, and by
By David Glenn Cox
The speech given yesterday was, for me, a letdown, perhaps because I
expected so much more from such a gifted orator. A friend asked me what
I thought of Obama’s speech and I said, “If Bush would have given such
a speech, it would have been a home run. But for Obama, it was barely a
It acknowledged our problems without addressing
them, like a template or laundry list. Let’s see, bad guys, check; good
guys, check; make world a better place, check; America is great, check.
We are facing the most grievous crisis in America’s history; its
resolution will dictate our path throughout this century. The banking
industry is on life support, retail sales are falling at record levels,
home values are dropping at double digit rates, exacerbating the
banking crisis; all as the Republicans in Congress declare that now is
the time to focus on budget restraints.
Winston Churchill, when
he made his first speech as Prime minister, acknowledged their dire
situation; he did not sugarcoat it or try to minimize it, but made the
one defining point,
“We have before us an ordeal of the most
grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and
of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage
war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength
that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never
surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our
policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is
victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory,
however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no
survival. Let that be realised.”
Let that be realized, there is
no survival, not as we know it or as your children will dream of it.
There is no longer a choice in the matter. This is a worldwide economic
collapse; the days of tinkering in the margins and half measures of
fiscal restraint are over. We have infused Citicorp with 49 billion tax
dollars and its market cap as of yesterday was estimated at $16
Bank of America has purchased Merrill Lynch, US
Trust, Countrywide Mortgage, LaSalle Bank and other Chinese banking
interests, and now B of A is sliding toward the abyss. This was the
last administration’s plan to prevent failure, for the big, healthy
fish to gobble up the small, toxic fish. Now, however, the big fish all
have bellies full of toxic fish. Just last week the government gave B
of A an additional $20 billion and guaranteed $118 billion in bad
assets and still the stock price fell to $5.10 from a high of $45.08
just ten months ago. Bank of America’s market cap is listed at $32
billion after the government gave them $20 billion just last week.
for the new President just to mention it in passing is troubling, to
say the least. You see, we’ve done all that can be done for the banks.
The Fed has cut interest rates for the banks to borrow money down to
zero. They have infused them with new capital, and still all life has
gone from their bodies. The banks raised interest rates on their credit
card customers and won’t lend money for a mortgage without 20% down.
Almost half of all home sales, which are at all-time lows, are
foreclosure sales, properties bought off the court house steps by
investors. They are buying, for pennies on the dollar, the dream of
American home ownership.
Again, it’s about survival, or as FDR put it in his first inaugural,
greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable
problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished
in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the
task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time,
through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to
stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”
Or, as it was echoed by JFK,
those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to
break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them
help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the
Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but
because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are
poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
The Republicans in
Congress prescribe for us the same medicine, tax cuts and budget
restraint. They lambaste Obama’s stimulus package as too expensive at
$850 billion. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman suggests an
adequate stimulus package should be in the range of four to five
trillion dollars as Republicans clutch their throats and gag, wetting
themselves on such news. Over the last eight years they’ve had no
problem whatsoever supporting the Bush tax cuts which have and will,
before they run out, cost the US Treasury between two and four trillion
Of those tax cuts, 74% went to the top 20% of wage
earners; 31% of that relief went to the top 1% of earners. We have
engaged in a frivolous war which has cost us far, far too much in human
misery, but just in dollars alone it has cost us
the Republicans and some Democrats in Congress think that this is about
spin and not survival. Millions of senior citizens are losing their
retirement security in the stock market meltdown. They will not live
long enough to recover it; the market won’t be back in their lifetime.
To their children, retirement becomes a mirage off in the distance, in
sight but far out of reach, illusionary. 401k’s are being cashed in at
record numbers, not to pay for the future but to keep the lights on
The sanitized government unemployment numbers are at a
half million a month and accelerating. States, counties and
municipalities are canceling projects, cutting hours and even
eliminating police and fire positions. As Republicans suggest, now is
the time to fix Social Security by cutting entitlements.
1914 polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and 28 men were trapped in the
Antarctic; there was no rescue in sight. They would survive or die
solely on their own actions, Shackleton spoke to the men about the need
for traveling light across the ice pack. As he spoke he tore one page
from his Bible and dropped the rest of the book in the snow. That page
was about the salvation of the faithful; Shackleton reminded his men
that at this point it was all the Bible they needed.
two 22-foot long boats miles to the edge of the ice floe and waited for
spring, living off of penguins. When the ice finally broke, they made
for an island barely five miles wide and 800 miles away, across the
most violent stretch of ocean in the world.
Island, six men in the best boat headed for South Georgia Island, the
nearest permanently-inhabited spit of land. After 15 days at sea they
reached the far side of the island, the winds and currents would have
carried them past the island’s beaches, so they landed on its rocky
coast and began to plan to climb the island’s mountain to reach the
camp on the other side.
Without any climbing supplies they
scaled the mountain and reached the summit near midnight. Without a
tent or a fire, Shackleton feared that they would freeze at the summit.
Observing the ice pack on the far side of the mountain, the men lay on
their backs and slid for their lives down the ice. It was a foolish and
dangerous gamble, but so was attempting to climb a mountain without
equipment. But there was no choice, no margins for the safe path.
adventure lost all of its money and its ship, but he saved all of the
people. Because Shackleton never forgot that, as a leader, the
well-being of the people was his sole responsibility. It was about
survival and survival only, and had the Republicans been along they
would have cautioned him at every turn to take the prudent course. To
sit on the ice and wait, to not strike out across open ocean, to not
try to climb that mountain, and to not attempt the dangerous slide down
its side. The men called Shackleton “Boss,” and they never questioned,
grumbled or complained about their condition.
He suffered by
their side and they knew that his one and only goal was for their
survival. That was missing from Obama’s speech yesterday, and today the
new administration will begin work on another bank rescue plan. While
we stand in the snow and shiver.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.