#531 December 27, 2008

2008 in review, not a pretty sight

COLUMBUS: Looking back on a wacky year, in the words of Will Rogers Today…

The first primary was held in Iowa January 3, ten months before the election. Already the newspapers and television folks are predicting who should win.

 Congress and President Bush wanted to stimulate the economy so they gave us $150 Billion with the proviso that we spend it quickly. If they really want it spent in a hurry, give it all to women.

            Television reporters are saying these March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas will decide the election. Of course the same reporters said the February 5 primaries would decide the election.

  In March, J. P. Morgan stepped up again to save the country, like he often did in the 1930s. JP Morgan Chase volunteered to pay a couple of dollars for Bear Stearns if the government committed thirty Billion to make sure they didn’t lose any dough on the deal. Some homeowners behind on mortgage payments are complaining: why should a big investment bank getting bailed out, but not us. Well, I can assure those distraught folks that Mr. Morgan will be happy to take the house off their hands if they are willing to accept two cents on the dollar. He won’t even ask for a government guarantee.

            In Pennsylvania Senator Obama went bowling. Senator Clinton went out drinking beer and whiskey, conceding the Baptist vote.

 Rev. Jeremiah Wright came out of hiding, speaking to 10,000 in Detroit. Senator Obama wishes his preacher would lay low for a few months, but Barack has as much chance controlling him as Hillary does with Bill.

 (By May the field had narrowed to three candidates. I resurrected a plan from 1924 when three were locked in a battle.) Put in all three and put on three eight-hour shifts. Divide the work. Of course nobody saw fit to adopt my plan in either ’24 or ’08. But still… can’t you see Mr. McCain taking the morning shift, then Mr. Obama relieving him in the afternoon. That leaves Mrs. Clinton fresh for the midnight shift and all those phone calls at 3:00 a.m.  Now this arrangement may seem to give Hillary the lighter load. But with these three couples sharing the White House, she’ll have her hands full seeing that Bill doesn’t get too frisky with the other First Ladies.

 The Senate invited the Big Oil men to Washington for a meeting. When they went in, oil was $130 a barrel, and by the time they got out it was $135. The more those Senators lambasted ’em, the higher the price jumped.

  In early June Senator Clinton ended her race with 18 million more votes than she started with, but twenty million less dollars. She praised her 18 million voters, then gave a final plea for ’em to support Obama, but to mail her $1.10 each so she could break even.

            In July, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both lost half their value in one day, which seems logical when you find out they are owed $5 Trillion for mortgages. But Congressman Barney Frank came to their rescue, saying they “are fundamentally sound, not in danger of going under.” I’m not sure it helped. If I was owed $5 Trillion, and needed a spokesman to boost the public’s confidence in me, I wouldn’t call on a man from an organization with an approval rating of 8 percent. Better to hire a  used car salesman.

 Gas is $3.61, about fifty cents less than two weeks ago when Mr. Bush made his little announcement about off shore drilling. It just goes to show what a President can accomplish when he don’t care what Congress says.

  (August)  We lost another bank. This whole mortgage mess came from people speculating that house prices would only go one way. And it was caused by giving a mortgage to people with no way to pay it back. One little change could’ve prevented the entire calamity: instead of paying bankers huge salaries for making loans, only pay ’em on what they collect.

            At the Conventions, most of the excitement centered on the Vice-Presidential picks. Remember Joe Biden ran for President, got 9000 votes in Iowa and dropped out, causing Senator Clinton to ponder on why she wasted six more months gathering 18 million votes, with nothing to show for it. Mr. McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin. He selected her to appeal to women voters who are good mothers, have competed in beauty pageants and love to hunt moose.

            Your government saddled you with more mortgage debt than you could imagine, your share of Five Trillion Dollars in IOUs. Thanks to the ineptitude of the financiers who ran Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, their stock dropped from $60 to less than a dollar. Their CEOs each suggested, with a straight face, we should give them a $10 Million bonus. What we should give them is ten years.

  Treasury Secretary, Mr. Paulson, pulled an early Halloween Trick or Treat. He knocked on our door and demanded Seven Hundred Billion Dollars. Or else. He said he was acting on orders from Wall Street, the big bankers and insurance companies. Well, you can have the money on one condition: For all those birds responsible for creating and perpetuating this mess, we get to set the length of the prison terms.

 Congress and Wall Street are still arguing over the bailout. They can’t agree on whether to call it a loan, or a purchase, or an insurance policy? I would just call it a ripoff.

 The $700 Billion bailout was passed to “stabilize the economy”. Since it was first proposed 3 weeks ago, the economy has stabilized all right, about $7 Trillion below what it was at the time. Gasoline is $2.80. It may go down to a dollar a gallon, but we won’t have a dollar to buy it with.

            As the election campaign winds down, the candidates have been knocked out of the spotlight by Joe the Plumber and Tina Fey.

            This election campaign is coming down to a clear division point between the candidates. Senator Obama says he is representing the 95% who expect to be on the receiving end of the excess wealth of the country, and Sen. McCain says he is looking out for the 5% expected to contribute it. With those percentages it’s no surprise that Mr. Obama draws crowds of 100,000, and Mr. McCain averages 5000.

On Nov. 4 we witnessed an election of historic proportions. As recently as two years ago, no one gave Senator Obama much chance to be nominated, let alone win the Presidency. And at the same time, Senator McCain was seldom mentioned among the Republican contestants. Just like 1932, the loser Tuesday may have been the winner.

            Mr. Obama is lining up his staff and Cabinet. So far, he’s leaning on President Clinton’s administration to provide most of the hired help, including Hillary. Barack checked with Bill first, “I just want to borrow her for 4 years. As Secretary of State she’ll fly all over the world;  most of the time she’ll be out of the country .” Bill said, “Sounds good to me.” He’s meeting with Senator McCain this week. Don’t expect John to be as generous as Bill.

  If Congress and Secretary Paulson want to fix this financial disaster, they should use a chain saw and a hammer. Use the saw to cut off extraneous spending. Then line up everyone responsible for creating this mess, take the hammer and hit ’em right between the eyes. You may dent the hammer, but it’ll do more good than all the loans you’ll pass out in a year. If Congress is wielding the hammer properly, quite a few blows will be self-inflicted.

Citibank wants us to give ’em SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS!

There is some good news. Gasoline is down to $1.50 a gallon. The OPEC oil ministers held a meeting and announced no cut in production. They said, “We would prefer $75 a barrel, but $50 is better than no money at all.”

Chicago jumped back on the front page. Gov. Blagojevich was trying to fleece a few million for a Senate seat. Meanwhile, Bernard Madoff was showing the world how to run a scam. Madoff made off with $50 Billion in what’s called a Ponzi scheme. Freddie and Fannie and Wall Street bankers lost more than a Trillion, but nobody has yet invented a name for that fraud.

Let’s end 2008 on a positive note. I just read where the United States leads the world in productivity. That ought to be cause for celebration. Our workers produce more per hour of labor than any other country.

  Paraphrasing Will Rogers as we look ahead to 2009, “These bankers and Wall Streeters are optimistic of the future. Lord, who wouldn’t be optimistic with all that dough.”

#530 December 21, 2008

Weekly Comments: Increase productivity for GM, and Congress

COLUMBUS: Folks are kinda down on America lately, and prospects are looking mighty grim for the coming year. But I just read where the United States leads the world in productivity. That ought to be cause for celebration. Our workers produce more per hour of labor than any other country.

You might be wondering, if American workers are so productive, why are our car companies going broke today. A hundred years ago, Henry Ford doubled the worker’s pay to $5 a day. He didn’t go broke because he was using assembly lines to build a dozen cars in the same time it took other companies to build one. He worked his men, but they knew before long they could afford to buy one of those Model T cars. Ford cars were so cheap even farmers commenced buying ’em to drive to town.

Speaking of farmers, you don’t hear anyone wanting to bail out our farmers because they’re in debt and can’t compete with the Japanese. They’re three times as productive as the Japanese, and twice as productive as Europe.

Mr. Obama has promised to increase the number of new jobs, 3 million of them. What he ought to be promising is to increase productivity. Get this country producing things the world needs, efficiently, and the jobs will show up.

If he can get our Detroit automobile workers to catch up, why our productivity would take another jump. It ain’t the workers fault. If you’ve been building automobiles a certain way, and your father and grandfather before that, why you kinda get in a habit and hate to change. This arrangement worked all right as long as the union ran the whole industry, but when some of these foreign builders figured they could horn in on this American monopoly, by making ’em better with fewer men, it upset the apple cart.

Right here in Ohio, Honda builds cars by drawing on the same pool of workers that the Big 3 use. It’s the same way in Kentucky and Tennessee, American and foreign companies, one turning a profit, the other losing money.

Now we’ll cross our fingers and hope $17 Billion and a Car Czar can improve productivity at GM and Chrysler. Odds will be better if they name a Car Czar from Japan. If that doesn’t work out, Obama may have to aim for 4 million jobs.

Here’s another suggestion for our new President. You know how Congress insisted that big company leaders who ran their companies into debt should cut their own salaries. And they had to give up their company jets and fly commercial or drive. Well, I think President Obama would do wonders for the economy if he could apply the same standard to Congress.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:


“Merry Christmas to you, President and Mrs. Coolidge. Only two more months, and then breakfast without a Senatorial committee. There ought to be time off for good behavior for a President… And a Merry Christmas to the Senate and the House. May the literacy test never be applied to your constituents.” DT #752, Dec. 24, 1928


“The bad part about the whole structure of paying [Senators and Congressmen] is that we name a sum and give them all the same, regardless of ability. No other business in the World has a fixed sum to pay all their employees that same salary… If some efficiency expert would work out a scheme where each one would be paid according to his ability, I think we would save a lot of money.” WA #119, March 22, 1925

“[Henry Ford] has got his own ideas on farming. He believes that a farmer ought to work part of his time on his farm and the other part in the factory. The farmer claims that when you get through working on the farm and asking your Congressman for relief, there ain’t no time to even visit a factory.” Radio broadcast, June 1, 1930

Weekly Comments: Chicago corruption blemishes Illinois stature

COLUMBUS: Chicago jumped back on the front page. In the old days Chicago was known mainly for its cows, chewing gum, Cubs and Capone.

More recently it was Oprah and Obama, with occasional intrusions by Ayers, Wright and Floeger. Now it’s the Illinois governor. It’s spelled B-l-a-g-o-j-e-v-i-c-h, but you pronounce it Bla-goy-a-vitch. He was trying to sell a Senate seat, but haggling over the price got him nabbed.

Now, this would not be the first time a Senate seat was bought; but never before was one bought directly from a Governor. Bidding reached a million dollars before the auction was halted.

Blagojevich was elected Governor in 2002, but instead of moving to Springfield, he kinda moved the capital to Chicago. He wanted to stay where he had his own “protection”. If he had instead spent all his time in Springfield, why there might have been enough of Lincoln rub off on him to set him straight. Now it looks like he’ll join George Ryan and Otto Kerner and other past governors, in Joliet.

If Illinois wants to return to civilization, here is my suggestion: secede from Chicago. Let Chicago join up with Wisconsin. Or even better, Michigan. Michigan already has one appendage west of the lake, why not another. Detroit and Chicago, the Twin Cities of Michigan, separated by 300 miles of pastoral innocence.

While Blagojevich was trying to fleece a few million for a Senate seat, Bernard Madoff was showing the world how to run a scam. Madoff made off with $50 Billion, which could have kept GM and Chrysler building cars for a couple more years. Madoff was running what’s called a Ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, Freddie and Fannie and Wall Street bankers lost more than a Trillion, but nobody has yet invented a name for that fraud.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Everybody is excited over who will win the election in Chicago. The side with the most machine guns will win it… The slogan in Chicago is: ‘Shoot ’em before they can vote.”

“You can kid about Chicago and its crooks, but they have the smartest way of handling their crooks of any city. They get the rival gangs to kill off each other and all the police have to do is just referee and count up the bodies. They won’t have a crook in Chicago unless he will agree to shoot at another crook.” DT #454, Jan. 9, 1928

“Just passed thru Chicago. It’s not a boast, it’s an achievement… The snow was so deep today the crooks could only hit a tall man. To try and diminish crime they laid off six hundred cops. Chicago has no tax money. All their influential men are engaged in tax-exempt occupations.” DT #1079, Jan. 9, 1930

“Folks, you are not going to get me coming out here [in Chicago] telling any jokes about these racketeers and gangsters. I arrived in this city intact, and I am going to try and leave likewise… It is all right to scatter good humor at the expense of the Senate, for they are harmless, but these boys carry a gun.” Radio broadcast, June 22, 1930


#528 December 7, 2008

Tax relief plan picked up by Congressman

COLUMBUS: Every once in a while one of my ideas strikes a chord with Congress. Maybe not all 535 of ’em, but at least one Congressman.

See, back in October I suggested the government let everyone keep their income tax payment for December to stimulate the economy. Last week, a Congressman from East Texas, Louie Gohmert, picked up on my idea, except he wants to double it to two months and let you keep the Social Security payment also. Being too late for December, he proposes January and February.

Mr. Gohmert says the total would amount to $325 Billion, which is less than the $350 Billion Secretary Paulson is still trying to divvy up. So write your Senators and Congressman and get behind the Gohmert-Rogers Plan. Let the folks that pay the taxes do the dividing.

Any of you fellows that are too broke to buy her a Christmas present, you can make it up to her Valentines Day. Instead of chocolates and roses imported from Europe, get her a Chevy.

Mr. Paulson would still have $25 Billion to hand out, which is about what the car companies requested. Do they deserve it more than a big city mortgage banker? Well, ask this question: how many cars does Detroit sell on easy payments to folks who can’t afford the car unless the value goes up? The answer is very, very few. And it will stay that way unless Congress puts itself in charge of the Sales Department.

In more important news, the college football championship will come down to Oklahoma against Florida. There’s some folks in Texas and California that wish there was a better plan for a championship series, even in Pennsylvania, Utah and Idaho. But they’ll have to wait till next year, and maybe ask President Obama to bail out the big Bowls.

Historical quotes from Will Rogers:

“You could transfer the Senate and Congress over to run the Standard Oil or General Motors and they would have both things bankrupt in two years.” WA #307, Nov. 11, 1928

“Automobile prosperity is based on what they call the ‘quick turnover.’ With all these cheap cars developing sixty and seventy miles an hour, and our improved roads and many sharp turns, you are going to see the greatest turnover in the automobile business this country ever witnessed. Undertaker shares will go higher than General Motors.” DT #505, March 9, 1928


#527 December 1, 2008

U.S. Treasury shovels out Seven Trillion Dollars

COLUMBUS: Do you remember the old days when a Billion dollars seemed like a lot of money? We would read in the papers, “The President promises a billion dollars to Asia to deal with record floods.” Or “ABC company reported a billion dollar profit.”

Of course the “old days” was just a few months ago. Today, anything less than ten billion won’t even get a headline unless it’s a Hollywood alimony payment.

A week ago we were just learning how to count to a Trillion. You know, like in a higher math class: 700 billion plus 300 billion equals ______. Then while we were stripping the last meat off the Thanksgiving turkey, the Professor announced that Citibank wants us to bump that up to seven trillion. SEVEN TRILLION DOLLARS!

Just imagine if you won a lottery prize of $7 Trillion. Would your first reaction be, “I think I’ll buy a couple of banks. And if there’s any money left, I’m going to Disney World.”

No, you would probably think, “Let’s buy a country. Maybe Saudi Arabia. Or Russia. Seward bought Alaska from Russia; why not buy Russia.”

Now, Secretary Paulson and the big economists say these bailout dollars are loans, not gifts. But the question Mr. Paulson needs to answer is, How much does the country have left to loan out? And does that include the gold in Fort Knox?

There is some good news. Gasoline is down to $1.50 a gallon. The OPEC oil ministers held a meeting and announced no cut in production. They said, “We would prefer $75 a barrel, but $50 is better than no money at all.” They figure if they go broke, OPEC can become a bank and ask for a bailout.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

[President Roosevelt will talk on the radio about] some of these new schemes to spend this $5 billion. You know, you can’t spend $5 Billion in the old-fashioned way. I’ll bet you could put a strong man in the Treasury warehouse full of $l00 bills and give him a scoop shovel, and he couldn’t shovel out that much money in the rest of his life.

    We used to, we couldn’t spell a billion dollars, much less realize it and count it. But now we’re a nation, we learn awful fast, and we won’t be long now till we’ll be workin’ on the word Trillion; that follows billion, and then trillion. You’ll read in the papers, ‘Congress has just been asked to appropriate $2 Trillion to relieve the dependents of a race of people called Wall Streeters.’ The paper will go on to say, ‘This is a worthy cause, and no doubt this small appropriation will be made, as these are dependents of a once proud race, and after all, they’re wards of the government.'” Radio, April 28, 1935

“To be perfectly frank with you, there’s quite a few problems agitating the country that I don’t hardly know anything about. I would never make an Economist. An Economist is a man that can tell you what can happen under any given conditions. And his guess is liable to be just as good as anybody else’s.” Radio, May 26, 1935

 “I don’t know anymore about this thing than an economist does, and God knows, he don’t know anything.” Radio, April 7, 1935