NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT! Does anyone recall the great sports writer and social commentator, Jimmy Cannon? What a writer – when I was a teenager I devoured his newspaper columns here in New York, and they were in part an inspiration for me to pursue a writing career. Boy could he write!
Jimmy was born in 1910 and grew up in the Wonderful Era of Nonsense (when sports were first king in America, the Roaring 1920s). He wrote for the New York Daily News (#1 paper in the USA back then), the very liberal New York Post, NY Journal-American(Hearst), and the national King Features syndication service. A lot of writers including Ernest Hemingway loved his work, too. One of the memorable lines he wrote when I was a teen: “…heavyweight champ Joe Louis was a credit to his race – the human race!” Anyway, with apologies to Mr. Cannon (who passed in 1973), here goes –nobody asked me about these things, but —
Reading The New York Times today, the first paragraph in the lead right column above the fold reads: ”…A sense of economic gloom gripped Washington on Tuesday as President Bush urged Americans not to lose faith, the Federal Reserve Chairman offered a mostly bleak assessment of the difficulties ahead for the economy, and the Administration’s latest effort to help the housing sector faced tough questioning in Congress.” Wow – are these the 1930s all over again?
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have about half the mortgages in this nation in their investment portfolios in some fashion or another – trillions’ of dollars worth. (Freddie buys mortgages from banks and Fannie deals with consumers and their mortgage needs.) These are government–sponsored enterprises – GSEs – and they are owned by shareholders. Very complicated enterprises, but they were established to help millions of us achieve our American Dream – owning our own home.
So these retrograde members of congress who “are tough questioners” are apparently concerned that the US Treasury plan to save our economy just might help Fannie and Freddie by buying their stock and lending them money. Screw the homeowner, present and future – don’t help those greedy GSEs! (Even though past congresses created them. That’s Washington logic or lack thereof.)
I KEEP THINKING…where are the leaders…where is our national leadership…who is in charge…help! Jimmy Cannon had views on this – I’ll share them here.
We have energy prices going through the roof, depositor runs on banks, rising concerns about many other banks staying afloat, several million home mortgages in hot water and either in default or skirting close to failure, consumers cutting out driving and even commuting, airlines facing bankruptcy, US auto production plants shutting down (some probably forever), escalating violence now in Afghanistan against our troops, and American jobs going out the door or perhaps out of the country (outsourced to distant lands). But the guys and gals on the right – they seem to be more worried about preserving temporary tax cuts for their wealthy friends and supporters. Hey, you gotta keep your priorities straight, right?
What else is happening that Nobody Asked Me About? Let’s see…in The New York Times today…
Homes are at risk of going under, so homeowners are thinking about taking in boarders. We did that a lot in this country in the Great Depression. Some ideas never go out of style, huh?
General Motors, once the Crown King of American Automobile Manufacturing (with almost 50% market share) is thinking about how to stay afloat – the company cut dividends, salaries, healthcare and is closing plants. Remember what won World War Two for the United Nations? The Arsenal of Democracy! Today we probably couldn’t build a good PT boat at home. (The US Air Force has decided to outsource our next most important aircraft contract, bypassing two American firms.)
Who is in charge here? Where are our leaders? Where is the leadership? Who puts the People first? I can picture Jimmy Cannon asking in his unique ways…
We learn more in the media today about American government treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay –what is revealed is un-American, in terms of upholding traditional American values as details of a secret report to the CIA are leaked to the media about secret interrogation methods. We are a Nation of Laws, we all learned in school. Nobody Asked Me But – this could spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e in the future for Americans captured in foreign lands. What is a trickle now of bad news reports about US treatment of captives could become a flood in the weeks ahead. Down again goes US prestige and support abroad. And think about the brutalization of the Americans involved in such activities – is that what we want our young people to learn and internalize?
Add this to the horrendous cost of the armed conflicts we’ve launched; as our friend Judge Sol Wachtler recently pointed out, of the 750,000 men and women to serve in combat, we should expect 250,000 will suffer mental illness of some kind. Are we doing all we can for them? (The judge is now a powerful advocate for the mentally ill – and our veterans and service members need his advocacy.)
At the White House yesterday, President George W. Bush held a press briefing. The economy was front and center – “I am not an economist,” the CEO told the journalists. (He added he is an “optimist,” which my fellow hamlet dweller, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly quickly pointed out is easy to say if you are a rich guy!) I do believe we are growing, sez the prez. Oh, good! I’m tired, too, Mr. President of things like you said: “…at this press conference here, people yelling recession this, recession that, as if you are economists…” Well that clears things up, doesn’t it?
As a commentator I frequently quote the man who saved American Capitalism and our very Freedoms – and if you don’t agree with my characterization, send me an email explaining why not – President Franklin Roosevelt. By power of his confidence and oratory skills, and skill and ability – and he was a rich guy, a patrician, a spoiled Hudson River silk-hatter, a White Shoe lawyer – to buoy up his “fellow Americans” he helped this nation to overcome mighty challenges and to rise to the top of the Superpowers. Boy do we need leadership like that now! (Especially with bank runs reminiscent of the post-crash days of 1929.)
FDR said: “…In the last war (1917-1918), I had seen some great factories, but until I saw some of the present-day plants, I had not thoroughly visualized our American war effort. I saw only a small portion, but that was a good cross-section, deeply impressive… the US has been at war for only ten months [this was his Fireside Chat, October 12, 1942] and I could not help but ask where would we be today if the Government of the US had not begun to build many of its factories for this huge increase more than two years ago, more than a year before war was forced on us at Pearl Harbor…?” US factory output combined with the bravery of millions of American service members defeated powerful enemies around the globe – in December 1940 President Roosevelt delivered his powerful “Great Arsenal of Democracy” address – listen to it here (and compare this to present-day presidential rhetoric: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrarsenalofdemocracy.html(Great radio drama!)
Oh, one solution the current Washington Weenies have for propping things up in the federal budget: Slashing the meager fees paid to local doctors for Medicare – for the necessary treatment of seniors. Stirred into action – hey, the whole House is up for grabs in November and one-third of the Senate seats – the folks on Capitol Hill moved quickly to restore the cuts. Gotta count on those old geezer votes in November!
Missing: a realistic plan for the long-term solvency and viability of Medicare and the state Medicaid programs, and also for Social Security. Hey, that’s the next office-holders’ issues, right? I got my earmarks to worry about!
In St. Louis, America’s Arched Gateway City to the West, the vaunted family-owned business – Anheuser-Busch, King of Beermakers to the Nation, will become part of the world’s largest beer brewer, InBev of Belgium. Sic transit Gloria – that’s the way it is, folks, in the Wonderful World of Globalization. Bring in the A-B Clydesdales – oh, sorry, they are in retirement in California. What about the 6,000 jobs in St. Louis? InBev says not to worry (and that’s when I usually start to worry big time).
Chickens – do they come home to roost, as everyone says? Nobody Asked Me But – does anyone in positions of power stop to consider that every American manufacturing job that is lost or outsourced or downsized or whatever has a ripple effect? Economists say it is 4-1 or 5-1 – lose one manufacturing job and four others go with it. In the Automobile, beer, airline, and all those other industries – why do the workers feel the first pain? “With warning,” the Times’headline today reads, “GM Takes Wide Cost Cuts.” Big SUVS and trucks are disappearing off the production lines or sitting unsold in dealer lots – did anyone in Detroit see this coming? Was there anything that could have been done? Stay Tuned to the news stories to come…
Some good news: VW (isn’t that a German brand?) is going to build a car factory in Tennessee and will create 2,000 jobs. That’ll be a one billion dollar investment and maybe 150,000 cars will flow to US dealer lots after 2011-2012 start-up. (That’s in addition to Toyota’s new plant in Mississippi, and Kia Motors new plant in Georgia.) No UAW workers wanted, today’s newspaper story points out. More union rank shrinkage.
Oh, and some more good news, or so it seems: the Securities & Exchange Commission is moving on the naked short-selling tactics of predatory traders – the folks who may have been driving down the share prices of the GSEs and banks…amidst the negative headlines (such as the Times headline today: “Seeing Bad Loans, Investors Flee from Bank Shares.”) A little late, say some institutional investors, but perhaps better than never.
Remember September 28, 2006? According to a little note above my desk, that was the day the Dow Jones Industrial Index reached 11,722 – after sliding down to real bear territory around 8,000 after the Dot-Bomb market collapse and the implosion of Enron, WorldCom et al. We are now below 11,000 – having reached 14,000 and more just months ago. I must remember to ask analyst Ralph Acampora (author of “Fourth Mega-Market”) when we are going to hit his target for the Dow of 16,000 — and more.
I have to stop reading all this – I’m offering answers or asking too many questions that nobody has asked me about.
“NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT” – thanks, Jimmy Cannon of New York City legend, for your years of inspiration and absolute devotion to the written word. I wish you were around to turn a phrase today on what you would be seeing in the leadership crisis our nation is experiencing. As you once wrote, “…the troubles with the Big Leagues is…that there aren’t enough Big Leaguers!” How true. But nobody asked me…but…I think you’re still right on.