Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures

These are extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures. Our economic situation is unprecedented. We can look to the past and compare what is happening to the Great Depression or to any other time in our history that we wish, and although that informs us to some degree, it probably will not give us the answer to today’s crisis. Our population is much larger than during any of these previous downturns, we are in a time of economic transition which is also complicating this particular downturn. We cannot rely on a war to bring us back to boom times because a global war would be disastrous. Small wars are draining our resources, not providing the upturn we might wish for. Our current situation requires time, patience, and more innovative solutions than just looking to the past and doing what we did before.

Foreclosures and the programs that have been devised to help homeowners who find themselves facing foreclosure are one area where we need simpler approaches. Although the “fixer” programs were supposed to be ‘quick and dirty’ pathways to mortgage restoration, they are not working. There are too many people who need the services of too few. People have to wait so long for assistance that they lose their property while they wait. Why doesn’t the foreclosure process stop once a homeowner signs up to be seen? The process is still open to abuse as in the robo-signing scandals. The process still allows the financial institutions who caused the problems to place a stigma on the people who were collateral damage in the schemes of those who used bad mortgages as a vehicle for gain. Can’t we find a better way to help people stay in their homes?

It is time for Grover Norquist to let his people go. The pledge our elected representatives signed in which they promised not to raise taxes originated in 1986. Although our current problems may have already been in their infancy in those days, the true scope of the changes the global economy would undergo was not at all apparent. We need access to all strategies to get us through these times intact. The stubborn insistence that taxes cannot be raised, and that any tinkering with the tax code represents raising taxes, is no longer a viable approach. The GOP talks all the time about the need for comprehensive tax reform. I shudder to think what they mean by this.

I agree that there is room for reform of regulation, for tightening up Medicare and Medicaid. We have paid money into both Medicare and Social Security. Although we now understand that the way Social Security was designed, and that the huge bubble of “baby boomers” is making the program difficult to sustain, we did pay for this program during all of our working lives and there has been plenty of time to fix it. In the case of Social Security we just say please fix it. In the case of the ‘Medics’, we hope there will be some fixes that do not just cut services and increase costs to people who rely on these programs; changes that find some basic ways to cut the cost of health care.

Even though it costs a lot of money to take better care of our environment, and even though environmental regulations probably did help drive business away, we cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend that the enormous number of changes people force on air, water, and earth as we try to sustain ourselves do not have any negative effects on our little planet. China and India will eventually have to take the environment into account also. Maybe the recent activity in the Ring of Fire is related to the uptick in industrial pollution in the area. It would be tempting to get rid of all environmental regulation and return to mindless plundering, but we know we cannot. The Earth is our one and only home right now and we have to do what we can to keep it healthy.

We cannot just cut back and sit and pay our debts. The world will move on without us. The people who say we must spend some money to make some money are correct. We have to find a balance between paying down debt and careful stimulation. Looking to the private sector for stimulus seems equivalent to Waiting for Godot.

To the GOP I reiterate my new mantra ‘stop the obstructionism and say something new’, please and soon.

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