Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mojo Mom joins the ranks of the angry populists

As Jon Stewart can tell you, angry populists are a dime a dozen these days. Even less, on discount, I would imagine. But I am really feeling it today.

I just received a New York Times news alert that says:

Fed to Buy More Than $1 Trillion in Securities

Saying that the recession continues to deepen, the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the mortgage market and longer-term Treasury securities in order to revive the economy.

A trillion here, a trillion there...pretty soon, before you know it, you're spending real money.

HA!

Beyond the $700 billion TARP bailout, there's been a little-discussed process of "quantitative easing," which basically means the Treasury creating more money or extending more credit (I have to admit it's totally confusing but some form of it has been going on). Now $1 trillion more money into buying securities.

And by the way, that poorly-understood Credit Default Swap market, the one in large part responsible for unraveling AIG right now, an esoteric, behind-closed-doors secret market that isn't regulated, that was worth $45 trillion in mid-2007, roughly twice the size of the entire U. S. stock market.

Yes, the economy needs rescuing, but we've created a real mess now, necessitating the bailout of people who did really stupid things. What makes me so angry is that for years, we mothers have been told by our politicians, "We can't afford universal health care....paid maternity leave...paid sick leave....because that would raise taxes and be unfriendly to business."

But when Wall Street f*cks up in an orgy of unregulated greed and incomprehensible levels of incompetence, the question suddenly becomes "How many trillions of dollars does it take to help?"

The population of the United States is roughly 300 million people, so every $1 trillion decision costs each woman, man and child in this country $3,333 (before interest). That's a lot to ask.

Or, for another perspective on how much is a trillion:

A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

Yikes.

I've been listening to a lot of news about the economic situation lately and I recommend the following as being informative and thoughtful:

This American Life
radio series and NPR's related daily Planet Money Podcast. Planet Money is so up to date they'll say, "It's Friday at 4 pm when we're recording this...." They specialize in making the incomprehensible details of the financial meltdown comprehensible to regular people.

Fresh Air
interview with Pulitzer prize-winning NY Times financial columnist Gretchen Morgenson about AIG. (March 16)

Fresh Air
episode with Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine (see also her recent Time article) and economist Uwe Reinhardt on the messed up American health insurance system. (March 11)

Finally, in print, the Stanford Magazine wrote about an alumna, Brooksley Born, who warned that unchecked trading in the credit market could lead to disaster, but the power brokers in Washington including Alan Greenspan ignored her. I found that piece enlightening and her May 1997 interview with DerivativeStrategy.com absolutely prophetic. That last interview with DerivativeStrategy.com was pretty dry but the basic message says that we not only should have seen this situation coming, we could have prevented it with proper regulation.

Our priorities have been backward for years. The rest of the industrialized world has better health care, better family leave policies that we do. We've settled for very poor service for all the money we spend in taxes and health care costs. It's time to say that yes, we'll do what it takes to get the economy back on track--with actual transparency and accountability--but we also want our families, health and education to be taken care of, too.

President Obama will only be able to get this done if he and Congress have the overwhelming support from all of us. It's time we stop settling for less than the social support network we deserve. Ironically, in this economy, we need that support sytem more than ever.

Stay informed, stay angry, and let your leaders know what's on your mind and the challenges you face in your real life.

The new Mojo Mom focuses on women's career paths across our entire lives, which is also more important than ever, because at this rate, we're each going to have to count on working for a long, long time.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Michael Tiemann said...

This is an absolutely great point:

What makes me so angry is that for years, we mothers have been told by our politicians, "We can't afford universal health care....paid maternity leave...paid sick leave....because that would raise taxes and be unfriendly to business."

But when Wall Street f*cks up in an orgy of unregulated greed and incomprehensible levels of incompetence, the question suddenly becomes "How many trillions of dollars does it take to help?"


It really highlights the fact that politicians definitely have favorites, and they pay attention to their favorites while neglecting their other responsibilities.

Could you imagine the family dynamics if the parents focused all their attention on one child, presuming that by concentrating that attention, all the other children would benefit from the glow around the one? Of course...it's the classic setup for a tragedy. Yet when we treat policy the same way, we are surprised.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Kimberly Simmons said...

I guess it connects us to the need for more women in political office and particularly more mother's to enter the pipeline. But, since we have a political infrastructure that is as inhospitable to women and mother's as possible, it feels like an endless cycle of having a very narrow population control that sense of "favorites". What piece of change do we focus on first?

Amy, did you see the February Forbes article about women getting forced out of investment banking? Same kinds of questions emerge -- how do we reconcile our huge need for feminist values within these institutions with the outrageous sexism perpetrated and when will we have enough critical mass of women to make real change? Could we use some microfinance scheme to create our own feminist investment bank?

Thanks for the links! Kim

8:52 AM  

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