Friday, September 24, 2010

Pledge to the same ole

Did it look to you -- like it did to me -- in  the pictures of John Boehner giving his "Pledge to America" that the goof ball may be losing a little of his oft-mentioned tan?

I looked for a picture of Boehner to illustrate this contention, but found only that I am not the only one who writes about his tan. There's a whole page of references on Google to "John Boehner tan," so you can look it up yourself if you don't believe me.

To me, though, it looks like Boehner's work on the empty pledge took a little color out of him.

According to the New York Times version of Boehner's presentation yesterday, the pledge is about as empty-headed as the Republicans' two years of opposition to anything Democratic that has been introduced in Congress, or anything at all Obama, for that matter.

So, this from the Times' David M. Herszenhorn: "The approach Boehner set out is based on a belief that smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation will fuel economic growth, create jobs and ultimately lead to a more prosperous nation. It deviated little from the tenets of mainstream conservatism over the last generation."

Now, for a minute here, I'm going to sound like a Democratic politician facing a tough mid-term election battle or a lot like other Democrats including former President Bill Clinton who are taking up this cudgel in response to Tea Party invective: Were not the "tenets of mainstream conservatism over the last generation" what got us into this whole mess in the first place?

Free-market capitalism and less regulation led to greedy real-estate mortgage brokers and exceedingly rich Wall Street bankers.

Lower taxes led to a let-the-rich-get-richer recovery from the Internet recession of 2000-2001 that, if you recall, remained remarkably "jobless," resulting in more jobs lost during the first four years of George W. Bush's reign than his second-term administration was ever able to regain.

In effect, the 2001-2008 recovery showed only that a president could allow an economic downturn to have its way with the American middle class while he also waged two wars and turned a national budget surplus into a withering record deficit. And don't let it be forgotten that it was George W. Bush and the Republican majority in Congress who grew the government to the size that now Republicans want to butcher.

Herszenhorn also quotes conservative analysts as saying the $100 billion Boehner promises to cut from federal spending would hardly make a dent in the current $1.3 trillion deficit. 

So a much paler-than-normal Boehner made a pretty pale pledge to America. He was promising more of the same ole, same ole Reagan/Bush conservatism that history has shown does no favors for America's middle incomes.

The sooner Americans -- and perhaps even Ohioans -- reject John Boehner's empty promises, the sooner  the good-ole-boy congressman can get back on the golf course to burnish up that trademark tan.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baby Boom bust II

When you write as one of the many bloggers few people read, you are encouraged when a national writer addresses the same topic you've already taken up, confirming your instincts about what's happening in the world around you.

Take Michael Kinsley, for instance, writing in The Atlantic magazine about the bust of the Baby Boom.

Look down this page, and you'll see that in my last piece, written over Labor Day weekend, I took a slightly different and much shorter tact than Kinsley.

We both generally conclude that until now Baby Boomers, that great generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, have blown it.

Kinsley suggests in his article that our generation has 19 years to save its reputation, by allowing ourselves to be taxed to the point that we pay back all the money we and our parents borrowed to finance the society we have enjoyed over the past half century in America.

My suggestion was there was no way to make repairs.

But Kinsley has a point, and people who read me know I am all for making amends for our sins while we can.

Check out Michael Kinsley's piece. It's politically impossible, but at least he offers a solution.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baby Boom a bust

I come here on Labor Day Weekend 2010 to declare the Baby Boom generation a failure.

I'm part of the failure. In fact, all my life I liked to tell people I was born at the cusp of the wave of the boomers. Born in 1947, the official second year of the boom, I have turned 63 and am still trying to make a success of myself.

Reading the business section of the Denver Post today, pushed me to the conclusion that I am not alone. All my fellow baby boomers have, as Peter Fonda said in "Easy Rider," blown it.

Here's a little inventory of the stories and comment you'll find in the Post that back me up.

"Unions facing tough times," by Steve Raabe tells the story of a decades-long decline in union membership in Colorado and nationally, which coincides with the devastation of the nation's middle class in America.

Most of us baby boomers came from the loins of the blue-collar generation that organized America after World War II, although even that great generation never reached more than a 34 percent share of the workforce as union members.

That means, too, we baby boomers were young witnesses to the worst of union abuses: Jimmy Hoffa, wages paid for work not done, false claims of on-the-job-injuries, and a cycle of wage increases that made the work not worth the price.

So most of us chose the white-collar way, and found ourselves going to work, and teaching our children to go to work, in what is now parodied on TV as "The Office." The idiots are real; the trouble is they are us.

All the while the old wealthy and the new wealthy, the very establishment we rebelled against as hippies, made sure that,along with unions, the entire middle class in America was drained of power and influence, reduced to a status just above poverty line.

But let me continue my inventory.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, offers a piece in favor of a second round of stimulus measures for the economy, arguing that the unemployed and underemployed in America will never get back to work without one.

It's hard for me to even mention the idiocy of the article paired with Weisbrot's, by William F. Shughart II, a senior fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland,Calif., who argues against a second stimulus package because: "The only sure way to perk up the job market is to cut taxes permanently and rein in public spending and excessive regulation."

Which, by the way, is also the establishment's sure formula to push what's left of the lower middle class below that poverty line, and to ensure future opportunities for the wealthy to become more and more -- even exceedingly -- rich.

But then there is the column by Robert J. Samuelson that provides the real indictment of an entire generation.

Samuelson gets to the failure of baby boomers to provide their children and their children's children a proper education, which was the real route baby boomers took to whatever prosperity they have gained.

Samuelson catalogs the failure of parents and education reformers in America to improve learning for large swaths of U.S. students over the years. "Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don't like school, don't work hard and don't do well."

That's where we blew it. Unfortunately, there's no way to go back and make repairs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Small-business finance in small chunks

Small business in Colorado has someone coming to its rescue: Christopher A. Smith, right, the CEO and founder of new commercial lender CSI Holdings LLC, which is ready to fill a crying demand for small-business-sized loans.

The credit crunch that started in 2008 has lasted for almost two years now, despite a stimulus bill that was partly aimed to goose small-business lending and hiring, and despite later unsuccessful Obama administration attempts to use bank-bailout money to revive small-business operators.

"I saw it first hand," says Smith, who for two years before opening his own firm was executive vice president of Hillcrest Bank's expansion into Colorado. "I couldn't lend," Smith said of those first years when banks refused to let go of bailout money.

On Wednesday, Smith announced the opening of CSI Financial's Denver corporate office at 999 18th St., Suite 2700, Denver, 80202, and at He said his experience in Colorado, where the firm will kickoff its lending, showed him "there was immense demand out there" for loans that were small enough for small firms to handle.

"That's why we specifically picked the niche," Smith said, reiterating what the company said in a press release: "CSI will differentiate itself by servicing small and lower-middle market companies with financing needs ranging from $50,000 to $1 million."

I know from covering Denver and Colorado's small business community for about 20 years that there are no lenders who market themselves as providers of that sized loan.

But Mr. Smith is coming to the rescue, and he doesn't even have to go through Washington to do it. Maybe you should check him out!

CSI also offers factoring services which is an alternative method of financing your business.