Obama Bubble

I feel bad for Obama these days. He’s attempting to lead as normal a life as possible given the fact that he’s the President-elect of the United States. Obama, in what the press has stupidly dubbed “Waikiki-gate”, ditched his press pool the other day while vacationing in Hawaii to visit a theme park with this family and friends. Who can blame the guy for wanting a few hours to breathe? Can you imagine being surrounded by the constant clicks of cameras and voice recorders and the inherent guardedness I’m sure he displays, constantly worrying that something he says or does might be taken out of context and turned into a ridiculous news story? I can’t.

At 47, Obama is still very much an active adult and most importantly, a father to two young daughters. With that, its expected that he, more than past presidents, will want to have some freedom to break from the rigid structure and routines of the Secret Service and the hounding press corps. I know he’s addicted to his Blackberry and is lamenting the prospect of having to give it up for security reasons when he assumes office (I’d put up a fight for mine, too). I hope he finds a way to keep it and to maintain some semblance of a normal life. I’ve always said to myself that if I ever decide to stick my toe into politics someday, I’m going to be an unconventional politician. Forget the 24/7 details and the motorcades. I’ll be sure to throw everyone for a loop every once in a while and go out for an unannounced run on my own or go for one of my favorite, wandering Sunday drives. A life restrained like that seems to be a waste.
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Auto Bailout

General Motors and Chrysler have officially managed to threaten, beg, and whine enough to bilk taxpayers out of $13 billion to correct their senseless management and operational strategies of the past decades. They have been unfairly rewarded at the expense of struggling taxpayers, the same taxpayers who would never be lucky enough to receive such a bailout on their own. If Joe Schmoe spends like a lunatic and racks up tens of thousands of dollars of debt on the hand-out credit cards that seem to magically appear in the mail, where’s his bailout? He won’t get one. Instead, he’ll pay for the consequences of his actions and end up in bankruptcy court. But the U.S. automakers? Forget it. They have influential lobbyists, a public voice that Joe lacks, and a nice little hostage note threatening layoffs that Joe lacks.

The big three automakers need to be treated like every other person and business in America. Let them pay for the consequences of their own foolishness and irresponsibility by going through a structred bankruptcy if necessary. To do otherwise sets up a danerous precedent and only fosters a backwards culture. This is the first public example of the faults inherent in handing a $700 billion blank check handed to Treasury Secretary Paulson weeks back, which should have never been done in the first place. As promised by those who bravely fought against the bill, the money has indeed begun to be used in ways not originally promised or mentioned. This is just the beginning on that front. On a more micro level, if the auto industry somehow qualifies for a bailout, why not the airline industry? Why not the retail industry? All of these industries play a large role in American employment. By Bush’s thinking, all of these potentially deserve bailouts as well. Does it ever stop? Will our economy begin to look more and more like Venezuela?

The bailout also supports a culture of cushion and complacency so apparent in the industry. Executives hop around the country and the world in plush private jets. Union bosses making millions of dollars per year are allowed to squeeze every penny out of payrolls, allowing workers to receive wages and bonuses most Americans could only dream of- all at the cost of competitiveness. Did you know that each American car carries an extra $2000 on its pricetag compared to its foreign counterparts because of such perks? These counterparts, which I remind you, are similarly made by good, hardworking Americans right here in the USA in states like Tennessee and Kentucky.

While companies like Toyota and Nissan have consistently designed stylish, energy- and cost-efficient vehicles, Ford has knowlingly produced bulky, low quality automobiles that have been ruining its brand name now for years. For example, first there was the highly successful Ford Taurus, America’s number one selling car for a number of years in the 1990s. But then the Taurus disappeared for a while, runing the continuity of the brand name. But wait... its back now. But its a boxy, old-person car instead of the all-around family vehicle it once was. Now, why would any American family buy this car instead of the Toyota Camry, which has consistently existed and performed for over a decade? I can’t think of many reasons why. Also, look at the Ford Flex released earlier this year. This was supposed to be Ford’s saving grace and bring the word “cool” back to the brand name. Are you kidding? Consensus is that the things looks more like a hearse than a hip machine. I don’t know how many twenty-somethings you’ll catch rolling around town in what could be the death-mobile. Of course, sales are dismal. But I’m sure the guy who pushed so hard for that model still has his job, and probably even received a nice bonus this year.

Such a culture in and around the auto industry cannot be sustained or supported any longer. Now is a unique opportunity for taxpayers, drivers, and lawmakers to say “enough is enough”. The companies need to get their acts together and once again prove to Americans that
they can get themselves out of the mess they have gotten themselves into and emerge once again as a mighy, proud stalwart of the American economy.
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Finals!

The scene from Village A G103:



As much as I would like to be blogging on the auto bailout (thumbs down), Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, or some other exciting news, I’m instead studying for my final exams, which begin tomorrow.

Be back Monday!
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Christmas Decorations

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Back to the Blog!

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but for good reason. After my excruciating 14 hour car ride back down to Washington, D.C. on Sunday, my computer quit on me. I tried time and time again to reboot, only to be confronted by a haunting blue screen. Pretty crummy timing for a computer to bust on the heels of final exam week. On Wednesday I woke up early to trek to the nearest Apple store at Pentagon City and decided to give the power button one last try. Sure enough, my Mac decided to come back to life that morning after three comatose days. Phew.

In other news... classes officially ended on Thursday for me, so crunch time is upon us. We had our Christmas Party at the Holiday Inn last night for the Credit Union, which was a lot of fun as always. My exams start Friday the 12th and run until Wednesday the 15th- not bad this year. I’m expecting a less painful car ride home on the 15th or 16th than Thanksgiving, but then again, that doesn’t say very much.

And in real news...we are starting to get a look at what the Obama administration will look like beginning next year, as a number of key positions have been filled over the past few weeks. I found
this article the other day on Politico and tend to agree with its analysis. Republicans don’t have much to complain about regarding his national security and economic picks. No one can find much fault with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, who are widely respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton isn’t all that bad either.

Interestingly enough, it seems that peace activists who had high hopes (disillusional ones, in my opinion) for a pacificst Obama are most disappointed. They obviously aren’t happy with Gates, who currently plays a large role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under President Bush, and Jim Jones, a decorated U.S. Marine. And they’re still bitter that Hillary won’t apologize for her vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq- a position that I give her a lot of credit for, as mentioned in a previous post a few months ago.

Economically, incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers have extensive and respected economic backgrounds. The market showed its strong approval of Timothy Geithner with an impressive rally the day of his announcement a few weeks ago. Hopefully Geithner can clean up much of the mess created by current Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in what my Principles of Investments professor calls the “Paulson Panic of 2008”.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with a few pictures of my Christmas decorations...

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