Blogs > Cliopatria > Many Questions, Few Answers

Jun 3, 2009 2:30 pm

Many Questions, Few Answers

My apologies for another long hiatus. Let’s just say that the academic life has been interesting. (Fun, too, on occasion, but budget cuts are too much with us right now for me to revel in the fun.)

But honestly, the big reason I have not been around isn’t my day job. It’s that I have had so little to say about the big issues. I have lots of questions and precious little that sounds like an answer.

I don’t know if the GM bankruptcy/bailout is going to work. This article suggests that GM could become chic, but this analysis of the new GM ad does not inspire optimism. Perhaps it is better live.

I don’t know if President Obama’s speech in Egypt will plant seeds of positive change though I would like to agree with Thomas Friedman that it’s possible.

I have deep concerns about his emerging policy in Afghanistan. I don’t see a resolution as possible without some deep changes in Pakistan, and I don’t see how his surge (or any surge) can accomplish that. I don’t have an easy out for him, either, at least not one that does not leave some pretty damaging chaos behind.

I am discomforted by many of Obama’s actions concerning enemy combatants. He is confirming my suspicion during the campaign that he would reject many G. W. Bush policies (a truly good thing) but not Bush’s claims of presidential power. In so doing, he is following the lead of perhaps all previous presidents regarding foreign policy and military conflict. They may have rejected a predecessor’s policies but they never rejected his claims of power. I voted for Obama in spite of that and not because of it, but still I hoped that I might be wrong.

Maybe I’m having second thoughts about Obama and don’t want to admit it, and that is keeping me quiet. I don’t think that is the case. Even if I knew in November what would have happened up until today, I would have been comfortable voting for him over John McCain. Right or wrong, Obama’s policies show a high degree of competence, and the more I look back at the campaign, the more the McCain of 2008 looks like a man who simply was not ready to be president.

For what it’s worth, I still think the McCain of 2000 might have been a good president, though far more conservative than I would have liked. Almost certainly he would have been a far better president than the man who won or than the man who McCain was eight years later. Sometimes age and experience don’t equal improvement.

Similarly, I have long wondered if the Richard Nixon of 1960 might have been a far more positive president than the Nixon of 1968. Perhaps the narrow and not-entirely-legitimate defeat of 1960 and the 1962 California campaign exacerbated the politics-is-war attitudes that were already part of his personality. If so, it might have been at the cost of what I think was a genuine desire to be a statesman in the better senses of the term.

Perhaps I am wrong and it is the day job stuff that has kept me from commenting, by limiting the time I have to focus what analytical powers that I have left on the current scene. And if someone want to suggest that my analytical powers were never all that hot, that’s OK, too.

I do hope to check in regularly now, with more to say. I’m curious about the emerging Obama/Democratic health care policy. There is a fine case to be made that the current system is not viable, and that a shift toward the public sector would have a powerful and positive impact on jobs. But the details, the details! Who knows what could actually pass at this point?

More questions than answers. So I end today as I began, but with a bit more hope that I can point toward an answer every once in a while.

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More Comments:

Mike A Mainello - 6/19/2009

I read an interesting article on "heavy handed" government intervention. This out of Venezuela. See what happens when the government tries to run things they where they have no business or experience.

I realize President Obama with his vast business experience, no I mean his car czar with his vast business experience, no I mean both of them with the power of the federal government pointing at the companies will succeed.

Mike A Mainello - 6/17/2009

I read your response last night and I wanted to let it sink in before I responded. I have pulled 3 quotes from your response:

- Obama is setting the basis for the US having an overt industrial policy

- While conservatives have long disliked this, it is nearly impossible politically for the federal government to give up power already acquired.

- large sections of are on the edge of collapsing. Obama has made the decision to try to soften that transition with an eye to maintaining as much of the industry within the US as is possible. Given the goal, I think a heavy hand is imperative.

While I find your response very passionate, I believe it is contrary to what our country was founded on and that the president is muddling his role as chief of the executive branch.

He is president of all people and as such should not be choosing winners and losers. His "heavy hand" approach sends a chilling message to all people. Congress passes the laws, the judicial branch adjudicates, the executive branch enforces. It is wrong for the president to decide to help out here.

What about the bond holders that knew the risks, but invested in the company? Due to President Obama's intervention, they will receive less money than they legally should. The investors are not just evil rich folks, but teacher pension funds.

Since Mr. Obama has introduced additional uncertainty to the market, people are less inclined to invest where the government might want to interfere. The cost has gone up and could delay expansion causing less hiring. On the other hand, some CEO's may take even more risk because they believe the government may bail the company out.

Any expansion of government power should concern people. It starts out small, but as you pointed out, rarely is reduced.

Bankruptcy has worked and would of worked had it been given a chance. Believe me, I know part of this was started under President Bush and for that the republicans suffered in the 2008 elections. I am just hopeful that this course will be reversed. I do know that I will never buy a Chrysler or GM product as long as the government is involved this heavily in their business. I will also look at selling my Ford and getting a non-union US produced vehicle this fall.

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/16/2009

Forgive the length of the following response. It's a busy week and to use a wonderful old phrase, I haven't the time to be brief.

I'm sure the UAW was one factor. Politics matter now as always. But I don't think it's the main factor.

The primary thing is that Obama is setting the basis for the US having an overt industrial policy, with something resembling long term goals concerning manufacturing and technology development. Given the current economic circumstances and Obama's assumption that the development of conscious policy in this area is a good idea, this is a logical way to start.

There is, of course, always a tacit policy in place. Tax codes, tariffs, and aid to specific industries has been a part of the US since the founding.

Originally states were the primary governmental partners in these matters. This was most visible in transportation: most toll roads, canals, and railroads required a measure of public aid. Shifts in law to favor management over labor in safety was another form of industrial policy. Again this was primarily at the state level.

The second generation of railroad development and the spread of the telegraph altered the terrain by making it possible for national scale businesses to be run from just a few locations. State by state regulation could not function well in the context of national businesses, and the Supreme Court from roughy the 1890s into the 1930s limited governmental power over businesses by making itself an arbiter of state and national regulatory actions. The justices did not reject all such actions, but their "rule of reason" made it difficult for governments to anticipate the Court's actions in any specific situation.

The result was a highly confused Constitutional situation that lasted utnil the late 1930s. Then the politics of the Great Depression resulted in a shift in Court membership and Court policies toward allowing the national government broad powers to regulate the economy.

While conservatives have long disliked this, it is nearly impossible politically for the federal government to give up power already acquired. At most, elected representatives can choose whether and when to wield that power.

Sometimes the Supreme Court may make changes at the edges of that power. But the power itself, born of the necessity of national regulation and the support Americans give for national level actions remains.

Are Obama's actions a good idea? In the main post here, I admitted that I was uncertain. I do think that that there should be a conscious industrial policy. Whenever possible that should be done with broad incentives and regulations that allow for a range of creative and minimally regulated responses. The imposition of efficiency requirements on light bulbs is a good example of that approach.

In the case of the auto industry, which is a major portion of the American economy, large sections of are on the edge of collapsing. Obama has made the decision to try to soften that transition with an eye to maintaining as much of the industry within the US as is possible. Given the goal, I think a heavy hand is imperative.

Two legitimate questions are (1) is that goal good policy and (2) is his approach a proper use of governmental power generally. Your answer to the second question is "no" in most circumstances, including this one. You would prefer to trust the existing bankruptcy system, which has indeed functioned well in something like the current form since WWII.

I am a bit more of a big government person, so I tend to answer #2 as "Yes, but very carefully."

I can see the logic in Obama's approach; hence my respect for it. I do lean toward it. However, there are also strong arguments for less intervention, some of which you have given here. The one that concerns me most is that this approach may limit the range of creative responses that would come out of a larger collapse.

Maarja Krusten - 6/15/2009

Mike, did you see the new main page article at
The author is not an historian, her specialty is English literature. Her article represents the way people sometimes ascribe broad based motivations to political figures. For example, she lumps Nixon in with Goldwater as representing the right wing of the 1960s era Republican party. As I note in my posted comment there, she overlooks Nixon's concerns about challenges from the right from Reagan in 1968.

My own view is that historians should look for nuance and consider ambiguities. This is very different from discourse in the political world, which does not reward and can even fear nauance and ambiguity. It was as easy for some people on the left to paint George W. Bush as a villain for his foreign policy decisions as it is for some on the right to castigate Obama for his domestic policy decisions. That's the way politics works. But neither approach represents what an historian should do. Rather than assigning blame, I believe historians do best when they consider how the decision making process works; how leaders assess available data, which often is fragmentary and ambiguous; how ideological filters -- when they exist -- can affect policy decisions; and what are the outcomes. I think Dr. Chamberlain fits in with that class of historian, myself. Dr. Hamilton's piece is less useful, however, but she's not an historian by training.

Mike A Mainello - 6/14/2009

The only point we disagree on is the "minor factor". Loans would not have gone bad, if the person buying the property had been financially stable. Housing prices would not have increased at a greater level than normal if the pool of buyers had not been artificially increased. The number of loans would not have been as great for the financial markets to bid on so the number of defaults would have been greatly reduced.

Just like strong homes are built on a strong foundation, this market and thus this problem was built on faulty logic.

Mr. Chamberlain, my responses are grounded in the belief that the US Government should follow the Constitution and let the people pursue happiness. Both the situations we have been discussing on this thread highlight what happens when politicians interfere with there own established laws. Government favoritism to one class or race is wrong. As a result the outcome hurts everyone.

Mike A Mainello - 6/14/2009

The problem with a guided bankruptcy is that it was invented by politicians. The US has over 100 years of established bankruptcy laws in place which should have been used in both auto company situations.

The laws have worked for all other major and minor companies to date. I don't know of any reason (except for the UAW) that this "I have got to have my fingers in everything" administration believed it should intervene.

Maarja Krusten - 6/13/2009

OK, thanks! I've had my say (more than) on this one, will keep checking back. Nice to see you blogging again.

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/13/2009

You've opened a large and important new topic here.

I don't have sufficient mastery of the legal situation to know how close to the edge of legality that Obama has gone, in regard to the auto industry. It is an important question in its own right

Considered simply as policy, the guided bankrupcies have profound risks, the big one being, what happens if the newly organized companies tank fast? If that happens, then a lot of money has been wasted and we might well have been better off just letting Chrysler and GM go down in a more "normal" fashion.

The upside is that if the companies that emerge are viable and do grow, then the policies may have shephered the nation through a major economic transition in a way that disrupted far fewer communities than standard bankrupcty and that keeps more auto related jobs within the US that would otherwise have occured.

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/13/2009

Hi Mike

I actually did respond to the wider point that you were making though not to the particular questions. Of course the answer is no to those. In fact, I have never defended the carelessness of that loan policy.

I have argued that, standing alone, it was a comparatively minor factor in causing the economic meltdown. That's not the same thing as saying that it was right,

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/13/2009

Don't go away!

Two conversatiosn at once is just fine. I was off for a couple of days because of a mix of professional and personal oblibations.

Maarja Krusten - 6/12/2009

Maybe I messed things up for you here by piping up and joining the conversation. It seems there was some dialog going on before I showed up. I'll sign off and return you to your regular programming, LOL.

Mike A Mainello - 6/12/2009

Your comments are dead on regarding HNN. Teachers and authors are not used to opposing opinions.

My point on Katrina and the response of low income citizens centers around the local and state government. They had a lot of opportunity to serve the people, but did not. As I recall many buses sat in the motor pool that could have been used to ferry people out and Amtrak offered to take people out on the train, but local government did not do anything. In addition I believe many government programs reduce initiative and create a society that looks to the government for everything.

I believe FEMA and President Bush were hammered by a willing media. It is sad because it hurts all people.

Maarja Krusten - 6/11/2009

Hi, Mr. Mainello,

In referring to moderate and liberal Republicans, I was looking back to the 1960s, not to the present. All I can say about recent times is that I believe there was a sense among many voters of "bring us together, enough of the divisiveness" which a candidate from either party, R or D, potentially could have tapped into in 2008.

As to Katrina, I was not looking at the government's response, but rather the responses I saw on some message boards soon after the hurrican hit, chiefly people who speculated disdainfully on why some residents did not evacuate the city. Some reflected a "it's your own fault vibe" about those who were trapped (mostly lower income people). And a lack of understanding of people who might not own cars or have had easy means, financial or otherwise, to pick up and flee. These people on message boards displayed limited vision and few powers of projection -- they were just ordinary people yapping on message boards, not representatives of the government.

I don't know whether you'll get a response from anyone else. I've found that sustained dialog is not HNN's strong point, regardless of who an author is. You may recall another academic author (not Dr. Chamberlain) who yelled at us once when you and I took his essay and moved off in other directions in our comments threads. LOL. That author had lost control but failed to take into account that HNN isn't a classroom. I don't know why he seemingly displayed lack of confidence in HNN as a forum by yelling at us. I've often seen threads evolve that way in other forums but that this had occurred with his main page essay seemed to discomfit him.

Interestingly, in the last year I've seen some fascinating stuff happen with interactions in the world of web 2.0. In one case, people who didn't know each other came to understand each other. There were clear "aha" moments where light bulbs went on. In several other cases, however, attempts at engagement resulted in great tension and anger. So you never know how things will play out. As I've mentioned before, I think someone will come along and study e-communications some day. Lots of evidence being created.

Mike A Mainello - 6/10/2009

I always learn something new when you respond to articles.

On this issue of compassion, the disadvantaged and moderate/liberal Republicans, I am always left scratching my head.

I am not sure what a moderate/liberal republican believes in.

If a bible thumping, pro-life, strong defense republican ran for office, I would understand why Colin Powell would endorse Obama. However, when one of the most moderate republicans in history is running well then the party has not left Colin Powell, Colin Powell is in denial. He is welcome to call himself a republican, just as I can call myself a conservative democrat. It doesn't make it true, but I can still do it.

Now onto compassion. I don't find it very compassionate to give the disadvantaged unfair treatment. Two wrongs do not make a right. They should get equal treatment. The current firefighter case before the Supreme Court is an excellent example. This case should have been examined and then tossed out. The plaintiffs should have been told the test was fair, you just did not do the work to pass - period. In my opinion this is more compassionate because they know they had a fair shot at succeeding.

The same holds true with the current housing bubble. If the government had said in the 1990's that red-lining is wrong, money needs to be available to all qualified people that want to buy a house, then I would have been all for it. If the government had established guidelines to banks and consumer advocates on how to help people fix and improve there credit scores, we would not be in this problem. However, it was not compassionate, nor wise to just lower the standards so everyone could buy a house.

Unfortunately the free press plays a huge part in the misinformation and shaping of public opinion. You mentioned Katrina and the government response. Believe it or not, many studies have shown that FEMA's response was one of the best to have ever happened. However, the media was quick to show every perceived shortfall. Were there mistakes, sure there always are, but why did President Bush bear the brunt? What about state and local officials? Maybe you think I am paranoid, but in the recent river floods in the Dakotas, FEMA was not around. The local people and government officials took care of the problem. How come they could take care of the problem where N.O. could not? Could it be the government programs that have been in place for 40+ years which have robbed the minority population of there independence and spirit? Is that compassionate?

One of the major problems today is the pandering to minorities and making them believe they can not succeed without government interference. The US is the fairest nation on earth. I am very concerned that this country is quickly turning from our proud past leading the way to one of appeasement and apology for wrongs we did not commit.

In a previous post I asked Mr. Chamberlain if he graded differently for a minority. I also asked him how he would react if the government decided to takeover college education and dictate pay, performance and admittance standards. I have yet to receive a response, but I look forward to reading his response.

Maarja Krusten - 6/10/2009

I'm home today and have time to offer a few more observations. There was a side of Nixon that had a lot of empathy for the "little man" but he also reflected some of the biases often found in people of his generation. His civil rights record was good during the Eisenhower years but the tapes that NARA has released do reveal some of the prejudices that came up at times in private conversation during his Presidency.

Perlstein points in his book to the struggle between the Franklins (the elite group of collegians) and the Orthogonians (the group Nixon formed while in college for the "strivers" and other non-elites). I sometimes wonder what would have come of that side of Nixon, had he not become President during a time of such domestic turmoil. Would he have channelled some of his sympathy for the downtrodden more positively than he did? As it is, released tape conversations at NARA and H. R. Haldeman's diary show the negative side of that -- the amount of time he spent ruminating about the "eastern establishment." He also talked with his WH chief of staff about who made up "our people" (the ethnics, the hard-hats) and who did not and how to tap into that.

Jack Kemp represented another side of Republican politicans -- ones who had sympathy for the downtrodden but without some of the baggage Nixon carried. As a professional football player, Kemp saw the discrimination his black team mates faced. That useful sense that the playing field was not so equal stayed with him after Kemp entered politics. Kemp was able to convey a sense of empathy for those who had further to come than he and people like him while remaining committed to the principles of trickle-down economics.

That balance that Kemp conveyed so well was missing from many of the political message boards I followed during the last few years. While times were good early in the century, a lot of people simply gave off a smug sense of "I've got mine, I got it through hard work and wise investments" (one saw flashes of that at times here on HNN, as well) without going beyond that. Yet as Kemp once showed, it is entirely possible to convey belief in conservative principles while conveying a desire to help the disadvantaged. One has to wonder what direction the party would have gone in, had Reagan picked Kemp as his Vice President as some urged him to do in 1980.

Maarja Krusten - 6/10/2009

It's nice to see you back on the blog. I've seen some burnout among several bloggers in history and archives related areas in the last year or so. I think for bloggers and readers alike, time, the often dispiriting nature of online interactions, and the contrast between initial expectations for public discourse and how things play out, all can affect how one approaches web 2.0. On the commenting side, I post here on HNN much less frequently than I once did.

As you do, I also wonder how Richard Nixon would have done as President, had he been elected in 1960. I've been reading Rick Perlstein's Nixonland recently. While I don't agree with all his interpretations, the book does raise interesting questions about what shaped Nixon going in to his term as President. I've discussed this recently with John Taylor, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library Foundation. (He left his post this January to become a full-time Episcopal minister.) John was Nixon's last chief of staff in the post-Presidency period and knew him well, of course. And as you know, I spent ten years listening to Nixon's Presidential conversations while employed at NARA. Interestingly, John and I have gone from combatants over disclosure of the Nixon archival records (he now supports wide access) to friends in the virtual world over the last year.

Aside from the nature of Nixon's earlier defeat, a number of forces were quite different in 1960 than in 1968. And it's not just that some things had changed for Nixon as a person, issues and perceptions also changed for some voters between 1960 and 1968.

Take race relations, for example. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, moderate and liberal Republicans (yes, there still were some in the party then) were much more supportive of civil rights legislation than some of the Southern Democratic chairmen who wielded power in the legislature. By 1968, issues such as open housing and busing drew some white voters who once had voted Democratic to third party candidate George Wallace and to Nixon.

Archival records are useful for tracking some changes in how voters on all sides viewed Nixon and his party. Jackie Robinson had a cordial relationship with Nixon but correspondence in the Nixon records at NARA shows how he became increasingly dispirited about race relations and racial progress over the course of his Presidency.

But as with all things Nixonian, "it's complicated." Yes, historians know the political effect of the Nixonian Southern Strategy. But James Rosen captures quite well in his biography of John Mitchell (The Strong Man) how Nixon's Attorney General walked a fine line on issues such as busing (the famous exhortation to "watch what we do not what we say.")

In more recent times, in the last years of the Bush administration, I'm not sure politicians on the right recognized all the pitfalls surrounding issues such as Katrina and the housing collapse. It takes *a lot* of skill to discuss such issues thoughtfully and at the same time to signal recognition that the poor and disadvantaged are one's fellow Americans -- if such a signal is deemd politically sustainable, of course. On political message boards reflecting the views of ordinary voters during the last few years, I almost never saw anyone walk that line skillfully. Some of what people blurted out was quite cringe-worthy. Fortuntely, since it draws history buffs more than political junkies, there is little of that on HNN.

Nixon definitely was a strategic thinker. He was very intelligent and very well read (David Gergen once said he would have made a great history professor had he not gone into politics.) He also understood how to tap into the prevailing zeitgeist, a quality which served him better in political terms in 1968 than in 1960. But as you indicate, I think he would have been a better President between 1961-1969 than he was from 1969-1974.

Ronald Reagan tapped into some of the same elements Nixon did in 1968 in his run for Governor in California in 1966--notably law and order and reactions to racial upheaval. Of course, there were a number of differences between him and Nixon, and not just that Reagan, unlike Nixon, had captured the hearts as well as the minds of the Goldwaterites. Of course, by the time Reagan ran for President in 1980, the U.S. no longer was mired in a divisive war. And Reagan had a more genial, optimistic public persona than Nixon did.

Interestingly, in an interview in the New York Times, when asked if Obama was the Reagan of the Democratic party, Joe Scarborough answered, "He is. He understands where America is temperamentally. He thinks big like Ronald Reagan." Scarborough noted also, "President Bush did three things. He destroyed the Republican majority, he crippled the American conservative movement and he weakened the country." Scarborough is a pundit who once was a Republican legislator. His is just one man's view, filtered through his particular political aims and experiences. How historians interpret the last eight years and the present administration still remains to be seen, of course.

Mike A Mainello - 6/9/2009

I understand you think single payer health care should be implemented, but aren't you concerned about the precedent it sets?

I am concerned that banks were bailed out by the federal government (yes started by Sec Paulson, a democrat by the way), I am more concerned that the Obama Administration basically dictated bankruptcy terms to the auto industry. What if he decides that ALL education is a right and too expensive. Why not totally nationalize college educations and allow anybody that wants to go to be allowed to go. I am sure he will start dictating salaries of administration and senior professors. Who knows he may start limiting outside income through research just because.

It is kind of scary, but you can not underestimate the law of unintended consequences.

Mike A Mainello - 6/9/2009

With regards to your observation on health insurance. It is available to all people. The problem is a lot of people wait until it is too late and thus too expensive to purchase. Or just figure they can show up at the emergency room for care because they know they will be seen.

Purchase it early and maintain it, use it when really necessary and it will be available and affordable.

If the government will become the regulator instead of the deliverer of health care, then insurance can provide care to all.

An independent regulator is required just like sports need umpires and referees, government needs to get out of the game and become independent.

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/9/2009

Thanks for the links.

The ambulance article does not strike me as relevant. Periodically here, there, and everywhere, individuals fail and people die. I see no suggestion that our ambulance system is better.

The second article is much more to the point. Here I will suggest a question. Is public univeral care augmented by private care better or worse than a fundamentally private system that does not cover everyone but is augmented by the government.

Final thought about ambulances. I cannot compare with other countries, but in my lifetime, ambulance/paramedic care must be one of the areas of greatest improvement. (When I was a little kid in Texas, I found it rather ominous that in some towns, the local funeral home also handled ambulance services.)

Mike A Mainello - 6/9/2009

I have a couple of more articles, one from the UK and one from Canada.

Mike A Mainello - 6/6/2009

Interesting article and I am guessing we are going to disagree.

What I read reinforces what I believe the main problem with health care -- government interference.

The people don't have any skin in the game, until their health is failing.

We really need to get the government out of the delivering and paying for services and back into the regulating business.

We should have a model similar to other insurance. A person buys insurance for catastrophic care - surgery, cancer, child birth, hospital stays, etc. Preventive care needs to be paid out of pocket.

Also encourage increasing supply. Why can't Walmart, Target, etc setup clinics which handle routine medical problems. Everytime they try, the AMA fights it.

Let me give you an example, when the government and insurance companies said Lasik eye surgery would not be covered prices dropped. I was looking at getting Lasik in 1992 and the price was $2500 per eye (yes in 1992). Now the price varies between $500 and $750 per eye.

With very limited exceptions, most consumers do not have a say in their health insurance choice. If they were allowed to select insurance companies and participate in the process, prices would drop and care would increase.

Unfortunately what I am proposing will not happen because of politics. Politicians quietly create problems and loudly come to the rescue proposing more government interference to fix the problem. I find it pathetic the way they pander to people for votes.

Mike A Mainello - 6/5/2009

I will read the NY article this weekend. I do agree that the bundling of the mortgage was a contributing factor. I believe many of the institutions making the loans knew the loans were questionable and wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible. In addition with the implied government backing of Freddie and Fannie, investors believed it was a safe investment.

My wife sold real estate for a builder and many many times the buyer tried to buy more house than they could afford and did not even have to prove income or credit worthiness.

When the Clinton Administration started questioning red-lining and forcing banks to accept borrowers with low credit scores, this was the root culprit of the problem. It may make a person feel good to help someone get a home, but if the person can not manage there credit or frankly think it is a right that they should have a home, then you have a huge problem. I believe the people that have gotten there home re-financed because both Administrations tried to help out the less fortunate will default by a large percentage.

As a college professor I hope you don't tier your academic standards based upon race or economic background. I would hope you expect your students to meet your academic standards. If your standards fluctuate, then what good is the degree or grade the student receives?

This is what happened in the housing market. People did not earn the house they were living in and treated it just like a lot of things they were given in life.

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/5/2009

I'm not sure that the link to the New Yorker article is working.
Here it is:

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/5/2009

Hi Mike

You and I simply disagree on the causes of the collapse. What you cite is one factor, but the bipartisan effort that broke down the barriers between banking and more perilous forms of investment was far more important.

And more and more I realize that even more important than either of those were the increased efforts corporations to mask poor investments or malfeasance.

Of particular relevance here was the bundling of good and bad mortgages for investments and then overvaluing the bundles in the hope that rising property values would mask the actual level of risk.

For a while, it worked. And quite honestly, I'm not positive what regulatory or other legal regime could have foiled that, unless there had been some pretty strict requirements on valuation mechanisms.

Health care is going to have to wait until I have a bit more time. However, I recommend this Ne Yorker article, McCallen Texas and Costly Health care. It has a lot to say to anyone trying to improve the system, no matter their ideology.

Mike A Mainello - 6/4/2009

Domestically speaking, I would hope you would be extremely afraid.

President Obama has spent us into a 1.6 Trillion dollar hole just this year. If you want to bash on President Bush his worst deficit was about 500 Billion and during his term they were dropping until the housing situation exploded. Please don't try to blame this one on him because it was Carter, then Clinton, then Congress that loosened lending standards and threatened banks to loan money to unqualified people.

Nationalized health care does not work. Why with Canada and England showing us it has failed do you want to see more money poured down this area. Have the government set standards, require people to purchase a minimum health care policy and get out of the way. The government needs to be independent so they can rule on problems. The market will deliver, if allowed. Imagine a football game and one team owns the referees. Is this a fair game for the other team?

He has done some decent things, but he has also pissed off Canada, England and Israel just to name a few.