More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BARACK'S TALK ON BUSINESS WAS SPOT ON

Last week Sunday in his column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, John Torinus, chairman of West Bend, WI based Serigraph Inc., called Barack Obama's speech, which he delivered two weeks ago, on race and religion, divisive from a business and economic perspective. He went on to call Barack Obama's speech anti-business and even said that Barack's "slap against big business is overly broad at least." I'll say right off the bat that I'm not a big fan of Barack Obama or his candidacy. That's an even truer statement after the whole Rev. Wright debacle. But in listening to key points Obama made with respect to business, I'm not so sure he's got it as wrong as Chairman Torinus would have us believe. To his credit, Torinus does concede that American capitalism has a multitude of issues. But he sadly misses the point that Barack Obama made in his speech that there is a real disconnect between business leaders and their workers, and an ever widening disparity between what the average American wage earner earns and what the guy at the top does. Either that, or Torinus is walking through life with blinders on.

Setting aside all of the supposed good deeds of the rich "giving away tons of money to worthy causes in this country and around the world," which Torinus claims is often to help in solving the problems of the disadvantaged, the real question becomes if America's companies and the CEOs who head them are making all this money that they can give it away, why are so many Americans among the disadvantaged Torinus claims are being helped? If the system is working, shouldn't everyone who stands to gain from it be making money? Why is it just a few select people at the top getting all the goodies? Is throwing a few bones at the poor people that have been left behind in their factories supposed to make us all feel better about the tens of millions of dollars being pilfered from the company's coffers and frankly the other employees of the company? And yes, CEOs are company employees. That's something I think a lot of people at the top fail to understand. Torinus seems to be suggesting that we should all just be thankful we get anything at all, including our paychecks.

I've uttered the words so many times that if a cousin of carpal tunnel syndrome could afflict the tongue, to be sure I'd have a most serious case of it - America's CEOs are wildly overpaid. There is an undeniable imbalance in fairness, and of course there are people who are disadvantaged when the head of the company makes 400 times the pay of the guy on the factory floor.

Nobody is saying that CEOs do not have an important role in society. Respectfully, these are smart, savvy people who have a real knack for keeping the business wheels turning and are at the heart of supplying the very goods that drive consumerism and therefore the American economy. As a shareholder I want the best and the brightest leading my company and delivering a healthy return on my investment. But equally important are the workers who produce and deliver the products to the consumer's hands, and they ought to receive family supporting wages to show for it. For all he's worth, Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, cannot send a single Ford onto America's highways without the efforts of someone working hard in a factory. And no company, large or small, can thrive if no one can afford to buy it's goods, so it seems to me you better pay people well.

Business is important, and we should do all we can to keep it thriving. All of our livelihoods depend on it. But come on Torinus. We should just bow down and kiss your feet? We should fear that ideas such as the ones Barack Obama talked about in his speech will make enemies out of the corporations and business people? From where I'm sitting, my friend, you are the enemy now.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

THE SAD TRUTH ABOUT CREDIT AND THE "NOW" GENERATION

The credit market has gotten the economy's panties all in a bunch thanks, in part, to the whole subprime lending fiasco. People have been yanked from their homes, many smaller banks have plunged into the financial abyss, and consumer spending, the benchmark of the American economy, has slid. In the muck of it all, Bear Stearns, founded in 1923, once one of the largest investment banking firms in the world, which was even able to survive the Great Depression, sadly has been toppled. It will now become part of JP Morgan Chase, if the deal ultimately makes it, for a measly $2 a share. As this mess continues to unfold before us, this may well be just the tip of the iceberg.

But are we really all that surprised at this? I mean, we had to have known that all this borrowing we do as a nation would eventually come back to haunt us. How long could we keep this money train going, spending money we didn't have just because money could be had on the cheap? Just because our dreams were literally up for sale, and banks were all but knocking our doors down to shove money into our hands to fulfil them? Everything from new cars to big screen TVs to luxurious, newly built homes in the latest high society neighborhoods were as easy to get as a gallon of gas or a dozen eggs. Money really did grow on trees despite what our parents had told us so many times before when we were kids. Gosh darn it, our parents had it all wrong. They had to work so hard, and look how easy it is. We had the bull by the horns, and no matter how hard our parents forewarned us the bull was going to buck we could hang on. Look Ma, no hands!

Now as we sift through the rubble we see more clearly that what we've built was done so with smoke and mirrors. The gig is up. We are seeing now that, indeed, we have to make the same sacrifices our parents once did in order to achieve the same results. We're beginning to understand that success and all the goodies that go along with it comes from the hard work we endure to create it. Our parents weren't wrong after all, and no, money really doesn't grow on trees.

Look, I'll admit that sometimes bringing home my paycheck is sort of like fishing all day and coming home with a tiny fish in the bucket and telling my wife, "Honey, I've caught us some dinner." It's almost embarrassing. It's a very little fish in an even bigger bucket of hopes. The darn thing won't go very far at the dinner table, and surely it doesn't compensate for the time spent catching it. But at the end of the day it's what you have to eat. If you keep on fishing, eventually you'll get a bigger fish.

But the subprime lending fiasco just may be what the doctor ordered. From it, we are forced to look at credit in a different way and we'll now have to adjust and reevaluate our priorities. We can bet that good things come to those who wait is an adage that still bears some truth. For once the "now" generation may just get that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

BARACK DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM WRIGHT

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is finally beginning to distance himself from his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has made some very controversial and very racist comments in sermons made before his congregation, which have been circulating all over media circles. This is the same man who, in earlier presidential debates, when asked whether or not he would outright denounce the reverend, or refuse to accept any endorsements for his candidacy, sidestepped the question by saying that he owed a great deal to Rev. Wright for leading him to Jesus, but did not support the reverend's beliefs on other matters. Namely racism. He is changing his tone a bit now, but only after the (insert expletive here) has begun to hit the fan.

There are those who suggest that we should give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. Others suggest this is just another tactic by the Clinton campaign to tarnish the integrity and reputation of her opponent. They leaked that tape to the press. Even if they did, who cares? The comments were made. It's on film and it is undeniably Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is the pastor who led the church that Barack Obama attended for the past 20 years. Is it possible that Rev. Wright never made racist comments like these in the past? Are we to believe that Barack Obama had no knowledge whatsoever of Rev. Wright's beliefs? Are we to believe that if Rev. Wright did make similar comments in his sermons that Barack sat with his arms folded and his jaw agape, shocked and appalled? Or was he jumping up and down and cheering the reverend on along with the rest of his followers?

Consider for a moment, what if comments such as these were made in the reverse, toward black people, by a reverend in the church that republican presidential nominee John McCain attended? Not only would John McCain's road to the White House lie in a crumbling ruin, but so would his career in the United States Senate most likely. The American people would be outraged.

The fact is that racism has no place in any part of society today. It is hate, pure and simple. I will concede that blacks were horribly mistreated in the early part of our history, and it remains to this day one of the most shameful and embarrassing acts our country has ever committed. But we will not achieve any sort of meaningful result by spouting off hateful, racist remarks directed toward any race. Black or white. It serves only to set us three steps back in the path toward equality. It fuels the racist fire and incites anger and resentment on both sides of the fence. It does nothing to advance the issues of diversity that we face as a nation and as a people.

Perhaps this should not be the complete unraveling of Barack's potential democratic nomination. But I believe that it will indeed mark the end if he does not stand up directly against racism and outright denounce Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his church, and the followers who congregate to worship there. I would expect nothing less from any man or woman who wishes to be our president.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BUSH WON'T BAN WATERBOARDING

This past Saturday President Bush vetoed a bill banning the CIA from using waterboarding as a technique in interrogating suspected terrorists, and I'm sure there's going to be some backlash to ensue sooner rather than later.

The fact is that the United States was attacked by a group of individuals who have no regard for democracy or the pursuit of justice, and frankly no regard for human life. People are simply pawns in their game. I think to some extent that there are segments of the American population who have already forgotten that fact. The skyline of New York was changed forever that fateful day in September 2001, and so was the face of America. We cannot forget that 3,000 innocent American lives were taken that day, and that we are now engaged in an ongoing effort to make sure that such a day never occurs again. And so far we have been successful.

Waterboarding is viewed by some to be a form of torture. Perhaps it is. But the real question here is how important is our freedom to us? How important is our safety to us? If techniques such as these and others used by the CIA that will not be banned by action of the veto help us to obtain information that potentially saves American lives, then why would we not use it?

People will undoubtedly argue that allowing such a technique to be used in interrorgations will paint Americans in a bad light, and hinder our own arguments for human rights issues around the world. But again, 3,000 Americans were put to death without cause or justification on September 11th. There were no interrogations in this event to determine if the people who would be left to die in the rubble were guilty of anything. There was no threat to the life or pursuits of the people commanding those planes. No one's rights were considered before the planes came crashing into our buildings. It was a thoughtless act designed to change the way we live as a people and instill fear in every aspect of our lives. These are people I don't want to have in the world, and as a country we should be able to do what's needed to ensure they cannot again carry out their very vicious campaigns against us.

I applaud President Bush for his actions in vetoing this bill. It is a bold and presidential act consistent with his actions throughout his presidency. It will provide help in saving American lives.

Besides, waterboarding is only one of many interrogation techniques. I'll leave it up to the experts to decide when certain techniques are deemed appropriate and useful.

Friday, March 7, 2008

THE GRINCH RUNS EXXON?

Once again we learn that the price for a barrel of oil has reached an all-time high, and tension continues to mount over the ever-rising cost of a gallon of gas. There are many experts who say we'll see $4 a gallon this summer, and although that prediction has been around for a couple of years without actually becoming reality, we're now closer to that mark than ever before. It's not so crazy an idea anymore, and we may just even get there this time around.

But my problem has more to do with the belief many Americans have that the oil companies are evil entities hell-bent on raping us of our hard-earned cash at the pumps. Make no doubt about it, I've got a few words to utter under my breath as well as I pump away my spendable cash. They aren't very nice and I surely can't repeat them here. But like most Americans doing the complaining, I drive a gas-guzzling vehicle much bigger than I need just to get to work every day. In my case it's a Ford Explorer Sport Trac that gets about 17 miles to a gallon on a good day.

The point here is that we, as Americans, are addicted to oil. We're also addicted to our SUVs, pickups, the family minivan and the crossover vehicles that each have a role in our dependence on the stuff. Frankly, I work hard. My truck is my toy. I don't want to give it up. That decision means I'll have to pay whatever the cost will be to fill the tank.

Being Americans, we also like to buy things. Lots of things. In fact, as a nation we consume more stuff per capita than any other nation in the world. All of these consumer goods have to get to your local stores for you to buy them, and most of them arrive onto the shelves by way of the nation's highways, sucking yet more of the precious black gold from the world's fast depleting oil deposits.

The fact is we need oil, and the oil companies have it to give to us. Of course they are making money. That's what they are supposed to do. Companies are supposed to generate profits for their owners. We can't blame them for doing that just because we don't like the price. Simply put, the markets are driven by supply and demand. It's economics 1o1. How much we'll ultimately pay is determined by how bad we want it, how much we can get, and how fast it can be brought to the market.

At the end of the day we determine the price of a gallon of gas. We are the makers of the market. If we want lower prices at the pumps we'll have to make sacrifices. We'll have to change our habits. Until then the oil companies, like any company, will simply follow our demand. Despite rising prices of oil, our rates of consumption for oil have not waned a bit.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

THE FINAL FOUR WILL BECOME TWO

The presidential primaries still have some legs to go before we ultimately can be certain as to who will be the presidential nominee of either party. Still, I think it is clear who among the final four are the strongest candidates to vie for the post of commander in chief, and I am going to indicate my prediction here in this blog.

By now we can say we have heard much about each of the candidate's positions on the myriad issues facing the next president, and we can draw conclusions as to how we think each of them would handle the office of the president if they were elected.


Among some of the issues that are important to me, we need to seek out solutions to reverse the ill side effects left by NAFTA and return important industrial manufacturing jobs to American workers, and additionally work to foster an environment in America's inner cities that encourages corporations to put plants there, and develop programs and provide tax incentives to those companies who operate in a manner consistent with our moral and family interests as a nation. That means providing better means to training, higher wages, and a stronger base of benefits. That means creating a balance between what's right for profitability and what's right for the American worker, who ultimately consumes its goods.

Both democratic candidates have said they would want to bring NAFTA back to the negotiating table. Neither have said whether or not they would be willing to scrap the agreement altogether. John McCain supports open and free trade markets and thinks that the answer lies in retraining a dislocated American workforce. But he also believes that encouraging American jobs stems from creating an environment that is conducive to profitability, such as keeping corporate tax and regulation at a minimum.

Another area of interest is Iraq, and frankly the entire region of the Middle East which is still in utter turmoil despite our best efforts. We are getting closer to achieving our goals there, but going forward we need to have a clearer idea as to how we can restore stability in the region, make it safer for US troops and allied forces to operate to secure US interests, and maintain that stability once it is achieved, even well after the troops have gone.

Senator John McCain has said we may need to be in Iraq for very much longer than either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton say we will be. Simply put, we have to be very cautious about how we eventually begin to withdraw our troops, and I don't think its wise to call the war over and done with too soon.

Of course, we also have the issue of nationalized health care (which I oppose), oil prices, CAFE standards, Russia, Iran, illegal immigration, alternative energy, the issue of whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts...it's a healthy list.

But okay, okay. Who do I think will be the two candidates who will ultimately debate these very important issues? Before I got away from myself a bit and jumped onto the proverbial soapbox, I did mention I wanted to make a prediction. So 'nuff said and here goes; I'm going to lay my money down on Senator Barack Obama on the Democrat side, and Senator John McCain on the Republican side.

Who do I think of those final two candidates embodies the passion and the patriotism to give America back to the American people? I think that speaks for itself in the form of my own positions on the issues. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.