Not a Depression?

In one of the few pieces I have seen in recent days about the turmoil in our nation’s financial system, Irwin Kellner on MarketWatch says we are not seeing a second Great Depression, and that we should not refer to what the US House of Representatives failed to do today as a “bailout.”  Odd that I tried to link to the actual US House of Representatives web site (www.house.gov) and couldn’t get it to come up – must’ve crashed or something.  Hmph.

Anyway, Kellner’s point is that the market turmoil we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, certainly worrisome and cause for action, is not the death knell some would claim it to be.  I have no way of knowing, of course, but I have wondered for some time about the use of increasingly sensationalistic language on the part of “news” organizations.  I even emailed CNNMoney once complaining about their use of terms like “slammed,” “crushed,” “tanked,” and the like in describing what had become run-of-the-mill losses on Wall Street.  A hundred points in the Dow here, a hundred points there.  One day down, the next day up.  The psychological whipsaw was working overtime.

So how much of this is more of the kind of sensationalism and fear-mongering to which we have become accustomed over the last seven or so years?  On the part of the media?  On the part of our public officials?  Just how do we know how big a problem this is?  And how do we know what is (was?) before our Congressmen was the solution?  I’m not sure (m)any of us know the real answers to these questions. 

Looking at some of the figures Kellner uses in his column, there may not be as much immediate comparison to the Great Depression as we think.  Then again, several of the figures he’s used for comparison took several years to manifest themselves.  Who’s to say that unemployment won’t decline between now and 2012 (like it did between 1929 and 1933) or that GDP won’t slump over the next few years?  Only time will tell, of course, whether Dr. Kellner is right or wrong.  On October 30, 1929 I wonder how many people expected the global economic decline that persisted through the 1930s?

Even if this is not the start of a second Great Depression it needs to be a wake-up call to stop living beyond our means and start investing in things that matter.

Falling to Earth

Nope, not the stock market, not the financial services industry or investment bankers, not even the economy as a whole, though those are all good guesses.  It’s the unmanned Jules Verne spaceship reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, having completed its mission to the International Space Station.

National Punctuation Day 2008

Happy National Punctuation Day!

What?  You didn’t know today was National Punctuation Day?!  Okay, well, neither did I until I read an article in this morning’s USA Today.  There’s still time to plan your NPD party, buy decorations, and have punctuation-themed snacks.  Cheese Curls often come in handy simple punctuation mark shapes.  Using more than one curl and/or Cheese Balls, you can create more complex punctuation marks.  Think of all the fun!

Of course, once all the fun subsides, you should take time to remember our abused and neglected friends in the punctuation mark family.  Personally, I try to root out apostrophe abuse everywhere I see it.  Please do what you can to help.  The need is real.  The time is now.

This is my blog and I approved this message.

Billions and Billions

Where is Carl Sagan when you need him?  Well, if it weren’t for the fact that he died almost twelve years ago, and wasn’t known so much for political commentary, he might have been the perfect person to announce that the U.S. government’s bailout of our crumbling financial system was going to cost “hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.”  Hundreds of billions.

Swell.  On top of the $1.1-1.7 trillion we have already spent or likely will spend on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the so-called Global War on Terror (known by the mellifluous acronym GWOT).  I’m not in a position to dispute that the bailout of corporate titans of greed (egged on in good fashion by most of us, but also enabled by an administration that proclaims the free market gospel), a.) because I’m not knowledgeable enough to know for sure but, perhaps more to the point, b.) that these financing institutions are so tightly interwoven into the fabric of our economy that we can’t not bail them out.

On to Richmond

Only a couple of days left before the start of this year’s ICMA Conference in Richmond, Virginia.  I expect to find it in much better condition than the combined efforts of the Union Army and retreating Confederate Army left it in 1865.  There will be no side trips this year (see last year’s adventures here and here), which is a pity, given the easy accessibility to early American and Civil War historic sites, not only in Richmond, but also Williamsburg and Jamestown.  Doesn’t mean I won’t try to find some interesting things and get just a little beneath the surface that conventioneers see; I just won’t have as much time to do it.