Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The African Crisis

Some direct quotes out of the African chapter from Jeffrey Sachs book, "The End of Poverty":

Look Who's Lecturing Who

"The outside world has pat answers concerning Africa's prolonged crisis. Everything comes back, again and again, to corruption, misrule. Western officials, including countless 'missions' of the IMF and World Bank to African countries, argue that Africa simply needs to behave itself better, to allow market forces to operate without interference by corrupt rulers. An American talk show host, Bill O'Reilly, reflected a common view when he recently declared that Africa 'is a corrupt continent; it's a continent of chaos. We can't deliver a lot of our systems that we send there. Money is stolen Now when you have a situation like that, where governments don't really perform consistently, where there's just corruption everywhere, how can you cut through that?'

Western governments enforced draconian budget policies in Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. The IMF and World Bank virtually ran the economic policies of the debt-ridden continent, recommending regimens of budgetary belt tightening known technically as structural adjustment programs. These programs had little scientific merit and produced even fewer results. By the start of the twenty-first century Africa was poorer than during the late 1960s, when the IMF and World Bank had first arrived on the African scene, with disease, population growth, and environmental degradation spiraling out of control.

When it comes to charges of bad governance, the West should be a bit more circumspect. Little surpasses the western world in cruelty and depredations that is has long imposed on Africa. Three centuries of slave trade, from around 1500 to the early 1800s, were followed by a century of brutal colonial rule. Far from lifting Africa economically, the colonial era left Africa bereft of educated citizens and leaders, basic infrastructure, and public health facilities. The borders of newly independent states followed the arbitrary lines of the former empires, dividing ethnic groups, ecosystems, watersheds, and resource deposits in arbitrary ways.

As soon as the colonial period ended, Africa became a pawn in the cold war. Western cold warriors, and the operatives in the CIA and counterpart agencies in Europe, opposed Africa leaders who preached nationalism, sought aid from the Soviet Union, or demanded better terms on Western investments in African minerals and energy deposits. In 1960, as a demonstration of Western approaches to African independence, CIA and Belgian operatives assassinated the charismatic first prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, and installed the tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko in his stead. In the 1980s, the United States supported Jonas Savimbi in his violent insurrection against the government of Angola, on the grounds that Savimbi was an anticommunist, when in fact he was a violent and corrupt thug. The United States long backed the South African apartheid regime, and gave tacit support as that regime armed the violent Renamo insurrections in the neighboring Mozambique. The CIA had its hand in the violent overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in 1966. Indeed, almost every African political crisis - Sudan, Somalia, and a host of others - has a long history of Western meddling among its many causes.

The one thing that the West would not do, however was invest in long-term African economic development. The die was cast in the 1960s when senior U.S. policy makers decided that the United States would not support a Marshall Plan type of policy for Africa, even though such an effort was needed to build the infrastructure for long-term growth. It was not that U.S. officials rejected the diagnosis - they knew it was needed - but the political leadership was not willing to pay the price."

This just sets up US hypocrisy with regards to the African continent, but funny enough, it is not even the real reason for Africa's hardships:

"During the past decade I witnessed close at hand how relatively well-governed countries in Africa, such as Ghana, Malawi, Mali, and Senegal, failed to prosper, whereas societies in Asia perceived to have extensive corruption, such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, enjoyed rapid economic growth."

Here's some statistics from 2004:

Corruption and Economic Growth

CountryCorruption Perception RankAverage Yearly GDP per Capita Growth, 1980-2000

(The higher the corruption rank the worse the government is).

He discredits colonialism and western intervention as the root cause as well, citing Vietnam as a counter-example of a country that experienced colonialism and civil war, but emerged and found rapid economic growth.

Root causes - disease

"Malaria also has extremely pernicious effects on the investments in human capital. Children who suffer repeated bouts of malaria can suffer lifetime ill effects caused by chronic anemia and the aftermath of complicated cases. With so many repeated episodes, they may drop out of school early because of poor attendance and a poor ability to learn. But there is an even deeper, if indirect, channel straight to poverty. In highly malarious regions, malaria impedes the demographic transition and the investment in human capital. When children die in large numbers, parents overcompensate and have more children, with devastating results. Too poor to invest in the education of all their children, the family might educate just one child, usually the elder son. If children in malarious regions manage to survive, they enter adulthood without the proper education they need to succeed.

"Why, though, was Africa so much more vulnerable to malaria than other regions? I was frequently asked how it was that malaria had not crippled the United States, which had had malaria until the 1940s, whereas it arguably had crippled Africa. It took me a while to understand some basic disease ecology, but once I did, the answer became clear. Malaria in the United States, and indeed in every other place in the world, outside of Africa, was easier to control. Africa had it worse, not because of poor governance and lack of public health services, but because of a unique disease environment. Malaria had coevolved with humans in Africa, and the result was a special intensity of transmission unequaled in any other part of the world.

I learned that malaria is transmitted when a female anopheles mosquito takes a blood meal from somebody already infected with malaria. After being digested by the mosquito, the parasite finds its way to the mosquito's gut. There it undergoes a life-cycle transformation, after which the parasite migrates back to the mosquito's salivary glands, where it can be injected into another's victim. But here is the catch. The life-cycle change, called sporogony, takes about two weeks, roughly the life span of the mosquito itself. If the mosquito dies before sporogony is completed, the mosquito never becomes infective. The central ecological point is that the warmer the temperature, the faster the sporogony - and the more likely it is that the mosquito will live to become infective. Malaria is largely a tropical disease, and if warm weather is a prerequisite, Africa has it!

Another important point is that some types of mosquitos prefer to bite people, whereas others feed off cattle. Transmitting malaria requires two consecutive human bites: the first for the mosquito to ingest the parasite and the second for the mosquito to infect another person, roughly two weeks later. If the mosquito feeds frequently on cattle rather than on people, the odds are that at least one of the two bites, if not both, will be taken on cattle. In India, for example, the predominant type of anopheles tends to bite humans about one third of the time, and the cattle the rest. Africa, sadly, has another predominating mosquito type which prefers human biting nearly 100 percent of the time....

Thus Africa is really unlucky when it comes to malaria: high temperatures, plenty of breeding sites, and mosquitos prefer humans to cattle...."

Sachs also describes the devastating consequences of the AIDS pandemic in Africa and how disease, more than any other cause is holding Africa back.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

10,000 Hour Theory Part IV

Just liked this rebuttal to Malcolm Gladwell...

Good quote:

"This review captures what's been driving me crazy over the last year... an unbelievable proliferation of anecdotes disguised as science, self-professed experts writing about things they actually know nothing about, and amusing stories disguised as metaphors for how the world works. Whether it's Thomas Friedman, who, it seems, cannot go a whole week without inventing a new fruit-based metaphor explaining everything about the entire modern world, all based on some random jibberish he misunderstood from a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur, or Malcolm Gladwell with his weak theories on tipping points, crazy incorrect theories on first impressions, or utterly lunatic theories on experts, it all becomes insanely popular simply because the stories are fun and interesting and everybody wants to hear a good story. Spare me."

The 10,000 Hour Theory part III

As you can probably tell by now, I've been obsessing about this. For one, my oldest daughter is six years old, for two, this is something I also wanted to shoot for myself but the opportunities were not there for me. But there are so many thoughts that go into this. Is it worthwhile, even, for a person to pursue this level of specialization? As a parent, is it healthy to encourage my children to pursue this level of specialization. Is 10,000 hours even enough for everyone? Is it just quantity, not quantity, does inborn talent, outside of our control, play any factor?

Personally, I think it is healthy, fulfilling, ultimately rewarding, a way to maximize your experience on this planet earth to pursue a mastery in a specific field. I think when trying to measure the amount of hours you personally have put into a specific field, I think quality does matter. I think, for the most part, any hour spent improving yourself (not just doing it) in an area count. Talking to my wife, she emphasizes with her students the importance of really truly practicing the piano and not just playing it. In other words, your continuously pushing yourself into harder and harder pieces and not content to just play what you already know.

Looking back on my basketball experience. I was inordinately small for my age, getting most of my adult size late in life. I lacked confidence, most coaches never took me as someone worth as much of their investment time as someone more physically mature. Although I did push myself to some degree, I also held myself back quite a bit, and I suffered from lack of quality coaching and mentoring. But, despite my physical limitations, with the right mentoring and parental (or otherwise) encouragement, I think I could have mastered basketball. Even still, it would not have propelled me into the NBA. The game is a tall man's game, and I'm not really tall enough.

Thinking of NBA stars, Shaquille O'Neal probably still hasn't gotten to 10,000 hours, the guy still can't hit a free throw, but how many people grow to 7'2" tall and have that much bulk. But I guarantee that every single one of the guards in the NBA have, and many who didn't make the NBA have. That's why you see a lot of seven foot stiffs playing in the NBA, but guys like Tim Duncan, someone whose both tall and incredibly skilled, has mastered it.

But looking back, I wish I would have went for it anyway. I think if things would have went slightly differently for me, I could have gotten to 5,000 to 6,000 hours of basketball practice though high school. Then another 4,000 hours through my twenties would have been reasonable. It would have been an incredibly fun and rewarding hobby. I would have been extremely skilled in the sport, and well positioned to mentor or coach kids for the rest of my life.

Take another look at the table I laid out in part II. You don't have to pick an area too early. When a child is young, they can practice pretty lightly, and with my daughter, violin is obviously not the only thing she's doing. She's reading books well in excess of a half hour a day. She's writing a half hour a day (or so), she's learning science. She's positioned, based on interest to push the hours of practice in any number of different things as she ages. And she can change her mind without too much trouble. The older she gets, though, the harder it becomes.

I think by high school, an area of emphasis is really ideal. I think picking one thing to really focus on, to work 2-3 hours a day on, is not that unreasonable. You still have time for breadth, but you also gain the experience of really honing a skill in one area. By 18, you should have around 5,000 hours under your belt. College and early career years are a time to really crank the hours up and get the second half of the 10,000 hours done in a much more compressed time. You can then enjoy the fruits of your labor the rest of your life.

What about less obvious fields like teaching or parenting. I certainly remember teachers in high school that have been doing it for a long time. They probably easily had 10,000 hours in the classroom, but they were still dismal teachers. Again, just showing up and doing something doesn't count. You have to be pushing yourself. I can't comment much on teaching, I do have teaching experience though. Maybe a few hundred hours of tutoring in my life, but not nearly enough to comment on it.

Its really hard for me to really push toward 10,000 hours of parenting, since I spend so many more hours than my wife away from my kids at work. I can still get there though, but again, I need to push it, and not just be in the same room with them. But I need to recognize that my wife will get there a lot earlier than I will and respect her abilities.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The 10,000 hour theory part II

So, when I first heard that 10,000 hours are required to truly master something, it was hard to really understand the magnitude of that number. And of course, this is the kind of idea I naturally gravitate to because I've always wanted to be a master at something (don't all of us want that?), but I never really, truly understood what it took to get there.

For the longest time I wanted to play in the NBA, or at least college, and I would watch these sports movies and see these guys putting in some pretty heroic efforts. But you know how movies are, they make everything look much, much easier than it really is. But sufficiently fooled, I would try to replicate some of that. During the long, boring summer breaks, I would go with my dad to the church (he was employed as a custodian there), and I would shoot baskets at the hoop for 8 solid hours. But I would never do this consistently. And when I joined pick-up games at the park, I always played a bit timid. I matured late, and I was always the smallest guy out on the court. And I never really had proper coaching. All in all, maybe I accumulated 1000 hours of practice? Maybe.

I talked to my wife about her history of music playing. She started piano when she was 3 I think. She played consistently through high school, peaked in college, eventually getting two music degrees. A rough estimate, based on the numbers she gave me, I'm guessing around 5000 to 6000 hours of practice.

Well, with these numbers in my head, this morning I gathered my two kids and here's the dialogue:

Me: "Do you want to master something?"
Kids: "Yes!" - with enthusiasm.
Me to oldest daughter: "Ok, you have to pick one thing because there's not time enough for two, how about violin?" - she already has a good start on that.
Oldest daughter: "Yes!"
Me to son: "Ok, how about you pick piano?"
Son: "Yes!"

So, maybe I need to write up a contract and have them sign their names obligating them to what they agreed to. Something tells me they really have no idea.

Well, kids, here's your life for the next almost 20 years, don't worry, someday you'll thank me for it:

A Sample Practice Schedule

Hours Per DayDays Per WeekWeeks Per YearYearsHours of PracticeCumulative Hours So FarAge Range
0.554522252255 to 6
1.554526751293.759 to 10
1.755452787.52081.2511 to 12
2545313503431.2513 to 15
3545213504781.2516 to 17
45456540010181.2518 to 24

So, according to the book, Mozart mastered piano composing (and playing?) by his teens, Lang Lang also mastered piano playing in his teens, Michael Jordan and other NBA players mastered their sport by the time they entered college, Bill Gates mastered programming by 18. These are examples of folks who accumulated 10,000 hours of practice much faster than the above table.

In my opinion, this table is the absolute maximum I could expect out of my kids without totally crossing the lines of abuse. But if they really catch the drive its conceivable they could obsess themselves into 4 to 5 hours a day of practice completely on their own accord. I think that's what happened with Bill Gates. With Mozart and Lang Lang their parents were borderline abusive.

Practicing 2-3 hours a day through high school is incredibly aggressive as it is, and I think by 16 they would have to decide they really want to pursue this long term to put this kind of effort in. From ages 18-24, they'll basically be committing to a degree in this area and 4 or even 5 hours a day of practice seems pretty reasonable to me.

Some final points, I think its pretty important that kids do not work while in high school or even college. I think its much more important to devote themselves to their craft, especially in college, and they will have the opportunity to more than pay pack their loans once they graduate...

The weird thing about all of this, is that they have to start so young if they want to master their field by the time they finish college. But, this is ideal. If they decide that in high school, they really have different interests, they can stop and restart the process in another field. While they didn't really master violin (or piano), they've gotten pretty good.

Anyway, just some rambling thoughts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 10,000 hour theory

A colleague of mine and I had an interesting discussion today. He just got through reading The Outliers. In the book, the author, Malcolm Gladwell, makes the claim that a person has to spend 10,000 hours on something before they truly master it.

My colleague made some claims from the book to make the case:

To reach 10,000 hours, you have to spend 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year for almost 5 years. Almost nobody spends that much time really working toward perfecting their craft. The ones that do ultimately become among the best in their field. This has some profound consequences, one of the most profound being that what matters is dedication and drive, not so much so in-born natural talent.

Some examples he used: Mozart is often touted as a child prodigy because he composed music at such an early age. But the stuff he produced at a young age is not that good. It was only later in life, say in his late teens, when he produced his masterworks, and by then he had already put in 10,000 hours in perfecting his craft.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. But he had access to computers (through lucky coincidence) and basically put in roughly 10,000 programming hours of his own time before he even dreamed of starting Microsoft.

The difference between a musician who goes on to becoming a classical performer and one who decides to teach the instrument instead of perform is the first tends to spend over 10,000 hours of practice. (Did the latter instead spend 10,000 hours teaching? Probably not, there's a market out there for less than masterful music teachers, there's no market for substandard performers, but I know there are music teachers who have mastered the craft of teaching out there).

My colleague also mentioned how as a parent, he wants to nurture his children toward mastering a craft, to work toward getting 10,000 hours of practice time on a specific skill.

The key is to pick one thing, an area of emphasis, the earlier the better. Because there is literally not enough time available to become a master in two things. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get there. Really, when you're young, still living at home, still enjoying an almost 100% parent subsidy, that's the ideal time to get a big chunk of those 10,000 hours under your belt.

I'm not sure, maybe its me, but there's something oddly reassuring about this idea of this too easy to remember little formula that's available to practically anyone with enough desire to become masterful.

One more caveat, I haven't read the book yet, but now I will, so I guess I probably need to actually read it for myself before I get too excited about the idea.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Geithner Plan

I loved, loved, loved, loved this little discussion amongst some pretty awesome economists who have been getting a lot of publicity lately. They not only explain the Geithner plan in some pretty easy to understand terms, this forum provides a little back and forth between some really smart people who happen to disagree. Always nice to get some opposing, reasonable points of view on something so important as whether or not this administration is up to the task of rescuing our economy.

Some highlights:

From Paul Krugman:

"View #1 is that we’re looking at an unnecessary panic. The housing bust, so the story goes, has spooked the public, and made people nervous about banks. In response, banks have pulled back, which has led to ridiculously low prices for assets, which makes banks look even weaker, forcing them to pull back even more. On this view what the market really needs is a slap in the face to calm it down. And if we can get the market in troubled assets going, people will see that things aren’t really that bad, and — as Larry Summers said on yesterday’s Newshour – the vicious circles will turn into virtuous circles.

View #2 is that the banks really, truly messed up: they bet heavily on unrealistic beliefs about housing and consumer debt, and lost those bets. Confidence is low because people have become realistic."

Krugman takes view #2 which makes Geither's plan pretty much unworkable.

From Simon Johnson:

"The Geithner plan may prove to be part of the solution, but a relatively small part. If the economy continues to deteriorate, we urgently need a “resolution mechanism for large banks”; in plain English, the government will supervise their bankruptcy and had better figure out how to do this more effectively."

Johnson has been a long advocate of just having the government take over the banks to clean up the mess directly, which is where we're probably headed.

Brad DeLong: Who has been pretty supportive of Obama so far:

"Why isn’t the administration doing the entire job? My guess is that the Obama administration wants to avoid anything that requires legislative action. The legislative tacticians appear to think that after last week’s furor over the A.I.G. bonuses, doing more would require a Congressional coalition that is not there yet. The Geithner plan is one the administration can do on authority it already has."

DeLong thinks it will take $4 trillion dollars to fully extricate all of the toxic assets out of the banks (not all of that has to come from the government) and Geithner's plan falls well short of that, but its what he has the political capital to do right now.

And some more:

" And I suspect that in the end we will be driven down the road to some form of bank nationalization — and if that is where we are going Paul Krugman is correct to say that it is better to get there sooner rather than later. But unless Paul Krugman has 60 Senate votes in his back pocket, we cannot get there now. And the Geithner Plan seems to me to be legitimate and useful way to spend $100 billion of TARP money to improve — albeit not fix — the situation."

And some more:

"Now we have a situation in which all our banks are merged investment-and-commercial organizations, so the FDIC cannot take them over cleanly, and in which all of them are blowing up or threatening to blow up at once.

And so we need a new chapter of the bankruptcy code to deal with large financial institutions that become “bad banks.” I’d advise everyone to read Jeremy Bulow and Paul Klemperer, who have thought longer and harder about this than I have."

Mark Thoma:

"In that case, we will need to end the program as quickly as possible and minimize losses. The next step will have to be bank nationalization, though the political climate will likely be difficult. Sticking with the plan until it completely crashes and burns on the hope that a little more time is all that is needed will make nationalization much more difficult."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Health Care

If you're interested in health care, listen to this really great podcast on Fresh Air. Its in two segments, the first, a New York Times reporter talks about how her brother who suffered from kidney failure was denied coverage by the insurance company he'd been paying insurance premiums on. The second segment is an interview with a health care economist who discusses what's potentially ahead for our health care system.

What about our current system is deplorable:

1) Different patience get charged different rates based on the negotiating positions they happen to be in. Medicare and Medicaid insurance claims actually pay less then the cost to service the patience under those systems. Those under the single payer system pays a lot more....

2) Having your insurance tied with your employment is a horrible system. You lose your job, you lose your insurance and if your forced to go uninsured for some period of time and want to buy back into the system, you are at risk if you have pre-existing conditions. This sort of insurance is a complete accident, by the way, the came to us in WWII. During the war, government limited how much companies could pay employees in wages, the goal was to suppress wages during a severe labor shortage, when demand for goods were high and many of our workers were fighting and dying in Europe and Asia. To entice workers, employers started to offer health insurance, and that is the system we've lived with all of these years.

3) Insurance companies are in the business not to pay for claims, forcing doctors and hospitals to constantly haggle over payouts. As a result, the US pays by far the most for health care costs of any country in the world, but we are at the bottom in general satisfaction of our health care, and we are not near the top in the results we get out of the system (e.g. life expectancy, etc.)

4) If you are uninsured or under-insured, and you get sick with say diabetes, we do a terrible job in making sure you can pay for preventive care. But if the disease progresses far enough, when the treatment becomes really expensive, government will step in and finally pay for care...

Solutions - Obama has some nice solutions

1) He's going to extend government backed insurance plans (like Medicare and Medicaid) to a broader population - so that health insurance is more broad based, affordable and available to everyone. So that anyone, even those with pre-existing conditions can be treated.

2) Private insurers won't like option 1) because they fear they won't be able to compete with a plan that is backed by the government - and they are probably right, so there's a good possibility that 1) could lead us to a government provided single insurance coverage similar to Canada's or Europe's system over time.

3) Because of 2), what will instead happen is that private insurers will agree to new reforms in the way they handle health insurance:

a) They will no longer be able to deny coverage to folks with pre-existing conditions.
b) They will have to offer consistent and constant rates to everyone.
c) For options a & b to be profitable for insurance companies, government law will have to change requiring everyone - even the young and healthy to have health insurance. Otherwise the young and healthy won't pay for it until they need it, and insurance companies will no longer be able to deny them coverage. This system would bankrupt coverage.

4) Americans face a cognitive dissidence with regard to health insurance - we expect hospitals to take care of us say if we are injured in a car accident, but we don't want government to force us to buy health insurance. If we demand treatment when sick or injured, we have an obligation to pay into the system that provides this care.

5) Right now is our best and perhaps only chance to reform our health care system - we have a motivated president who has smart policy proposals in place. We are experiencing a massive economic crisis, where people for the first time in a long time are legitimately afraid of losing their jobs and their health care. The politics is moving toward a place to make reform possible. Let's hope it happens.

And that fools like Glenn Beck who seriously believes Obama is leading our country down a path toward totalitarianism won't kill sensible health care reform...

The good news (or bad news depending on your perspective) is that Beck and Limbaugh are leading the Republican party toward marginalism. But a marginalized Republican party might give Obama the space he needs to reform health care.

So, maybe I should say, keep it up Beck and Limbaugh, you're turning off Americans by the day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Case Against Breast Feeding

Just thought this article was a rather thoughtful rebuttal to how we and many people we know are trying to raise our kids.

This quote pretty much summarizes the conclusion of the article:

"So overall, yes, breast is probably best. But not so much better that formula deserves the label of “public health menace,” alongside smoking. Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things—modesty, independence, career, sanity—on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision. But in this risk-averse age of parenting, that’s not how it’s done."

The author basically says that most (if not all) of the studies about breast feeding's benefits are inconclusive, that the popular media's reporting on the benefits of breast feeding are overblown, and that really, it's almost impossible to perform a controlled experiment comparing kids who were breast fed to those who weren't.

Also, she makes an excellent point that mothers who breast feed are by default taking on a much bigger parenting load than their husbands at least until the babies are weaned and that this tends to carry over later...

Just some nice points to consider...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Should I Increase my Fast Offering Contribution or Should I Give Well?

My wife and I are LDS and we were contemplating during these tough financial times on increasing our fast offering contributions. So far, we've been really blessed. I am lucky enough to have a good job that pays well, and at least right now, I'm secure in it. I know that there are people around me not doing as well and can use a little help and have used help from our church. We were set on doing just that, until I heard this podcast featuring the author of this book, Peter Singer who suggested that although many Americans donate a lot of money, their donations are misplaced.

The highest beneficiaries of our donations in America are churches, then schools, then places like museums, etc. Church donations are good, especially if they use that money to help those in the most need, but many churches don't do that. A large percentage of that money goes toward paid staff, maintenance and upkeep of their buildings, etc. Rich universities need the money still less. And museums? Maybe we should wait until we can solve severe poverty before we splurge on those... His words, not mine.

The fact is that 2 million children under five years old die of diarrhea every year, a disease that is completely treatable and requires a very small amount of money. I could donate $50 in a targeted way and save a life through a vaccine, for example.

I feel that some of my fast offering contributions does go to desperate cases like this, but I also know that some of it goes to less deserving causes (though probably still deserving). Maybe I'll keep my fast offering contributions where they're at, and look to funding some organizations who are helping the most desperate poor among us.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I really wanted to post, and yes Republicans are insane

Sorry, for anybody anxiously awaiting another post from yours truly... I've been locked in on a never-ending e-mail debate with a friend of mine who hates it that Obama is continuously bailing out banks.

I really want to summarize some of my arguments (which I feel are getting more and more sophisticated as I'm learning more) and compose a blogpost, but I just haven't had time.

Just some quick thoughts, more later:

1) You can blame a lot of folks for this financial crisis, but the core blame really belongs to all of us, every single one of us. The fact is that we have incurred a lot of debt to the tune of 100% of our GDP. The last time we had this much debt you might ask? Yes, 1929. I know I have composed recently the idea that debt is good, and I stand behind that. But its good up to a point. Its good like desert is good, in small doses. Too much of it will kill us.

2) Our banks are in major trouble, basically the major banks are insolvent. But, the government has to find a way to preserve confidence in our banking system, and the best way he can do that (in my opinion) is to keep shoveling tax payer money into them. I just don't think now's the time to incur a Citibank bankruptcy.

3) I know two very depressing points. On the positive, I feel that we can really bounce back strong from this recession. And we have the president who can do it. We need to take this opportunity to make some significant changes. Thomas Friedman has a really nice op ed today right here. We just had stake conference today, and one comment from one of the speakers (a visiting General Authority from SLC) was that things are not going to be as they were. He talked about how we would need to learn to fix things rather than throwing stuff away... How we should learn to grow a garden, etc. Surprisingly, that's correlates quite nicely with Friedman's article.

4) Finally, yes, indeed Republicans are insane, I'm praying every day grateful we did not elect one for president:


Loved the thoughts here. The government is the only entity big enough to address the problems we are facing in our economy. The Republicans are in complete lala land on this.

I'm not saying this in the eyes of a partisan. I'm saying it because it's true. The leadership of the Republican party is insane.