Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Protest or digging for apples?

The Occupy Wall Street protest selected the right issue, but chose the wrong culprit. The financial melt down which has shrunk our middle class is a real problem. However, they are protesting the wrong villain. The Wall Street bankers have not changed. They have just extended the reach of Adam Smith’s invisible hand into the wealth of a global economy. Perhaps, they should be lobbying to close the borders to make capitalism more manageable. Capitalist have not changed. The system has just grown to a new level of greed.

That is not something to protest about. The evil nature of man is taught in the bible as the doctrine of original sin. Another Adam fell to this temptation in the Garden of Eden, and ever since men have been grabbing for the biggest apple in the barrel. This motivation drives our capitalistic system. The system was built around a cast of characters that compete with one another in a high stakes game of poker. When bankers try to maximize profits they are just working within the system to do what they are suppose to do. The Occupy Wall Street crowd is yelling fowl because the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 merged the banks with the investment brokers. This infusion of cash is real, but it is my opinion that the real cash did not come from domestic leveraging. Glass Steagell was removed because it had outlived its usefulness. The opportunities that deregulation opened made the global economy possible. The real cash and speculation was fueled by leveraging our domestic debt against the growth of the global economy. No one knew the limits so the bankers sold whatever they could in race to find the boundaries of the market.

If we were to change the system we would also need to change the very nature of man. So how do we stop history from repeating itself? It is in the interest of these bankers to protect the middle class. This allows for more transactions, more commissions, and more players in the game. Just as Glass Steagell once regulated banking after the stock market crash, we need regulations now to insure small and numerous transactions to protect our middle class without jeopardizing our credit markets. We do not need a new economic system. Our only hope for a new system would be an internal revolution of the heart. A new nature could allow for a more cooperative system. This is why my language of virtues BLOG culminates with the virtue of reverence in world history.

This cooperative system does not seem to work in other countries. I have traveled to China, Latin America, and Egypt. Capitalism seems to work best in governments where people participate in government. The Chinese economic revolution and Arab spring seems to validate this. These changes in the world economy are inevitable with the explosion of information available through social media. Very few countries can do what North Korea is currently doing in Libya. They are forbidding 200 citizens who were living there during Gadafi's Regime to return home. They are concerned about how information about the Arab spring will affect their people. The North Korean Government is very naïve, if they think they can hold this information back in this information age.

The world economy is here to stay because people desire the bigger apples at the bottom of the barrel. The desire to better ourselves is a pragmatic solution to a competitive, capitalistic economy. People become aware of other people’s conveniences and luxuries because of the information explosion available through cell phones. There is no way to stop this progress because the inherent benefits of technology are advantageous to the rich as well as the middle class. The wealthy need the middle class to use this technology to make even more money. When the middle class grows the rich make the maximum money. They are not what Joaquin Posada likes to call marshmallow eaters. This metaphor comes from the famous Standford research project where pre-schoolers were placed in a room by them selves and told not to eat a marshmallow. Adult marshmallow eaters will take a quick $5 profit instead of delaying gratification to make a $20 profit from their investment later. A short cut, quick buck, marshmallow minded strategy will not maximize profits. More profits can be generated by the wealthy selling their goods to an ever expanding affluent market than by squeezing every bit of money from the poor. It is important that government guards against short sighted capitalist by providing incentives or rules for them to sacrifice immediate gratification for larger profits over the long term.

My former boss, Bruce Josten at the US Chamber of Commerce used to tell me that most business owners desire a level playing field above anything else. What does a level playing field mean? A level playing field means that government manipulation of the capitalist system should have the same impact on all businesses. The good intentions of government many times can be confounded by layers of self serving bureaucracy, and blind spots of favoritism that corporate lawyers are trained to exploit. Perhaps this is where some of the fervor of the Occupy Wall Street crowd is deserved. These abuses are marginal compared to the growth of the global economy. Like Glass Steagel, blaming the financial crisis on corporate lawyers is not the root of the issue. The corporate lawyers are the wrong villain again. The real villain, human nature, can not be regulated or taxed. The real villain can only be changed by their own desires. A system of balanced competing parties can protect the middle class and an affluent economy here, and around the world. As long as those parties play by the rules.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There's Something Happening Here!

This week Thomas Friedman wrote an editorial for the New York Times titled with this famous song by Buffalo Springfield. I could not stop myself from tuning my groove shark account to that famous song. Sadly, I am old enough to remember when it actually played on the radio. Paranoia strikes deep, my be a prophecy that is coming to age in the Wall Street protests, unemployment, default, and what Friedman calls "The Big Shift". Friedman is probably most famous for writing the book, "The World is Flat". This book along with the, you-tube video, "Did You Know" does a decent job of diagnosing the current world hysteria to the speed of change spurred by technology.

Those of you who have read my World History BLOG know that I do not agree that technology does that. Technology is the great equalizer. It can help us to accomplish things in a shorter time. It can stop a bully or increase our income. Over time all technology can do this. It is just in the short term that these types of change cause fear. Ron Paul may see this fear as liberty, but I understand why some people are slow to see the benefits when they are overwhelmed in the short term. Today I was changing the settings on the micro wave to heat my lunch. One of my colleagues was taken back when it looked like I was programming the microwave. This may seem trivial, but her reaction was not unusual. When I tried to explain what I was doing she was not interested in hearing me. She like many have found that the short cuts of technology may  save time in the short term, but in the long term many have found this to make more work for them. When people learn a time saver from technology they have a tendency to pack more into their time and can feel overwhelmed. Ignorance can be bliss or more importantly less work.

Last night I watched the #GOP #Econ debate. I liked the new format of a round table, and I enjoyed the commercials from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. I agree with Michael Smerconish, that perhaps they were the real winners of the debate. For those of you that did not see the debate, the ads showed children complaining how the deficit was going to affect them. I am the grandfather of five grandchildren. I am increasing worried about how our spending will affect their lives. I write this BLOG because I find it therapeutic to write my catharsis as I stop and ask; "hey, what's that sound, everybody look what's going round."

Mitt Romney was the other winner of the debate last night. When he said that he was trying to preserve the middle class he won me over. With out a vibrant middle class no country will stay great for long. Although "Mother Jones News" blasted him for the comment because he defined the middle class as people who make $200,000 I do not feel the same way. The heart of his message is sound. We do not need to concentrate on a flat tax, or elimination of the fed. We need to concentrate on protecting and expanding the middle class. Any policy that will do this is good and, medicine for our paranoia that runs deep. My only regret is that Jon Huntsman did not say it. I am still undecided on who I will vote for. I am not opposed to re-electing our president if he will preserve our middle class.

The middle class needs to be the cash cow that pays for our national security, and all the government services that we hold dear. If we can create tools with technology that expand the middle class, then we can preserve this great standard of living and export an economic system to others peaked in freedom, by balancing liberty with equality.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The kind of president I want.

Five years ago I traced the history of virtue through the civilizations of the world. My World History Blog can be found here. It inspired me to write this poem. Each of these leadership characteristics can be traced back through world history. Perhaps if our Chief of state emulated these values we would have better government.

Give me a president that does not grab the head lines.
Give me a president that makes unpopular, but prudent decisions.
Give me a president that does not have charisma, but is tolerant.
Give me a president that values vigilance over action.
Give me a president that desires discipline and delays gratification.
Give me a president that is ingenious
Give me a president that has faith when everyone else is afraid.
Give me a president that has the courage to sacrifice his party’s selfishness for the good of all.
Give me a president that values beauty and humor.
Give me a president that loves honor, and craves honesty.
Give me a president that speaks truth, but does not betray.
Give me a president that values duty over pleasure
Give me a president that plans out of sight with a multitude of counselors.
Give me a president that remains teachable and cooperative.
Give me a president who correctly balances liberty and equality to protect our freedom.
Give me a president who is fair, pious, and follows the rules.
Give me a president who love community and is practical
Give me a president who minds his countries business and does not poke his nose into others.
Give me a president who has a hand of steel in a velvet glove.
Give me a president who is fearless and witty
Give me a president who values freedom
Give me a president who is wise and decisive.
Give me a president who is not afraid to pray for help.