enough left over to buy 10 or 11 NFL teams. In other words – it’s a lot of money.  I don’t want to get on a rant here – but maybe these guys didn’t need a bailout.  

I hope this ends soon – I fear that it will bring us all under.  But part of me wonders if that pain wouldn’t be good in the end. Maybe the past two hundred years  we were the  caterpillar  (the insect, not the company that has cut 22,000 jobs). Maybe when this is all done, we’ll be a pretty butterfly.

Or maybe Bernie Madoff will still be smiling?

It’s the economy stupid

I have waited for this day since the end of the RNC.

No more lipstick talk. Forget talking about the bridge to nowhere. Nope – after a Republican imposed break from substantive issues, it’s time to return to discuss those issues that actually impact us in our daily lives. This week after Lehman, Merril Lynch and now AIG have all need to be bailed out. After Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were saved by the government two weeks ago – now it’s time to talk about the economy.

And what does John McCain say on Monday: “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times,”

Well at least he got the last part right. These are very difficult times.

We’ll see if people can be distracted by gutter campaigning while their insurance company goes under, the mortgage company goes bankrupt, and the holder of their 401K files for bankruptcy.

People – wake the fuck up.