What Obama should say: What's wrong with beans and hot dogs?

My Friend Doug Gibson has an excellent blog post (here!) on this very blog looking at a question someone asked President Obama at a recent town hall, and looking at his response.

Rather than answer his blog on his blog, I figured I’d do it this way — a debate? Or at least another way of looking at the issue.

I love stories like this –the media loves to cover people who are essentially asking Obama “It’s been two whole years — Why isn’t the economy fixed yet?” It’s a national meme — some people are even starting to think it’s a real issue. In this clip, the woman even asks if hot dogs and beans are the new reality?

But she doesn’t want to hear the answers: Yes hot dogs and beans are, and what’s wrong with hot dogs and beans anyway? We have them at my house very regularly. I soak my own beans, too, because canned are too expensive.

More the the point, beans and dogs are the new reality because the economy was really “broken” back in 2000 or even before when we started the Ponzi scheme otherwise known as a housing market based on speculation, not value. The Tech market implosion at the end of the Clinton Administration was a warning if we’d had the wit to see it as such, sort of a minor league demonstration game before the Yankees and Mets had at it. Find the roots of that madness, you find the source.

Not blaming Bush or Clinton here — they rode the horse the same as the rest of us. Would have been a fool not to. Belief in fantasy balanced Clinton’s budget, funded Bush’s tax cuts, made them both look good. We are all guilty. We all thought the Golden Goose was the new reality. When the market doubled the value of my 401K in two years I said “way, cool!”

I didn’t borrow against it, however. I’m not that dumb. When housing values took off I paid off my mortgage and sat tight, waiting for the crash, and it came.

The economy that we enjoyed through much of the Bush administration was based on a lie – the lie that houses can double in value, and then double again while wages  stagnate and houses will still not go down in value. There are a lot of complications involved, but that’s the bottom line and from it all else came.

For an excellent description of what happened, by the way, check out “The Giant Pool of Money” on “This American Life.” (click.)

That massive huge balloon of our economy is gone. We’re back to reality, and all the millions of jobs that depended on that balloon to exist are gone as well. The money that paid for those jobs was a promise based on a fantasy.

I don’t know anyone who could revive an economy that has suffered something like that in two years. The Republican idea of tax cuts would still be waiting for the first effects to take hold because businesses wait to see actual money from tax law changes before they act. Everything takes time. Two years is nothing.

People asking “Why isn’t it fixed yet?” are acting like spoiled babies. They want it fixed now, not tomorrow, and they especially don’t want to have to suffer in the meantime. Beans and hot dogs? Be glad you have those, lady.

Someone else in this same appearance asked Obama what happened to the American Dream?

Another spoiled baby question. The American Dream is the opportunity to get off your lazy ass and do for yourself, not have a good life handed to you.

People whining why doesn’t the government find them a job or provide them with the American Dream are missing the essential point of that — dreams don’t always come true, but the American Dream, especially, was one of opportunity and doing for yourself but with no guarantees. Over the last 20 years or so we got used to the idea that the American Dream somehow involved that Golden Goose — a house that doubled in value in 5 years, guaranteed, or a tech stock (Iomega anyone?) that quintupled overnight.

But those things aren’t real. They never were and, we can only hope, won’t come around again.

So why is everyone blaming Obama? Do they expect him to seize American companies that are sending jobs overseas and force them to keep their jobs here? Do they expect him to make the housing market turn into a giant piggy bank again? Hell, he did sort of take over GM to save jobs, and all he’s gotten for that is a load of grief from people claiming it’s socialism to save jobs that way, but then those same people ask why hasn’t he produced any jobs yet? The guy can’t win.

There’s plenty of opportunity out there — if you are willing to work. I see Hispanic guys manning taco stands out front of the Municipal Building every day, rain or shine, working for that dream. Are Anglos running any of those stands?

No. The Washington Post runs stories (click!) featuring people whining because declining interest rates and the housing/market crash mean they can’t retire at 50 like they hoped to. 50! They wanted to have mommy and daddy pay the bills for 20 years, work 30 years or so and then have the rest of their life, another 40 years or more, taken care of for them. Not a bad deal, live 90, work 30, get 60 years free.

Willing to work?

From this month’s Harper’s Index — number of Americans who signed up since June 10 for the “Take Our Jobs” campaign by the United Farm Workers that asked legal Americans to do farm work — 14.

As in 10 plus 4.

There’s your American dream — Sitting on its ass at home whining about Obama while farm jobs go begging.

ps — I note that the NYTimes has an excellent “Room for Debate” discussion among a number of financial experts on this very topic here (click)  They all say pretty much what I do — the economy has changed in very  fundimental ways and the economy we thought we had in the 2000s will never, ever, return.


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17 Responses to What Obama should say: What's wrong with beans and hot dogs?

  1. Doug Gibson says:

    Charlie, getting off your ass may be good advice but if he’d said that we’d be talking about this town hall meeting for the next seven weeks!

  2. Charles Trentelman says:

    hey doug, would have been a better topic of discussion than bean recipes… more productive, too.

  3. Owain says:

    I think most people are impatient that we have incurred about $1.5 trillion in new debt, with nothing to show for it other that unemployment that hovers slightly below 10%, when they promised us that with the stimulus, it wouldn’t go above 8%. An now, just in time for mid term elections, the administration is proposing an additional $50 billion in ‘stimulus’, demonstrating nothing was learned from the initial failure.

    Charles, for someone who professes to be a tired skeptic, unwilling to be taken in yet again by the political class, you seem to have a weakness for this kind of snake oil.

  4. ctrentelman says:

    fascinating, Owain — you bring up something I didn’t discuss (stimulus funds), then accuse me of favoring that “snake oil.”

    As far as the stimuli go, it’s easy to attack their so-called lack of success because it is impossible to prove a negative. They were what they were and nobody knows what unemployment would have hit without them.

    Riverdale Road is being done with stimulus funds — stop by some day and ask one of the workers there if he’s got a job or not.

  5. Owain says:

    I’m sure the folks building Riverdale Road are happy with their job. I’m not sure $1.5 trillion in new debt was a good way to go about providing those jobs.

  6. Cindy says:

    I am far from agreeing with everything Obama has done. However, I think people need to realize that the economy didn’t tank overnight. It was a build up of years of irresponsibility. It also won’t be fixed overnight. I do think everyone has a new reality that they need to accept. Hopefully people have learned from this and we never get back to the way it was.

  7. Irisdavenport says:

    I don’t really understand what that woman was complaining about. She and her husband are both employed with good jobs. They are able to keep their children in private school. I don’t know why President Obama is responsible for her situation. Could it be that she is now suffering form the consequences of her own bad financial decisions. She obviously overextended herself and now is responsible for paying the piper. She should file bankruptcy, put the children in public school and take credit counseling classes, and learn to live within her means and stop blaming other people for her problems.

  8. Owain says:

    She was complaining about having to defend Obama to people wondering just when Hope and Change was going to kick in. From her own experience, she related feeling the pinch as well. Since she said she doesn’t even own a credit card, I doubt she has a problem with overextending herself.

    She, like many Americans, is feeling like she was sold a bill of goods in the last election. Overpromised, and under delivered. And the country’s an extra $1.5 Trillion or more in debt with little to show for it.

    I think that is a valid complaint to lay at Obama’s feet.

  9. Charles Trentelman says:

    I dunno about overpromised, Owain. In his inauguration speech Obama did talk about a long process of recovery, and that has been a continuing theme of all his pronouncements on the subject.

    I think a lot of expectations got built up by hype on both sides, and it’s easy to criticize when it’s not your job to come up with ideas for a recovery. Hope means just that — hope, not fulfillment. And change takes time — as one of the people in that NYTimes thing I linked to up there says, the end of the recession doesn’t mean the economy is better, it just means it stopped getting worse. The economy still stinks, it’s just not stinking worse, at least so far.

    The whole “We spent $1.5 trillion and all I got is this lousy T-shirt” is completely beside the point. Multiple trillions of dollars that were flowing into the economy in all those funny mortgate deals came to a screeching halt in late 2006. The impact of that halt was vastly larger than anything the government could do to mitigate it. I think it’s a freaking miracle that unemployment is only 10 percent, to be honest.

  10. Owain says:

    Obama did promise that if the stimulus bill was passed, unemployment would remain under 8%, did he not?


    I think that counts as a case of overpromised and underdelivered.

  11. Owain says:

    In further news, the New York Times reports that the economy has lost more jobs than it added since the recovery began over a year ago.


    “…the recovery thus far has been so anemic that the job picture seems likely to stagnate, and perhaps even get worse, in the near future.”

    I think that maybe this is part of what the lady was complaining about to Obama at the town hall meeting.

  12. tom says:

    Very good Mr. T.

    You seem to have a firm grasp on the basic equation that is plaguing the economy. That being a number of years of unbridled greed compounded by the legions of know nothing know it all’s who expect it to all turn around in less than two years.

    Obama’s great failing seems to be his inability to explain it all as simply as you did. f course, even if he did the great chorus of the know it all’s would continue unabated, but at least the average folks on the streets would have a clearer picture of it all.

  13. John Q Pubic says:

    “I think it’s a freaking miracle that unemployment is only 10 percent, to be honest.”
    Yes it would be a miracle. Because it isn’t. The effective unemployment rate is nearly twice that when you count the underemployed and the gave-it-uppers.

  14. Charles Trentelman says:

    well, yeah, if you look at it that way — statistics are only as true as you want them to be, and the person who defines the statistics really holds the reins.

    “underemployed” is a dicey thing — who isn’t? OK, I’m not underemployed (just ask Owain) , but there are plenty who feel they are.

    But there’s no guarantee that you get the job you want or are qualified for — never has been. During hard times that always happens more, but it always happens to some extent. Do we count secretaries who really know their boss’ job better than their boss in that?

  15. Kris Baker says:

    Owain AGAIN proves that he doesn’t read the websites he tries to use to back up his claims.

    It was Christine Romer (not Obama) who made the 8% claim, and she’s now out of a job.

    The odd thing about the economy?
    I truly do not personally know one person who has lost their job *solely* due to the economy. I do know people who work for a company that used the economy as an excuse to lay off employees who should have been gone years ago.

    How do I know that? Because that same company invested MILLIONS of dollars in a new combined manufacturing plant.

    Economists tell us that business has lots of cash reserves right now, and are investing in equipement and facilities. But not employees.

    PS Charlie!
    GREAT birdhouse!

  16. sageseeker1 says:

    People who cry foul, then cancel the paper in an attempt to silence a view is a rather cowardly and immature response. They’re like the kids we all hated who couldn’t win the game, so picked up their toys and went home! Why not keep playing, or simply add to the discourse? A comment left beneath the column would add their view, or better still, they should write a letter to the editor.

  17. Owain says:

    I don’t know that they want to silence a view so much as they aren’t interested in hearing that view, so they feel, why pay something that annoys them?

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