Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doing Business With The Enemy

I am a Giants fan. I have been really happy the way the teams been playing this year, and as I'm sure anyone who follows football knows there is a big game against the Saints tomorrow. Well here's my confession, my friends got me into fantasy football this season. I've never played in any fantasy league before and in all honestly didn't completely understand how it worked. But now, for better or worse, I am addicted.

I need to win every week. I know every Tuesday I am the first one looking to see which player I can get off waivers, who did well the past week, and figuring out if there are any trades I should propose. So this week a few of the players on my team have the week off, most notably Ronnie Brown so I needed a running back. So I'm looking to see who I can get, and guess who is projected to do well, Mike Bell on the New Orleans Saints.

Mind you, Brandon Jacobs and Steve Smith are both on my team. I do not want Mike Bell to have a good game against the Giants, not one bit. So now when he scores a touchdown I will not boo, but will not cheer either. I will sit on my couch stoic.

Now the point of the story is this: Sometimes, you have to do business with people we don't like. The New York Times had an article in today's paper about why the stock market reached 10,000 this week. It talked about all the bailouts (excuse me, TARP) and how using tax payer money to replenish the system, banks were given room to give out and invest in areas where they could possibly recoup their losses. The program also had to be initiated because if they did not, credit cards would have been useless and the entire economy would have crashed.

Then of course came the fallback. While some banks paid back the money the government gave them, most still have not, but did decide to pay their CEO's their multi-million dollar bonuses. Oh, and yeah, unemployment is probably going to reach 10% this year.

So there was another headline that read "Obama Drops Plan to Isolate Sudan Leaders." When campaigning, the President said he would try and use economic tools such as sanctions and divestment against Sudan's government to stop the violence in the region. Now, he has changed his mind and will instead:

make use of a mix of “incentives and pressure” to seek an end to the human rights abuses that have left millions of people dead or displaced while burning Darfur into the American conscience.

General Gration said the administration would set strict time lines for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan to fulfill the conditions of a 2005 peace agreement that his government signed with rebels in southern Sudan.

The fact of the matter though is that the situation in the Darfur region has changed. In May of 2006, the Sudanese government signed a peace accord with one of the rebel groups in the region. But there are two other groups still causing violence and millions of people are still displaced from their homes. Not to mention that President Omar al Bashir has been indicted on crimes against humanity.

So why do I think President Obama should engage talks with Mr. Bashir? Well Sudan's unemployment rate is 18.7% with 40% of the population under the poverty line. The country does have oil though, and has gained billions from it. Still, 80% of the countries economy relies on agriculture and the Darfur region in particular is known for droughts.

Imposing sanctions would not do any good to help the people in that country. President Bashir is in a weak position, and if that can be taken advantage of to get him to actually do something good for his country, I think it's worth a shot.

And for the moment I'm still able to use my credit card, and most economists are predicting a recovery starting next year. So yeah, we bailed out people who we didn't like, but it was necessary.

In the mean time I'm still projected to lose fantasy football this week by more then 40 points. But those projections have been wrong before. If Mike Bell has a good game and I win this week that would be good. If he has a good game and the Giants win that would be great. The only thing I know right now is that either way Bell helps me win. And if it means working with him, so be it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Debt, Schmebt

So I'm watching CNN the other day, and all of a sudden I see this ad by an organization called Defeat the Debt. Pure shock value. I'm sure it hasn't gotten the attention as much as they would have liked though (except of course for this), since when I searched for it on YouTube I had to type in the full name of the video to find it. Plus it has less then 50,000 viewings.

After I saw this ad, I was surprised more people weren't talking about it. After the whole uproar about a school in New Jersey singing songs about President Obama, isn't just as ludicrous to have children discredit the pledge of allegiance? And get paid for it.

Not to mention the fact that the policies they are promoting are wrong. But before I get into that, let me premise it by saying Defeat the Debt is a front group for Employment Policies Institute (EPI) which is lead by Rick Berman. He is a lobbyist who has been hired by the resturaunt and tobbaco industries to promote libertarian (keep government out of my pocket) views. Now if you've ever had a conversation with a libertarian, you know there's never any winning because they will just tell you you're wrong and leave it as a fact.

Here's an example:

Liberal: Man, I really hope Congress passes a public option for health care.

Libertarian: No, let the market do it's thing. It always works itself out.

Liberal: No it dosen't, look what just happened to the stock market and what the federal government had to do. Plus prices are rising so fast no one will be able to afford health insurance in a open market soon.

Libertarian: You're wrong.

See, you just can't win with these guys!

So anyway, on the "Understanding The Danger" page, Defeat the Debt says:
Other countries buy our debt because it is a good investment — they trust us to pay them back, with interest. The most recent figures show we owe about $3.3 trillion to the governments of other countries, including nearly $800 billion to China alone.

All true. But this will only happen if China asks for their money back, which they won't. Why? Because it would freeze up the credit markets and no one would have any money to buy the exports China is sending into the country. There was just a huge shock to the system, if China does ask for their loans back it would only start another one.

At the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, emerging markets and developed countries decided that the only way the world economy would be fixed is if they worked together.

So yeah, it really dosen't feel good to owe so much money to other countries. But one of the reasons why China decided to take on our debt was because (as Defeat the Debt mentioned) they saw it as a good investment. America isn't going anywhere. If China really does want that money back, they'll enact policies to help America's economy so they can get thier money back in the future.

The worst thing about places like EPI is that they use scare/shock tactics only to get people excited over something they may or may not have a full understanding of (See: Death Panels).

Part of the reason we have debt now is because of the stimulous package (to create jobs) and the TARP program (or better known as bailouts) which most economists now agree helped calm the crisis. But anyone who's trying to look for a job right now can tell you the economy is still struggling. And the last thing those people need is something else to worry about.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reform The System, Not The Principles

Immigrants have a soft spot in American politics. Our country was founded on people who were escaping religious persecution and wanted to start a new life for them and their families. Growing up in New York City I went to the Tenement Museum and saw the conditions people were willing to live in so they could achieve their dreams. You cannot teach American history without learning about these people and their courageous stories.

It was announced today that there are plans being made to make obtaining a legal status in the United States easier. Actual legislation is being put off though because health care reform is taking up so much time. This is a good first step in achieving real reform, and it is expected that a lot of illegal immigrants will be taking advantage of the new rules when they come into effect. I have worked in a few congressional offices and helping people get visas, green cards, etc., is always one of the top issues that is being dealt with. The current system we have now just is not efficient. Those who come to the country illegally are sending billions of dollars back to their home countries, and running up costs at hospitals by going to the emergency room.

But lest we forget, they are helping to keep wages low. Since they are doing the jobs most Americans do not want to do such as food manufacturing, farming, and construction. Some economists predicted a 1% decrease in GDP if there were no people to do these jobs.

By cutting the red tape for immigrants, it will be easier to keep track of how many there are in the country and where they are. And when you consider the current deficit, people coming into the country can be taxed on all levels of government so services won't have to be cut.

There's a tricky balance when it comes to immigration reform. No one wants to say people are not allowed to come to America, that's a total contradiction to what this country was founded on. But you also want to keep Americans safe. The best way to do that though would be to make it so people coming into this country are easier to track. It's how we caught Najibullah Zazi.

So reform the system, not the principles. We're lucky to be living in a place where people want to come to start a new life, and are a symbol and a place to do just that. History teaches us important lessons when it comes to immigration. So when President Obama does introduce legislation for immigration reform, I hope he focuses on the system itself and not make it crisis. Unfortunately people in the media try to make everything into a crisis, but after health care I think we can all use a break from one.