Friday, January 18, 2008

CASE IN POINT by Joe Koester

“Too many people think Martin freed black people; in truth he helped free all people.”

Marin Luther King, Sr.

The new year has arrived and brought with it economic uncertainties. In the late 1970s, President Carter was in office and America experienced a recession that was also experienced worldwide. It is spurious to blame Carter for the economic woes of the period since the entire world was experiencing economic slowdown too. If you believe those who say it takes a few years for the economic policies of a new administration to impact things, then you’d have to believe that Gerald Ford was to blame. I personally don’t believe that Ford or Carter was to blame – an opinion probably most widely accepted and supported by most readers and by facts.

The economic woes of 2008 are quite different. If you believe that the economic policies of Bush’s first four years are now kicking in, then he himself is to blame. If you believe that it’s just a worldwide phenomenon, you may want to check out the scene from around the globe. What you will see is a one-sided economic slowdown (recession?) that seems to be a, by-far, American, problem. We may still bring some, most, or the entire world down with us, but we are the genesis of the problem.

China churns ahead with exportation (much due to our own importation of their cheap consumer goods); Germany has the highest employment since reunification and has seen an increase in exports. In fact, Europe in general is doing well. The Canadian Dollar is about equal with our own having recently surpassed our currency’s value before falling back slightly. No, this sour economic state is not due to a global financial downturn but rather failed economic policies of the current administration. Local construction companies might do well to rethink their political stance (typically GOP stalwarts) since policies that are deleterious to the middle class are deleterious to their customers. The same goes for most local and even national shops and companies. The concept is simple but always convoluted by those at the very top; namely, more money in more people’s pockets means more money in more people’s pockets. The middle class will spend its money on home improvements putting local trades people to work or on new (usually, American) cars keeping people at Ford, Chrysler and GM employed. These folks are buying new homes keeping developers afloat and carpenters on the job, as well as, real estate agents employed. In contrast, the very wealthy often drive cars from overseas, travel abroad, move factories to foreign shores so that they can maximize profit for themselves (and damage to their country).

Certainly these past seven years of huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans while spending like mad has put us in the very boat in which we now sit. The “Charge-and-spend” GOP has done what they do best – put us in the red (now you know why they make the states they win red on the map). There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Actually, the light would be at the end of the year – just slightly into 2009.

Many of you already know that my reference is the end of one of the worst (not to mention illegitimate) presidencies in American history and certainly the worst since WWII. Will the new administration figure out that America needs to rethink its globalization stance and actually protect American jobs from leaving and current American workers by leveling the playing field with import taxes if the manufacturing country’s standard of living is below our own. My choice candidate is John Edwards because he told us eight years ago that we cannot continue to live with “two Americas.” He recognizes the problems within middleclass America and has offered ideas on how to combat those problems. Surprisingly, someone on the far Right also has interesting ideas about how to tackle the problem of cheap imports destroying American jobs -- Pat Buchanan.

For those out there who say they want “free trade” the reality is that markets are regulated already and are no less regulated under GOP governance than they are under Democratic governance. Baseball is regulated and so is plumbing. Simply ask any bar owner in St. Charles about regulation that helps some and hinders others (i.e. who can serve alcohol past 1:30 am and who cannot). No, per usual, when “free market” blabber starts to come up, it’s probably from the fellow who benefits quite nicely from regulation and status quo.

Of course, there is a lot of regulation that helps the powerful keep their power. There is, of course, also regulation that seems silly. Take the regulations on Trailhead. Although they could easily schlep a keg of beer right down Main Street to Lewis and Clark’s, they are not allowed to. Instead, their beer has to be handed to a distributor who adds a fee to drive the four or five blocks. Truly many regulations need to end but it seems that the only regulations that are somehow taboo are the ones protecting American jobs. Hopefully, the next administration will embrace the fact that a great nation must do more than push paper – we also need to manufacture quality goods for home and abroad. I believe this is the first presidential election where all of the choices seem better than what we currently have. Even Ron Paul has many valid points which and I think many on the Left would agree with a lot of what he believes in; the differences between Americans in most policy matters is not as great as the similarities we share. If given the honest facts, most of us would agree on most things and compromise on the rest. I wonder if we could create a hybrid candidate espousing ideas from John, Ron and Pat?

Concerning local matters, I was not happy to hear talk at work around the water cooler where someone stated that, “Things are really bad in Saint Charles. My son moved to get away from it all.” This comment came up with a discussion about the recent robbery of the Shell station on Droste Road. Crime has definitely increased in the past few years and I am guessing that a look into the facts would show a correlation between the casino’s arrival and increase in crime, especially robbery, car theft and related crimes. That said, crime has increased throughout the county, not just in St. Charles City. In fact, many crimes go unreported and therefore provide a false perception of things being better in other areas. Regardless of fact, it is perception that matters, as we all know. You might remember the misinformation that called me a “pro-abortion activist” and thereby creating a perception (albeit a totally false one).

I am the first to defend Saint Charles and always speak well of my hometown to others in the area so it is of utmost importance that we stand up and defend our town by fighting this perception. This very perception was why the police chief fight a few years ago was of utmost importance to me. Apropos to this story, I want to take a moment to thank the police officers who responded to the robbery call and put their lives on the line for all of us!

I would be remiss to bring up local issues and not at least mention council proposal to create an ordinance making cursing in certain places illegal. I believe this is already covered by state law and agree with Erv Ermeling that there are enough laws on the books, just enforce those. I know that a lot of people got emails making fun of Saint Charles due to the proposed ordinance. Just remember, it’s still our city, so say something constructive about our town if you happen to respond to them.