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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 7, 2009 at 4:01 PM

National economy

Focus on the people, not Wall Street

I live in Olympia, in a wonderfully diverse, urban neighborhood. We are America: wealthy, middle class and poor; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs; liberals and conservatives; blacks, whites, Hispanics, Chinese, Vietnamese, Romanians, Ukrainians — all this and much more. We work hard everyday and raise our families well.

As President-elect Obama makes decisions concerning how to assist the American economy, we (and the millions just like us) are who he should be thinking about. We are the only force big enough, powerful enough, and smart enough to fix this mess.

A large part of this economic crisis is fear-based and media-generated. No matter how financially stable, no matter how secure your job, it’s impossible not to feel anxious these days if you read a newspaper, watch TV, listen to the radio, use the Internet, or even just talk to friends.

Fear is palpable and contagious, but there is something Obama can do about it: talk to and focus his interventions on us. He shouldn’t waste his time trying to spin positive stories or convince the media to stop being what they are: attention seekers and advertising purveyors. Rather, he should transcend the media, talk directly to America; remind us who we are.

We are the greatest generation and its progeny, immigrant-strong and resourceful. We are the most widely educated, hardworking, creative people on earth. We can do anything.

Our new president should remind us that we have, for 200 years, created and sustained the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known. He should remind us that our economy has created the largest, most widely educated middle class anywhere, ever. Remind us that this economy creates such a surplus of goods and services that anyone willing to educate themselves and work hard can enjoy a standard of living attainable only by royalty just a few generations ago.

Remind us that Merrill Lynch is not the economy, American International Group (AIG) is not the economy, General Motors is not the economy. We are the economy, and we are unstoppable because we are free, flexible, resilient, strong, and creative. Throughout history, we’ve proven that nothing can stop us or our economy — not war, terrorism, inflation, fear or greed. Obama should remind us that anyone who has ever placed a long-term bet against us or our economy has lost.

He should forget about Wall Street, financial institutions, the auto industry, and all the corporations looking for bailouts. If he wants to fix this economy, he needs to focus on us.

For example, rather than bail out the housing and mortgage industry, he should create a federal program that makes 4 percent 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages available to all Americans who have the ability to make payments.

Rather than bail out the auto industry, he should make 4 percent auto loans available to all who have the ability to make car payments. Obama doesn’t need to tell the auto industry how to make cars. He can trust the collective intelligence of Americans to buy the autos they want and need, and let those companies flourish or perish based on their ability to meet those needs.

During this economic turmoil, our new president need only do this: Remind us who we are and focus interventions on our strengths and needs, give us fair access to jobs and credit and then trust us to “vote with our dollars.” This is, and always has been, the prescription for national economic success.

— Robert Hodges, Olympia

Leave FDR in the past

Sorry David Sirota [“New Deal gets a raw deal when conservatives rap FDR,” syndicated columnist, Jan. 5], a growing majority of historians and economists do agree that the New Deal prolonged the Depression. Just look at the facts. In 1931, the unemployment rate stood at 17.4 percent. After five years of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, the unemployment rate was 17.4 percent. Unemployment in the 1930s never went below 14 percent.

Roosevelt said in his first inaugural, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” The New Deal, while it did introduce social reforms that we value today, failed as a recovery program and made things worse.

It’s time to move beyond the sentimental infatuation with FDR and let economists and historians sort out the truth. Journalistic attempts to rewrite history in order to provide cover for current Democratic strategies are yet another reminder of irresponsible bias in the media. In Sirota’s introduction, he asserts, “… George W. Bush insisted Iraqi airplanes were about to drop WMD on American cities.” I should have stopped reading at that point.

— Robert Wilkes, Bellevue

Comments | More in Barack Obama administration, Economy

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