Crybabies on Wall Street

photo credit HITC

There’s been a full- fledged attack from certain news sources harping on about the role of real estate in the crash of 2008.  A lot of it is valid.  But what’s being pushed under the rug is the shadow banking industry that took a busted bubble recession and turned it into a depression on par with the Great Depression.  Were it not for extreme government intervention, the damage would have been astronomical.

And the financial sector, in the wake of such a massive blow to our economy, has escaped relatively unscathed.  Major financial regulation overhaul isn’t on the table, even in the extremely long and complex legislation known as Frank-Dodd.  And here’s the kicker: Wall Streeters are crying about how rough life after the crash has been.

To me, this just shows how isolated and convoluted the realities of these people are.  It’s alarming.  And it’s further evidence of a growing divide in our country and politics: those who suffer from a cut in bonuses that exceed six figures vs those who lost their jobs, homes, and retirements. It also underscores an odd sense of entitlement for those in the upper income tax bracket.

Until we come to grips with the fact that the middle class is the engine that powers the economy and that their purchasing power makes our economy diverse and robust, this divide will only get worse and our economy more anemic.  Stagnant wages for the majority of the working class is far more worrying than the deficit. Now if only the crybabies on Wall Street and politicians on the Hill could come to terms with it.


Kansas: a great place for basketball, but I wouldn’t want to live there

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Looks like our neighbors next door are at it again.  In their unbridled zealotry to end abortion, our GOP dominated, Christ-loving neighbors have introduced yet another bit of legislation aimed at narrowing a female’s options in regards to reproductive rights.

Last year, Kansas State Legislature tried to enact a law to place restrictions upon where a woman could have an abortion. Certain aspects of the law actually placed specifications as to the dimensions of the rooms that doctors could see patients intended to shut down clinics that provide the service. Federal Courts soon challenged the law resulting in its suspension.

And now the introduction of a sweeping reform into this process has been introduced.  Not to mention its clearly nefarious regulation of the practice of abortion, it also includes misinformation linking abortions and breast cancer.

And all this in the face of an ethics case against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and a settlement for sexual discrimination which has cost tax payers a pretty penny.

Why are Kansas’s politicians so eager to fight battles that have been decided for decades? Well, it fires up voters and distracts them from the real issues at hand.  If legislators used half the time bickering about abortion and put it towards solving big inconsistencies in performance in its public schools, we’d all be the better for it.  But instead we deal with yet another blow to womens’ reproductive rights and the rights of those who work to provide them.

Which brings me to a bigger topic.  Are women feeling ostracized by the Republican party? Between zealots and misogynists, the ladies have got to be feeling the squeeze.  It’s hard to fathom that this debate still rages on in our modern world: that regulating the choices women make about their bodies is fair ground for government.  But it seems to have an unlikely champion in an institution that’s no more than a front for small government.


It’s the economy, stupid.

Some things never change... even when they should.

For the last half a year, the media and others, some rightly, some not so much, have been lambasting President Obama over a slow economy.  Some, myself included, realize that a slowly growing economy is a sign of the political quagmire that has enthralled the Hill since Pres. Obama took office.  So while things could have been a whole lot better, say if Republicans came back to planet earth and realized that austerity is a sure way to ensure a deeper recession that would be much tougher to climb out of; they could have also been a whole lot worse were it not for the stimulus package put forth by the administration (again, the stimulus was far too small, but politically difficult considering the GOP’s overwhelming obstructionism).

But suddenly all this doesn’t really seem to matter. Maybe it’s the candidacy of Rick Santorum.  Maybe it’s Mitt Romney desperate attempts to sway social conservatives in his favor.  But suddenly this election has become a referendum on religion in politics and contraception.  And the GOP’s determination to turn Planned Parenthood into an abortion factory has the chance to turn everyone’s attention away from the true matter at hand: the economy.

The Economist has a wonderful article about how American politics (contrary to the GOP’s beliefs) since Kennedy’s speech on religion and politics, God’s place in political dialogue has not become marginalized; instead it has become de rigueur.

But what does this say about the economic side of the debate?  Are the Republicans ceding that the economy is on stronger footing? Are they afraid that the economy is now something Pres. Obama can stump on with confidence?  Or are they just having trouble keeping their eye on the ball?

And is this American public willing to hear the same old bullshit debate over something so commonly practiced as contraception? Something tells me this isn’t going to go over well, especially in a general election.

Either way, the GOP seems to have neglected any lesson learned from the McCain/Palin pasting. And as many households want to hear more concrete plans of how to get Americans back to work, the closest any GOP candidate can offer is lower corporate taxes? Pretty lame stuff.

It’s becoming more and more obvious how out of touch the Republican party was in the last Presidential election cycle.  It now seems to have gotten even worse.

Manifesto 2012

As exhibited by our quick look at the candidates, this presidential field is beyond weak. The Prez has left himself surprisingly vulnerable to this mashed-up bag of GOP disasters. It’s enough to make a political junky half-excited for what promises to be a most interesting election year while making me half-depressed to endure what is sure to be a mountain of bullshit rhetoric.

So I figured, ‘What the hell? We, the United States of America, deserve better.  And I’m sick of bitching about it. It’s time for action!”

Which is where Manifesto comes in.

If you didn’t know already, I run a little basement bar in Kansas City.  We have a pretty devout Facebook following, largely due to the ridiculousness of our status updates.  The bar itself is a full-fledged, attention-to-detail-oriented cocktail bar that, at first glance, delicately dances on the fence of snooty.  But we do our best to remind people that we are just a bunch of people inviting some friends over to their bar to have a good time.  And Facebook, in a weird way, allows us to keep things light.

So the other day, somewhat out of frustration, I announced on the Manifesto Facebook page that we, Manifesto, would be running for President of the United States of America.  And so far, it’s gotten off to a great start.

First things first (especially in this modern world of politics), we realized we needed a Super-PAC to take on the Mitt Romney machine.  So the Association to Stop Sobriety, also known as ASS-PAC, was born.  Not to mention that this fits in nicely with the War on Sobriety we’ve been waging in the basement for a few years now.  And hopefully with some cajoling, we’ll find someone to run the thing.

Well, the race is on.  And do yourself a favor and vote for Manifesto in 2012!

GOP Primary 2012: Getting to know Ron Paul

Every primary needs a lark, and Ron Paul is definitely that. Mr. Paul is a hard core libertarian with an obsession with ending the Fed; but what worries me most about Ron Paul is his determination to return to the Gold Standard. This would shrink an already contracted economy miring the country in a double dip recession turned depression.

Also his non-interventionist strategy has him on the outs with the largely hawkish party.  And he will have trouble recruiting African-American votes after declaring that the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War were a waste of American money and time.

But in Mr. Paul’s defense, he takes the idea of small government and pushes it to it’s extreme.  His declaration to end certain government cabinets such as the Department of Education may scare some, but endear him to the fringe of the party. And his respect for individual liberties and civil rights is commendable.

But most of his ideas are fairly radical which is a bit dubious coming from a ‘conservative’ party like the GOP.  He won’t be the nominee, but he has taken his campaign to help shape policy in some form, as well as pave the way for a future run by his son, Rand (named after Ayn).

GOP Primary 2012: Getting to know Rick Santorum


Rick Santorum has been easily the biggest surprise in this race. After narrowly winning an Iowa recount, Mr. Santorum was soon-after left for dead. But in this primary, full of swings, dips and surges, Mr. Santorum has leaped to the top of the field.  Although Mr. Santorum may lead a few national polls, serious doubts remain about  the legitimacy of his campaign, so we’ll call Mr. Romney the front-runner.

A deeper look into the candidacy of Rick Santorum finds a stark counterpoint to Mr. Romney. There are no doubts whatsoever about Mr. Santorum’s convictions. His stance on anything from women in the workplace to gay rights are tried and true social conservatism at it’s nth degree.  According to a former aide, Mr. Santorum is “a Catholic Missionary who happens to be in the Senate.”

From an economic standpoint, his preoccupation with the federal deficit is troubling.  And his latest attacks on Pres. Obama’s religious beliefs have been extreme to say the least.  While most of his campaign hinges upon ideals that are divergent from the so-called ‘mainstream American’, no one doubts the sincerity of Mr. Santorum, who refused to back down from statements as outlandish as the one made about JFK’s speech about religious equality quote, “made him sick.”  This quality, and simply the fact that he’s not Mitt Romney, seemed to have endeared him to prospective GOP voters.

But he also carries the baggage of whole-heartedly embracing George W. Bush’s big government agenda (see compassionate conservativism).  Not to mention he was thoroughly drubbed in his last campaign for Senate.  And if you aren’t of the faint of heart, you can go ahead and google Santorum.  It goes without saying that he draws the ire of a large portion of the population leaving his likely electability in question.

That being said, he provides an interesting and stark alternative to the man that everyone was eager to crown the GOP nominee just a month or two ago.

GOP Primary 2012: Getting to know Mitt Romney

photo credit: AFP

While the race for the pleasure of taking on our beleaguered incumbent ramps up, I figured we ought to take a second to look at these men in-depth. We shall start with the front-runner himself, Mitt Romney.

Son to Michigan Governor George Romney, Mitt was raised as a devout Mormon. His mission work, were it for a more traditional faith, would be heralded by conservatives around the country. Instead his faith remains undoubtedly dear to him but shrouded in a bit of mystery (unlike other candidates want to wear theirs on their sleeves).

He’s an Ivy League grad from an affluent family that is unafraid of hard work. His time at Bain reincarnated our present economy, helping upend the domination of companies’ boards and replacing it with the interest of the shareholder. By buying up lagging companies and tweaking them into growth monsters, companies such as Bain buoyed the American economy into the boom of the 1990’s.

But with his successes come scrutiny. Making these businesses better often involved sacking workers which is taboo in current times of heavy unemployment. And ugly practices by Bain (after he had left the company) of lining their pockets while running businesses into the ground, still dog him today.

Post-Bain, he entered politics, and in the meantime, rescued the Olympics from a certain quagmire. His Governorship of Massachusetts was widely portrayed as a massive success (in a much different political environment), weaving his way through a legislature dominated by Democrats. And his Health Care Reform bill was the template on which Pres. Obama based his reform.

And I haven’t even mentioned his personal life because there isn’t much to mention. He’s squeaky clean when it comes to personal affairs with a loving wife and family.

All of this would seemingly make him a dream candidate for the party that heralds Ronald Reagan as their political ‘Lord and Savior’. Instead, Mr. Romney has been pushed by his colleagues in the GOP field, and by voters no doubt, to run away from his most admirable qualities as a pragmatic centrist. Add to this his insistence that we take a hard line with China on currency, that the deficit is what is dragging our economy, and that somehow tax cuts will improve employment, Mr. Romney seems to me to be the wrong man for this country at this pivotal moment.

But he also seems to be the best the GOP currently has to offer. And if Paul Krugman is right that Mitt Romney really is a closet Keynesian, then he most definitely is the best man for the job on the GOP side.

But his lack of ability to connect with voters has left him extremely vulnerable. He often seems out of touch with the common man, likely because he is. His father’s life is one of the American Dream, where hard work and playing by the rules will allow you to succeed in this country, and hopefully will allow your kids to have access to the things you didn’t growing up. George was able to provide Mitt with opportunities that most parents would dream of affording their children. And to Mitt’s credit, he did the most with it. His personal wealth is enviable. But stumping to a man with a family that has lost everything over the past five years will remain his greatest challenge, and ultimately his downfall.