by Fred Cederholm, Columnist
Economic Analysis Column, Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel
May 24, 2010
I’ve been thinking about exits. Actually I’ve been thinking about theatre, our current situations, governments, and corporations. Why does an entity ever what to get out? How does it leave? How does one exit and not be missed? What are implications of the departures – both the good and the bad?
You see there are moments when the time has come to go. We often find ourselves in places and situations where we are uncomfortable, we are no longer having “fun,” we feel we do not belong; or our continued presence is no longer welcome, desired, or even helping the situation. We look around for doorways, exits, hallways, or even windows which can provide a means of escape. We TH*NK to ourselves like Nancy Sinatra: “Ya ready boots, start walking.” But… if only things were that simple…
Now the analogy is like some bad play where neither the audience nor the players are comfortable with the theatrical production in progress. Literally EVERYBODY wants out… the question really becomes a matter when and how? To extricate ourselves without being noticed, or at least causing the smallest amount of commotion rests the rub. In classical Greek theatre, a comedy is when the main player accomplishes his mission/ objectives; a tragedy is when the main player fails to get the deeds done. It is always better to leave the audience laughing. Or is it? “Tragedies” can teach much needed lessons that will alter future performance, involvements and actions. Good CAN come from the bad.
We find ourselves in so many messes right now on so many fronts. “We the people…” are the patrons and the audience. The players no longer have a clue where what is clearly an “improvisation” is taking them and US/ us. They just know that it is not good. No matter what they do will produce positive reviews. Their “celebrity status” careers in the public eye could/ would/ should be destroyed. A few have already opted to not run for re-election and TH*NK: “Oh well… it was a nice run while it lasted!
Our governments – Federal, state, and local – are facing huge expenses for providing services and honoring obligations which began long in the past. Revenue is down and/or at least declining. Mammoth deficits are being generated. Debt is skyrocketing. None of this is a pretty picture. A major consideration for them is that this is an election year. The first order of politics is always to get elected, or re-elected. How can they admit they have failed, cut bate, and still be returned to office? These are hard times calling for extreme measures. How will they get out of what has become a disastrous production ---unscathed?
Illinois is in its worst situation in anyone’s memory. This “Land of Lincoln” presently has no budget, the state owes $85 BILLION in unfunded pension promises, it has borrowed $ 8 BILLION from Uncle $ugar to meet unemployment compensation draws, hospitals and nursing home have not been paid for services to Medicaid patients, and the state owes its universities big bucks (the Champaign Urbana campus alone is looking at a receivable of half a BILLION and tuition for Fall is being proposed at just over $10,000 per student). The grade schools and high schools are initiating major cuts, or should be, because the real estate taxes cannot be raised by 50% or 100% to fulfill the gaps left by the state. Springfield’s answer now is to consider a 6 month budget to get the state thru the election! Give me a break, where are the requisite kahunas to make the necessary spending cuts? Where is the leadership?
Uncle $ugar is in no better shape financially, physically, or fiscally. Promises of government programs are being supplemented with still more costly government programs. What have we seen to make us optimistic? Cries and whining from the general public call for more “temporary” assistance. The masses cry out: “Help me, help me, I want a government program!” (Or, so we are told.) What ever happened to the bootstrap mentality of taking responsibility for one’s self and one’s own problems? Our governments ARE the problem! Keynesian policies to fix the last go around brought about our current messes. Cheap money, running printing presses, and encouraging debt to up consumption got us to this scene. Wars are big sumps for cash and stimulus… so off to war we go whether we have any strategic interest, or not! Just what have we truly accomplished in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, or Palestine? Has any world power succeeded there in those locations in 200 or more years? The Brits? The Russians? US/us?
We presently have at least a ten year inventory of foreclosed, unoccupied, and unsold homes. Unfortunately commercial real estate will be the next shoe to drop. Unemployment keeps on growing in both real and hypothetical terms. The oil in the Gulf of Mexico keeps on gushing and is now making landfall. Who will come on stage or step up to the plate to really turn these messes around? Will we see an exit to stage right? Will we see an exit to stage left? Or…will it just be a fade to black? Hummm…? I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
© 2010 Fred Cederholm