Sunday, February 08, 2009

Editorial comments, 2009-02-08

From today's Detroit Free Press:
"President Barack Obama's scolding of the Wall Street execs for passing out $18 billion in bonuses last year was long overdue. Wall Street argues that this level of compensation is needed to retain "good" people. Well, these "good" people failed to understand that you do not give mortgages to people who have no hope of making the payments."
Donald Patterson, Troy
Donald, on the top of your "good people" list should be Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, the Community Reinvestment Act, and other defenders of Fredie and Fannie that first required banks make loans to people that couldn't afford them, then insured them which encouraged banks to make more. Greed, like envy, can't be eradicated by law, but government interference can be voted out of office leaving greed to feed on something other than tax payer money.
"Presumably, the board of directors at Merrill Lynch felt John Thain fell into this "best and brightest" category when he was hired. How bright can Thain be to think that it would take $1.22 million to redecorate his office? Not the entire building, not a floor of the building, but one office! How bright could he be to lead Merrill Lynch to a $15-billion fourth-quarter loss?"
Chris Charron, Eastpointe
The free market allows people to pay whatever they think something is worth--whether it's an executive or a piece of toast with the Virgin Mary's image. The difference in both government and boards of directors is the relative lack of having skin in the game. It's easier to spend other people's money (government) or be derelict in your responsibilities because you've so little skin in the game (boards of directors). The first leads to an expanding government financed by debt and the second leads to overpaid executives detached from the success or failure of their enterprises because their wealth is only modestly impacted by the success or failure of the ships they captain.

When voters start insisting their local governments send pork back to the government (like Ferndale voters should have) then we may become more credible in arguing what executives are or are not worth and whether the stimulus build will stimulate the economy or campaign contributions.
"So the average Wall Street bonus fell to $112,000 in 2008, and they're down about that. Have they bothered to look at the rest of the country -- the way that people are being fired and permanently laid off, and having their pay and benefits cut? I would bet that any of them would trade places with them for just half of their bonus."
Leon Suchorski, Canton

Does each of us want our compensation looked at as closely as Wall Streets? Many non-executives receive incentive pay based on performance. Many work for departments unrelated to mortgages. It is both unfair and illogical to paint all bonuses with the same brush. We should also remember that all pay is relative. No matter what we make we're likely making more money than someone else, and their willingness to do our job for less indicates their belief we're making too much money. Be careful the stones we throw.

"Well, now. The Republicans say they have a better stimulus plan than President Obama's. So, my question is: Why didn't they put it up eight years ago?"
Kenneth G. Maluchnik, Lincoln Park

The stimulus plan should be measured on its own merits, not on whether it's a Democratic invention or opposed by Republicans. If its greatest quality is "because we won," then it is no law at all. It's retaliation. If that is how voters wish government be run then we can't complain about partisanship. Well, we can complain, but our complaints have no credibility, stand without principle, and can be easily ignored by those that govern us.

"[Mitch] Albom's general suggestion -- that the government should somehow stop what he implies is a universal "elitist immorality" among CEOs -- sounds like a call for total government management of business. ... it's unfair to the millions of managers who have improved our lives through good stewardship of their shareholders' assets.

"Our (predominantly) free-market system, even with all of its very real agency problems, has created too much wealth for such a cavalier statement, implying that government intervention would be better."

Jon Boguth, Sterling Heights

Such is the danger of generalizations and isms. Free markets and republican government have created the highest standard of living the civilized world has ever known. Let's not pretend their success is the prerequisite to making a success of centrally-planned economies and socialism, or that the latter is a desireable future of the former.

"When President George W. Bush took office, the national debt was about $5.7 trillion, and when he left office about $10 trillion, an increase of $4.3 trillion. Some have estimated that 40% of the increase is due to Bush's tax cuts mostly to the rich, or $1.7 trillion. Now if tax cuts are supposed to have the great stimulus effect that the GOP claims, why are we in the current economic mess?"

Jim Karavite, Royal Oak

Due to President Bush's tax cuts, the treasury enjoyed record-breaking revenues. The tax cuts were unqualified successes. The deficit didn't come about because revenues dropped, but because spending grew disproportionately to revenue. This is why even Conservatives disliked Bush--he abandoned fiscal conservatism and in trying to reach-across-the-aisle he literally stepped across it. Bush was fiscally more liberal than Clinton, which is why some conservatives believe Clinton was a better Republican president than Bush ever was. Theres little doubt no small amount of vicarious fantasies were involved as well.

"Any member of Congress who doesn't pay his or her taxes, hires illegal aliens, drives an import, is convicted of a felony, votes for a personal raise during the 'recession,' or bounces checks regularly should be removed from office. Period. No exceptions."

Dennis R. Green, West Bloomfield

It's hard to believe these are the best 535 candidates. Americans have elected quite a crew of taxs cheats, bad business managers, sex offenders, and other criminals to represent them. Apparently, Detroit doesn't own the franchise.

"With the economic downturn this state is in, am I surprised that there are those who wish that President Barack Obama's policies fail? That, instead, they hope more people lose their jobs and homes? That the bridges and roads continue to fall apart around us? That women have no right to decide their health care?

"I was hoping for bipartisanship in Washington. But again I guess it will be politics as usual."

Pete Kier, Ortonville

It is politics as usual, and Pete's letter is evidence of that. True, some hope Obama fails. Other's hope certain bills fail. Bad policy is bad policy regardless who sponsors it. I hope the stimulus package fails because it is laden with pork. McCain doesn't have to be president to call-out members sponsoring pork, and Obama's message of change seems only to be a message. Nothing will have changed if he doesn't campaign against all the pork. Again, politics as usual.

"How can the GOP rebuild when the entire basis of their philosophy has been proved wrong? Low taxes, less regulation -- look where these have led. Free trade -- ask nearly anyone in Michigan about that. War first, diplomacy second -- didn't work out so well. Telling everyone else to take responsibility while not taking it yourself for your own mistakes while in office -- not appreciated. The GOP will literally have to do a 180 to recover. This may be a while."

Michael Ross, Southfield

Michael, the philosophy is still intact and hasn't been proven wrong. What has been proven wrong is that when Republicans abandon their principles, Republicanism (and conservatism) get an undeserved black eye.

Remember, there were Democrats in congress as well, and congress had to approve Bush's spending plans--and both parties are responsible for that. Stopping partisanship means we stop blaming individuals (except for individual bad choices) and hold all our representatives responsible. In Michigan that begins with Levin and Stabenow--both responsible for passing spending bills.

Republicans will have to make a 180-degreee turn, but that turn is a re-turn to conservatism, not away from it.

"Do you think people like John McCain, who owns eight properties, really care about Joe the plumber? Why can't we the people, who have invested the $700 billion to aid the financial markets, get a little injection into our IRAs and 401(k)s when things turn around? We would like to share in this new American socialism."

Robert E. Burkett, Westland

Technically, we haven't invested $700 billion into anything. I believe most of the money will be borrowed from the likes of China and other buyers of treasury bills. The same is true of the $800 billion stimulus bill, which is more about borrowing than stimulating. Both are IOUs written by our elected representatives our children's children will have to pay, and the interest will create an economic drag and sap more money from our federal budget.

There's no correlation that someone with eight properties doesn't care about the little guy. There's a difference between caring for the little guy out of your own pocket and caring for them out of someone else's. There's no virtue in the latter. For the religious, there's no reward for voting to compell charity from your neighbors' pockets.

It was lack of government oversight that allowed the banks to get us into this mess in the first place.

Lawrence Luty, Livonia

Banks have plenty of oversite, it's the government that's lacking oversite. Bank's don't want to lose money, not do they want to make loans to people without jobs. Regulators changed the rules, regulators required loans to unqualified borrowers, regulators created the institutions that insured sub-prime loans. Yes, they had noble intentions, but noble beurocratic intentions do not make for good banking business. Especially when those intentions are less noble and designed to get votes are appease special interests rather than serve the interest of our country--which should be their first priority.

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