Monday, February 09, 2009

Last Thursday

I think it was last Thursday. Some political action group called me up. They wanted my support in calling for our flounders in charge down in DC to pull it together and get the damn stimulus package passed. If I wanted, they would connect me directly to my Senator's office. Would that be okay they asked?

I have certainly been getting up on my high horse of late about the lack of real action inside the Beltway. I have made it clear I would like to see some damn cooperation between the two parties.

So I said, "Sure, hook me up."

The next thing I know, a phone is ringing and on the first ring, "Hello Senator Susan Collins office. How may I help you?"

I have emailled my elected officials in the past. I have even written a few letters back in the prehistoric days when we depended on the friendly folks at the Post Office to trudge through sleet and snow for us. And I have made anger induced phone calls. Never once did I get a reply or someone other than an impersonal message on a voicemail. So to actually have a human speak caught me flat footed.

"Uh. well, (I chuckle in an uncomfortable caught flatfooted way), uh I just wanted ask you folks what the Hell are you doing down there?"

"What do you mean sir?"

"Well my name is Mike Macrum and I live in Acton, Maine. I am one of Senator Collins constituents. I am fed up with the stonewalling and foot dragging. Why can't you folks work together? And why is it always the Republicans who act like bad children?" (I said more and not as cooly, but well, I am the hero in this story)

"Well sir, Senator Collins is doing the best job she can for you and your fellow Mainers. I will be sure to pass along your feelings to the Senator. Thank you for calling." Click.

I immediately felt bad. What I wanted to say, I wanted to say to Susan Collins. Instead I unloaded on some nice woman tasked with fielding calls like mine. I immediately thought of my driving days and fighting the urge to unload on some poor toll taker about the high cost of driving on their shitty super slab. It is not the toll takers fault.

The feeling of remorse lasted only a second though as a feeling of victory began to replace it. "Absolutely fucking fantastic", I thought, "I have finally received real human response to my citizen complaint." And I went on with my day knowing I had let someone know there was at least one pissed off constituent in Maine. Yeah, I was bad.

Then over the weekend I hear about Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe wanting to find some consensus with the Democrats. My two Republican senators broke ranks and called for the stupidity to end. With their support of the stimulus plan, any fillibuster would be difficult, if not impossible. Hali-fucking-Looya! I quickly considered whether my phone call was the straw, the final nudge. But when I mentioned it to my wife, she just smiled and said, "I sent both of them emails last week saying the same thing."

Way to go ladies. Someone had to Man Up and I am really impressed it was you two. Call this post my tribute to the elected officials from my state. You did what I sent you to do. You did your job. Thank you.

Keep it 'Tween the Ditches................

(585 / 8249)

17 comments:

BBC said...

I have made it clear I would like to see some damn cooperation between the two parties.

Ha ha ha, you crack me up.

dana wyzard said...

Ah, she caught you off guard and you spent part of the day thinking "I should have said THIS" didn't you?

I imagine the "secretary" is used to making those calls, but at least you got a REAL person, who made a note and stacked it on her desk.

Joe and I did a lot of snail mail writings lately, thinking that "might" be unusual enough to get an answer.

We got some form letters of course, but a few well thought out responses to our direct questions. HOOOYAH

(for all the good it did)

Beach Bum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beach Bum said...

At least you have two senators that can see beyond the ideological crap and at least act like decent Americans. Down here in South Carolina we have a certified ass kisser who by all accounts knows the health of McCain's lower intestine personally and the other is an intellectual non-entity whose biggest accomplishment in Washington is that he hasn't (yet) said or done anything to embarrass the state.

PresterJohn said...

You pathetic naive bastards. If you think your stimulus package will save the precious capitalist Wall St./ Washington axis of evil, think collapse of Soviet communism. Ta-ta.

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment (you pathetic bastards 'n the rest of us) to solving the financial crisis to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.

MRMacrum said...

BBC - You do the same for me.

Dana - Actually I said pretty much what I wanted to say. I just wish I had not been so angry.

Beach Bum - There is a website that measures the relative conservatism of all the Congress people. Olympia and Susan are rated more liberal than some Democrats. And Yes, they do once in awhile break ranks.

PresterJohn - What is the alternative? To do nothing? So far everything I have found indicates a much more negative and long lasting dip than if we try and do something. Besides, what country who holds our paper is going to allow us to go belly up? We simply owe too much money for the World to allow us to default. If you are going to borrow, borrow big. We go down and it won't be like the USSR. We will drag everyone with us.

PresterJohn said...

I say do nothing, Crummy.

Hey, emailed you per ya comment on George Carlin. Sent it to crum at psouth something or other. You get it?

MRMacrum said...

PresterJohn - Actually, whether we pass stimulus packages or not, I just want to see the two sides stopping their partisan bullshit for awhile and actually do the job they were hired to do.

And no. I have not used psouth in years. It is "at" metrocast.net.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

If you are going to borrow, borrow big.

Um, much of the problem is that everyone has done that already, including the United States government.

Look, I know I risk ticking off you and your commenters by saying this, but far too many people pushing for the passage of this stimulus bill have lost perspective. The economy tanked in the early 70s, again in 1979, and again in 1981/82. It fell into recession in the early 90s, too, and again in 2000. I realize things are bad, but no country can run trillion dollar deficits over multiple years and expect that everything will be fine. What's going to happen in 10 years, when the next recession hits? More trillion-dollar bailouts? More debt?

One of the reasons people feel harder hit this time around is that many have nothing to fall back on. The past 30 years in the US has been an adventure in eroding personal savings. Before 1980, the average US personal savings rate fluctuated between 7 and 10 percent, with a few spikes higher during recessions. Since 1980, it has diminished, falling under 5% in the early 1990s and dropping to approximately zero since 2005. No savings = no room for error - huge numbers of people, probably the majority of American homeowners, are one paycheque away from defaulting on their mortgages. Add in to the fact that many people bought homes at overinflated values with no equity in the deal, and you can see why 1) the bubble burst, and 2) why the foreclosures came in huge numbers. Nothing to fall back on.

At the end of Fiscal Year 2008 (which ended September 30, 2008), the US federal debt was about $5.8 trillion. And the answer to that problem is to make more of it?

The other problem is that the way this argument has been framed, anyone who objects to massive amounts of new borrowing is described as obstructionist and uncooperative. All one has to do is listen to President Obama to get this message. Action = stimulus package = lots of new borrowing = GOOD. Objection to proposed stimulus package = ideologic crap = BAD. Good grief.

The answer is to 1) fix the financial system with common sense regulations that apply to all firms and all participants and 2) balance the books within four years. The recession will be deeper than if there is no stimulus package, and it may last another year or two before there are signs of a recovery, but at least then you'll have a real recovery, not one based on a Ponzi economy, and you'll have a hell of a lot less debt from under which to crawl out.

You said it yourself, Crum, a few posts ago: "The signs for me began around the time of the dot.com bubble bursting. That is when I realized our economy was based on no real tangible assets or base. Living off of demand can only last so long."

What is this stimulus package except an artificial boost to demand? What we are seeing now is a large but inevitable reduction in consumption. Painful? Definitely. Necessary? Afraid so.

Shutting up now.

MRMacrum said...

El Cerdo Ignatius - All points well taken. I have no idea if a stimulus package will work. It is absolutely built on nothing but borrowed money. But this situation is not like other downturns. This is a systemic problem that runs through every facet of our economy. I see no alternative but to prop it up as well as we can and fix it then.

Regarding your obstructionist comment. They are obstructionist if all they are bringing to the table are their objections with nothing else to offer. Many Republicans had alternative ideas. But they allowed their leadership to mold their strategy into a public display that came off decidedly looking like obstructionism. I would love for the smart ones to have had their day, but they let the dumb ones run the board.

I heard an interesting piece on the radio from a woman economist from Chicago. She went over the basic ideas out there and found faults with all. Tax cuts, money to business, money to the states, borrowing money. She did not like any of them. She basically said what you and PresterJohn are saying. Do nothing. Ride it out. The hit would be severe, but we would be better off in the end.

And here is where I really have my opinion. I would welcome this strategy if it came from the consensus of the leadership. What I want has nothing to do with stimulus packages or do nothing packages. What I want is for my leaders to get on the same page. Any page, just get together and work together. This economic thing will work itself out. But what is coming at us in the future will need all hands working together. That is what I want.

Randal Graves said...

What I want is for my leaders to get on the same page. Any page, just get together and work together.

There's a Twilight Zone episode in that comment.

Demeur said...

I have to disagree with El on this one. Never have you seen our government stop dead in its' tracks and put together a plan for bailing out the banks. In the 30s the whole thing just went in the toilet. And this time around all sectors of the economy are being thrashed. I think that's what saved us the last times. There weren't problems in all sectors as there is now.
If I had my way those bankers would be getting $50,000 instead of $500 K. They say it's a brain drain? Let them find another job after bankrupting a company.
El- It's like this. You loose your job. The house your living in is now worth less than you paid for it and you still owe more than it's worth. You dare not spend any of your savings lest you have no food on the table but you find your property taxes have gone up and your mortgage gets reset to a higher rate. Your savings gets eaten up from gas and heating prices and all of the other increases. (Remember this has been going on for a while over a year now). So what would you do? You can't just walk away from the house because nobody would rent you a place with no job and now bad credit.

And I'm seeing this scene all around the country.
So if you have any whiz bang ideas better than Obama I'm all ears.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

I have to disagree with El on this one.

Only on this one? :)

Never have you seen our government stop dead in its' tracks and put together a plan for bailing out the banks. In the 30s the whole thing just went in the toilet.

I am not positing that the financial sector should not have been given emergency funding. I agree that the banking system got so bad and so overextended that there really was not much choice. What I am objecting to is this $820 billion (give or take a few ten billion) stimulus package before the US Congress, and the manner in which the argument for or against it has been framed, mostly by those in favour of it, including the president.

And this time around all sectors of the economy are being thrashed. I think that's what saved us the last times. There weren't problems in all sectors as there is now.

Apart from the banking sector, this is not terribly different from the recessions of the early 70s and 1981-82. I agree that it is more severe than the one in the early 1990s and the brief one in 2000. If you look at the rate of growth in the unemployment rate, it is following the same path as the last three.

El- It's like this. You loose [sic] your job. The house your living in is now worth less than you paid for it and you still owe more than it's worth. You dare not spend any of your savings lest you have no food on the table but you find your property taxes have gone up and your mortgage gets reset to a higher rate. Your savings gets eaten up from gas and heating prices and all of the other increases.

I have been in this situation myself; I know full well the pressures people go through when they're out of work. The difference is that even if the value of my house had gone down 25% right when I lost my job, I would still have had equity in it, because I bought under my means. I didn't push the upper limits of affordability. On unemployment benefits, I was able to barely cover heat, lights, property taxes and groceries. My wife and I had used our savings to pay off our mortgage right before I became unemployed. We had savings not because we had high incomes - in fact, in those days, my wife didn't work outside of home - but because we lived beneath our means and saved money when times were good. Had we been leveraged to the roof, it would have been disastrous.

That's why I have been hammering away at the issue of personal savings and public debt.

So what would you do? You can't just walk away from the house because nobody would rent you a place with no job and now bad credit.

Apparently that hasn't stopped millions of Americans from walking away from (or getting expelled from) their homes and finding other places to live.

And I'm seeing this scene all around the country. So if you have any whiz bang ideas better than Obama I'm all ears.

I am already on record in the comments section of several posts offering solutions, a number of them in great detail. These can be found in Crum's political posts from a couple of weeks ago, so I am not going to repeat them. I absolutely acknowledge that there's nothing "whiz bang" about them, because they will not result in an instant or even a quick fix. They will, however, build a foundation under a recovery that is going to take shape a couple of years from now, and would do so without triggering high inflation and without throwing a trillion dollars in additional debt on the generations to follow. We're no doubt in disagreement, but the solutions I have posted here are, in my opinion, a lot better than President Obama's gargantuan stimulus bill.

Demeur said...

Oops Bush added 5 trillion to the debt in his terms and what did we get? A lot of expensive and deadly fireworks for Iraq. Once you drop a $2 million dollar bomb that money is gone.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Demeur, I totally agree that the Bush administration and his Republican friends in the Congress overspent during his terms in office. From Day 1, I was critical of Bush's approach to the budget, and I hit the GOP very hard for this in a post on my own blog in November.

However, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the US federal debt increased by $2,393 billion from the end of Fiscal Year 2000 to the end of FY 2008, which is less than half the amount you are alleging.

BBC said...

Portland's Paul Bunyan statue added to historic register

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