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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 15, 2008 at 4:52 PM

The economy: Oh, what a mess we’re in

Susan Walsh / The Associated Press

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson speaks during a news conference at the Treasury Department in Washington on Wednesday.

Bring in the unions

Editor, The Times:

Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and homes in the largest economic upheaval since the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. CEOs and the wealthy get a $700 billion TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] and working families don’t even get food stamps.

As an economist, I feel that the best way to remedy this income inequality and to start America working is to provide a countervailing force suggested by former President John F. Kennedy’s economist, John Gailbraith. America needs to make sure that all men and women have access to a union that will strengthen their ability to get fair pay, health care and safe workplaces.

President-elect Barack Obama promised to help pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which makes it easier for workers to form unions. Millions of Americans voted for change on Nov. 4. I urge Congress to pass this bill as one tool in our efforts to dig our nation out of the mess created by the Bush administration and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

— Thomas Karwaki, Seattle

Get smart

As our government spends billions of dollars rescuing banks and insurance companies, I prefer the solution offered by some leading economists: “large and rapid investments in a jobs-intensive infrastructure.”

If the focus of this initiative increased our energy efficiency by retrofitting buildings and converting our auto industry to the production of plug-in hybrids and constructed renewable-energy plants along with “a unified national smart grid” for the transportation of this power, we could improve our economy and at the same time reduce our dangerous dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Let us hope that as president, Barack Obama becomes an advocate for this better economic rescue, which will also protect us from the threats of foreign entanglements and global warming.

— Jennifer Brinch, Port Townsend

And they come crawling back

The story “Bailout held a quiet windfall for U.S. banks” [Nation & World, Nov. 11] states, “Some conservative economists argue that in a year when a company only loses money, it should be entitled to a cash refund from the government.”

My economics degree was earned nearly half a century ago, so forgive me if I sound naive. But, wasn’t it a similar group of folks that lambasted then-candidate President-elect Barack Obama over accusations of practicing socialism for threatening to “redistribute the wealth”? While their own treasury secretary was quietly changing the tax code to give U.S. banks up to a $140 billion tax windfall? Is it that wealth redistribution is good for corporations while being bad for individuals? Or am I confused?

— Gifford Jones, Seattle

Be lame somewhere else

President George W. Bush wanted $700 Billion to bail out the rich bankers, but said no to $25 billion that would save the jobs of tens of thousands of auto-industry workers. What’s going on?

He’s making some speeches now about capitalism being so great and that it must be preserved. What aspect of capitalism is he talking about? The one that started undermining the middle class with Reaganomics, and then abused them even more by Bush? Is he still using the argument about how the benefits of tax breaks and cuts for the wealthy “trickle down”?

We have learned that this is simply not true. Nor was the claim that “war is good for the economy.”

Just what is it that our lame-duck president is trying to do before he’s thrown out of the White House? Or more to the point, what more damage can he do?

— David McKenzie, Federal Way

Cheap cash and handouts

Attempting to bail out the American auto industry by packaging up loans and doling out government largesse is not going to cure the patient [“Treasury refuses to fuel GM with bailout money,” Times, Nation and World, Nov. 3]. It will merely preserve the status quo in an industry that has been dying for decades.

Give in to Ford, GM and, heaven forbid, Chrysler, and it’s merely going to move the line once again and draw more and more weak, outmoded and inefficient companies to Washington, D.C., with their hands out.

Where will this stop?

Let our beleaguered auto industry use our bankruptcy laws to reorganize, pare down their legacy costs, focus on their strengths and retool to compete in a way they have not been able to for years. As individuals, communities, employers and political leaders, we need to take a fresh look at things and not be tethered to the past, perpetuating the flaws the last three decades have ingrained into some of our most hallowed companies and institutions.

Change, remember?

It’s a startling world we live in where we see respected and time-honored icons crumbling before us: Lehman, AIG, WAMU and the like. Give it six months and we’ll all be amazed at the companies that will need bankruptcy protection or be out of business.

We cannot, however, let the short-term fear of lost jobs, lost productivity and lost market share intimidate us from making sound, long-term decisions. Pushing these failing companies to make the hard decisions and accept the financial bruising they and world markets have brought to bear might be a painful thing but it’s not the worst thing. The worst thing would be to drug up the patient with the narcotics of cheap cash and handouts from a government that cannot and should not be trying to manipulate a more-or-less-free market. That cannot be done on the scale that is being invited and it simply perpetuates, rather than fixes, the underlying problems.

The surgery that comes as a result of a Chapter 11 reorganization will fix what’s broken. If the current legislative groundswell is to simply throw billions at the problem and hope for the best, such efforts should be made within the confines of reorganization, if at all. The discipline and oversight afforded thereby will not only promote a needed level of corporate sincerity, it will provide the taxpayers with transparency and give us the best hope for an eventual return on our investment.

The temporary opiate of cash, which our government can ill afford to throw at this problem, will only buy a small window of time.

Time alone will not fix an industry whose wheels came off decades ago.

— Rick Levesque, Seattle

Comments | More in Economy, Politics, Wall Street bailout

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