Tuesday, March 31, 2009

All the right moves

David Brooks, of The New York Times, published a column today headlined "Car Dealer in Chief,"and I thought sure it would be critical of President Barack Obama for stepping into the auto-industry crisis by pressuring GM's chairman Rick Wagoner to resign.

Brooks, after all, is conservative and identifies with Republicans, although he has been a staunch supporter of Obama through the election campaign and afterward in such venues as Charlie Rose and Jim Lehrer's News Hour.

But a president stepping into the restructuring of the auto industry by pressuring the head of the nation's largest auto manufacturer to resign is a little more than I thought Brooks might be able to bear.

The column, however, was more anti-GM than anti-Obama, and I was happy for that.

Obama has been making all the right moves during the first two months of his administration, from using the bully pulpit of the presidency to chide AIG employees about taking bonuses after turning in miserable company performances; to standing up for his Treasury secretary while bloggers and commentators found fault with Timothy Geithner's slow unrolling of reforms in the banking industry; to turning the White House into a video-conference-room to hold an Internet town-hall meeting.

And Michelle Obama gets high marks for planting a garden in the White House backyard.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, reported on in The Denver Post, says the percentage of American who say the nation is on the right track stands at 42 percent, the highest number in five years. Obama's critics are on the rise, but that's pretty natural for a sitting president. The number of people less enthused by any president's performance usually increases across America from the day of of that president's inauguration.

But so far, amazingly, Obama has made all the right moves, or at least, all the right major moves.

He is making decisions -- including pressuring the auto industry to right itself, while still not denying it government aid -- that make sense for the greatest number of Americans. The budget, the deficit, increased regulation of banks and financial companies, and energy iniatives all belong in that same basket.

The moves already ensure Obama a legacy of effective action. Whether everything will work the way it's planned is another issue, still to be determined.

But you've got to give the guy credit for making his bones as a president of these United States in a very short time.

Power exists to be used by those who have it. No one can claim they did not empower this President to take action when the nation elected him in 2008. That's one promise this politician has no intention of failing to fulfill.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Poems for a spring snow day

Kathy Sabine, the 9News weather broadcaster, finished both her ten o'clock and her five o'clock news broadcasts yesterday with a demure little dip to a small growing bunch of yellow daffodils in the 9News backyard -- lamenting the flowers' snowy, early demise.

Which reminded me, of course, of a poem I wrote several years ago:


If living is the goal,
daffodils that play in spring
are first to pay the highest toll,
as blossoms bend to late snow’s sting
and we grow old, and birds still sing.

That poem and these two following are available on my website for only 89 cents. Check 'em out at www.robertschwabpoet.com.

Short poems

Short poems
Are best poems,
they challenge little
but cut quick.


Death claims our lovers
As a thief snatches
jewels in the night.
With soft, gloved hands,
it takes our breath away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't need no Steinbeck to survive this Depression

"If Americans had listened to Steinbeck, would things be different today?"

That's the question asked by a headline writer in The Denver Post -- metro Denver's only major newspaper these days -- atop an op-ed-page column by Rachel Dry from The Washington Post. In the piece, Dry reports that reading John Steinbeck is again a popular pursuit.

Especially since current times are so tough, Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," the story of a Depression-era family picking up stakes in dusty Oklahoma and moving to California where life wasn't much better, resonates again with many readers, Dry reports.

But Dry suggests that Steinbeck's later writing is even more apt for today's readers. "At the end of his career, Steinbeck's main subject was his extreme distaste for materialism in America," she writes. Two non-fiction works of the late Steinbeck, "The Winter of Our Discontent" and "Travels With Charlie in Search of America" (which I read), "have it all," Dry says.

"Apathy, greed, moral decay, a dissection of an America gone soft."

Well, I know I've gone soft because I spent 18 months trying to cure my body of colo-rectal cancer, when I could not exercise properly.

I know, too, that I cannot say I've "gone soft" Dry-style, or Steinbeck-style.

I am actually going back to the church of my youth, I'm not apathetic enough to keep me from writing my opinion in this newly started blog, and, though I would like to make much more money than I am making now, I still don't make enough to be able to describe myself as greedy.

And I suspect many, many more Americans are like me.

They decry the near total destruction of the American middle class by high-flying and high-powered corporate forces under the guise of free-market democracy -- just as I do.

And they can only hope -- because its the only thing we can afford -- that the current Depression will end in a way that our government rebuilds the nation's middle class along the way.

That's my opinion.

To be frank, I don't much care whether you like it or not.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obama's bold new rules for business

Free-market bloggers and radio talk-show hosts ought to have their rhetorical rifles loaded Monday morning after The New York Times moved a story launching the Obama administration's latest trial balloon: much expanded federal regulation of banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and even large companies like GM that can have a systemic effect on the nation's economy if they fail.

Increased oversight of executive pay and increased capital requirements for banks and hedge funds were the primary reforms cited in a version of the story by Stephen Laboton that I read in in The Denver Post.

The expansion of federal rules to companies beyond the reach of bailout money is the new and provocative concept unveiled in the story. Anyone who barks about the inviolability of free markets by government will be appalled.

Yet business is the provocateur here. Executives who ran companies like AIG took risks that threaten the economy on a large scale, and the government's desire to impose some limits on their behavior is a natural consequence. That's what a government is for: to protect the greater good from those who would selfishly abuse it.

I say have at it, Mr. Obama. Congress won't be your friend trying to pass legislation required to impose such limits. But that's no reason not to try.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

'Traitor to Myself'

That's the title to my new book, which I'll be writing here, day by day, in between other postings about business, politics and literature.

It will be a compilation of my failures, the things I have not yet accomplished in my life, like getting rich, becoming a famous writer and providing the funding for my children's education.

Or, like turning ColoradoBiz magazine, a publication I edited for six years, into a gushing cash-cow of a magazine. Something I was not able to do. Or like becoming a respected national political voice, which is also something I have fantasized about being one day.

Or like being on the Johnny Carson show, now Jay Leno and soon to be Conan O'Brien, to read my poems, which you can buy at www.robertschwabpoet.com.

Sort of a how-not-to-do-it book. That's what I'm thinking.

Maybe you can help. By corresponding through this blog when you see it. An anti-advice business book. Created on the not-so-money-making Internet.

What do you think? Good idea? Or bad.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ready to rumble

By now, many people are registering their opinions about President Barack Obama's appearance on the "Tonight Show," but the interesting moment that struck me was Obama's balling up his fists and signaling he was ready for a fight when he mentioned that Washington D.C. is filled with little Simon Cowells, the feistiest critic on "American Idol."

To me, the president's gestures indicated he was ready to rock-and-roll with his critics over the recovery plan, over health care, over transportation projects and spending as long as the spending helped stimulate the economy.

I like that.

In response to his own remark about how, like Cowell, everybody in Washington had an opinion, Obama added something to the effect of: "That's all right. That's what Washington is all about," and then he balled up and whirred his fists, indicating that like any good Chicago street-fighter, he was ready to rumble.

I like that, too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Inaugural post

This is my first post to Schwab on Anything, a blog I want to introduce to my website, http://www.robertschwabpoet.com/.

The title is a take off on the title of my former column in The Denver Post's business section, "Schwab on Small Business." Also, it is a take off on my column for several years in ColoradoBiz magazine, called "On Colorado." You see, I like being "on" things. It seems like a safe platform.

It may take me a while to post the blog on my website, but I'm learning these things as I go along, which is the way I've lived my life in journalism and as an entrepreneur writer.

I'm making a business out of my writing ability, and the columns I use to write for publications are part of the business product I hope to make of my website.

On it, you'll find my poems available for sale through PayPal. You can copy the featured poem for free, but you'll have to buy any of the other titles, at very low cost.

If you buy, I hope you enjoy.

I also write about literature on www.Examiner.com/Denver. Check out my work there as well. Naturally I welcome all comments from readers.

I hope this becomes an interesting conversation.