Thursday, March 26, 2009

Being at a Crossroad

America is at a crossroad. The Wall Street crisis and the responsibility place on average Americans in what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls, "socializing debt and privatizing gain," must not continue. President Obama was elected to bring change; let's hope that change is initiated on Wall Street and in Washington.

There is no doubt that we will get change; we don't expect one of the greatest entrepreneurial countries of the world to fail. It won't. The recession will end; markets will turn around. But we may not get fundamental change where power structures on Wall Street and in Washington are shaken to the core and actually turn directions.

Talking to one of my brothers last night, he reminded me of the very real necessity of being behind the President Obama and supporting his agenda, like those designed by Timothy Geithner, who allowed this collapse under his watch as the President of the New York Fed and Larry Summers who allowed deregulation under President Clinton supported by Republicans such as Phil Graham.

My brother, though rather conservative now, began as a real lefty in the late 60's and early 70's. As I listened to him I could hear in his voice the respect and love that he has for the President on so many levels. I have the same respect and love but I admit to being annoyed at what is occuring. Do we expect too much from one man as we did with Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Martin Luther King,Jr.?

President Obama is probably simply being judicial. Do we not realize the political web and the necessity of picking battles and aligning with enemies? As I was railing against Geithner and Summers, my brother took another position. he took another position. "Judith, we can't let President Obama fail," he calmly said in softly spoken tones toward the end of our hour-long conversation. There was a hush on the line.

These words reverberated in my mind again and again as I prepared for bed at some 2:30 in the morning. Should we support our president as many supported past presidents to our detriment? Maybe the politically correct thing is to lie low and let some things settle.

While things may get better for us, as glimmers of hope begin to emerge, I really wonder about the possibility of real change. While I totally support the President, I'm not feeling incredibly optimistic about Geithner and Summers when it comes to the change we need for long-term sustainability. This crisis can't be wasted.

America is at a crossroads. Will we demand change or simply want an increase in our 401Ks? Can we have both?


septembermom said...

I love how President Obama tries to rebuild the spirit of this country. For some long, our collective confidence and heart as a country was disintegrating. There is something so "real" in President Obama's desire to reignite the American dream for all of us. I worry for him because of the enormous task on his shoulders of trying to stabilize and develop our failing economy. I trust that his heart and motivations are all in the right place. We have to support him and pray that our leaders in government make well-informed, ethical decisions.

dave wheeler said...


What a terrific topic. I'm thinking that we can have both as "real" change is the only thing that can have a tremendous and positive impact on our 401's.

Change is allocating more or less money to programs. Real change is validating the programs efficiency and effectiveness before those decisions get made. If you only have "x" numbers of dollars to spend, why continue to waste them on policies and programs that don't work. Didn't the U.S. Postal Service just say it needed a 2.8 billion dollar bailout? Weren't all those price increases in the cost of postage supposed to lead to profitability? Didn't they see and plan for the impact the web would have on their business? Nah...they're a monopoly with no accountability. Every now and then they get hauled into a Congressional Hearing and face the posturing and self righteous indignation of the folks who in large part are responsible for the situation being the way it is.

I would agree with your brother's premise, not because of the person holding the office or the political party of the person holding the office. Bad policies and programs affect all of us, individually and collectively.

Real change could begin with divorcing policy and politics when it accountability and measuring it's effectiveness and efficiency. It could begin with each of us as citizens "getting educated * being involved * and making a difference" in our own neighborhoods and communities!

judith ellis said...

septembermom - Thank you very much for that. It really encourages me. Scripture tells us to pray for our governmental leaders. Period. No matter who is in office I do exactly this. President Obama most certainly seems to be "real" and have the best for America and its people at heart. I so appreciate this.

During the last press conference a reporter spoke of the increasing number of children who are becoming homeless. The President seemed momentarily honestly visibly upset by this. It wasn't an "I feel their pain moment." As a community organizer, his heart is most certainly in the right place. I'm concerned mostly about the place that is Washington. But you have encouraged me. Thanks again.

judith ellis said...

"Real change could begin with divorcing policy and politics when it accountability and measuring it's effectiveness and efficiency. It could begin with each of us as citizens "getting educated * being involved * and making a difference" in our own neighborhoods and communities!"

Dave - Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. It is much apprecited.

Your point above is well received. My brother would agree as well. The point that he got me to see, through both his words and silence, is change does not happen quickly and a good leader is judicial about when to move and when to be still.

A good leader understands the necessity of balance. I think we have such a president. I also believe that we must also as a democratic society be responsible and hold our leaders accountability on all levels, local and national.

Thanks again, Dave.

dave wheeler said...


Accountability is a key ingredient that will be essential for change. I am looking at a picture in the newspaper of our Governor signing the Lottery Legislation. To his right is a significant number of fine writing instruments that he is using to sign a letter and pass to some legislator who worked on the bill. These pens don't look cheap. Could they just have tossed a bag or two of Bics or Papermates up there? Waste! Next...a Letter to the Editor!

Thanks Judith...a great forum for learning is what you have here!

judith ellis said...

Dave - I laughed aloud at the pen comment. The editors will soon come to love you for sure! :-) My brother has a client whose father was a Dutch minister. This guys is such an advocate. Your comment reminded me of things that he does regularly.

Yesterday, I received a copy of a letter in the mail that he had written to the City Manager demanding answers for money received that did not go to the intended people on that other side of the tracks. I love this guy!

I phoned to encourage him in his efforts. He was still pumped about the letter. With every action he seems more eager to demand accountability from his local government officials. Great guy!

dave wheeler said...


What a terrific story and one I beginning to be able to relate to quite well. The more I read and learn about how much is spent on childcare and how little is done in the workplace...the madder I get.

How's this...

"So let's see here...we got 61,000 children of low wage working folks without insurance. We got millions of wasted dollars on subsidized child care with little or no oversight for how the funds are spent or the quality of the care and single working parents whose tax dollars fund the very programs they make slightly to much to be able to use. And don't even let me get started on the blatant cash grab by the hundreds of layers of "administrative" positions siphoning off of the public school funding so virtually none gets to the school level. Yet we can spend an untold amount (so exactly how much does this cost by the way?) on fine writing instruments to be passed out to legislators for doing the job we elected them to do when bills get signed into law. I know you can grab a bag of Bics or Papermates at Wal Mart, 10 for like two bucks, and pass them out instead. Maybe go to Kinko's and make 'em special if you want to. But real folks are suffering and the image of excess this picture captured was not lost on those whose lives are affected by the lack support and services working single folks and low wage working folks receive.

judith ellis said...

Dave - Your awareness of the pens speaks to a much deeper problem which you have outlined well. I have witnessed first hand at both small and large city governments and it is something to behold. There is very little accountability and responsibility. Most simply want to maintain the status quo; all benefit from this is one way or the other except the people they are suppose to serve. It got so bad at one municipality that my mere presence was an affront to those who simply did not wish to work and serve the people well. I was even told that I could work out of my home office. I did not have such at that time. :-)