Monday, January 18, 2010

The Next Bubble

Let’s talk about bubbles.  Did you ever blow bubbles as a kid?
Well he’s back in town and he wants your new number (sorry, couldn’t resist).

But really, I have a point to make today about The Next Bubble.  Before I get to it, however, I think we should review Bubbles Past…

The Dot.com Bubble rose in the late 90’s, when everyone with the foresight to incorporate, get a website, and write a business plan on a napkin could raise millions in an IPO.  We saw that Bubble burst around the turn of the century, when people realized that the business plan was really wing sauce and the vast majority of the websites lacked cool things that were needed for long-term success, like customers.

Then the Real Estate Bubble rose when the banks started writing mortgages on discarded napkins left over from the Dot.com Bubble.  It rose in conjunction with the Financial Bubble, where traders started packaging the napkins so that some stained with blazin’ sauce were bundled with napkins bearing mild sauce, and then they sold the mixed napkins as actual wings with medium sauce, and investors ordered them like they were manna from heaven.  Nobody worried about heartburn.  They spelled relief A-I-G.

Ha ha! You might say.  Nobody is that dumb!  And you would be wrong.  Those bubbles also burst when the blazin’ sauce ripped the financial industry a new asshole.  Which is kind of amazing considering it was pretty much all asshole to begin with.  That, my friends, is a lot of rippin’.

We are close to the point of popping for The Next Bubble, and I for one can’t wait to see it go.  So what is The Next Bubble?

Politics.

For over a decade I’ve been watching as the political discourse in this country became bloated with misinformation and hypocrisy.  Sure, that’s just the nature of politics and it’s always been like that…but risk was also the nature of investing and lending, until it was taken too far, spawning an unnatural beast.

The Political Bubble rose as Republicans called foul on Democrats for doing things the Republicans themselves did a couple years before.  The Democrats denounced every idea to originate from a Republican simply because it originated from a Republican, even if the idea had merit.  Then they all gave themselves raises and went on recess.

Eventually the GOP started using churches to broadcast its message; I’m assuming that they did this because they couldn’t get any airtime on TV due to the liberal bias in the media.  With politics on the pulpit the Religious Bubble started to grow, inflated because of the with-us-or-with-them rule that made it so easy to identify the bad guys (HINT: it’s them).

It has come to such a head – the distrust so great, the stink of the mud slung so foul – that political discourse in our country is now a caricature of itself.  Really, US politics have jumped the shark.

The most recent evidence – not the first piece, and I know it won’t be the last – is Rush Limbaugh accusing the Obama administration of politicizing the disaster in Haiti.  Limbaugh said, "this [earthquake] will play right into Obama's hands. He's humanitarian, compassionate. They'll use this to burnish their, shall we say, 'credibility' with the black community -- in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It's made-to-order for them."

Really.  Tens of thousands of people dead, and he reduced a show of support to a made-to-order grab for street-cred.  He couldn’t think for a second that they are sincerely trying to help people in desperate need.

Of course Obama has yet to actually politicize this, but that’s okay.  Rush already did it for him, so now whatever Obama does will be political by default.  Of course, Rush politicized his own heart attack, so can we really be surprised that he would stoop this low?

The problem is that many of Limbaugh’s listeners agree with him.  Here is a transcript from his radio show last week:

Justin of Raleigh, North Carolina: "Why does Obama say if you want to donate some money, you could go to whitehouse.gov to direct you how to do so? If I wanted to donate to the Red Cross, why do I have to go to the White House page to donate?"

Limbaugh: "Exactly. Would you trust the money's gonna go to Haiti?"

Justin: "No."

Rush: "But would you trust that your name's gonna end up on a mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him and other causes?"

Justin: "Absolutely!"

Limbaugh: "Absolutely!"

So these two “absolutely” believe that if you donate to Haiti via the White House website, not only will they pocket your cash, but they will then proceed to SPAM you to death.

It is worth pointing out that at the time of the call transcribed above, Obama’s website linked directly to the Red Cross.

Of course the Left can’t let Rush have all the fun…I’ve read opinions denouncing George Bush’s efforts to help, too, just because he’s George Bush.

The Political Bubble is going to burst soon, mark my words.  The Religious Bubble might burst in tandem with the Political Bubble, like the Real Estate and Financial Bubbles did.  After all, Pat Robertson had to jump into the mix and claim that the earthquake was the result of a pact with the Devil made by Haitians hundreds of years ago.  And you know what?

Some people believe him, too.

But I think the majority of Americans are reasonable, intelligent, responsible citizens.  We’re just quiet.  And one day we will take the microphone back, and you know what that will sound like?

*pop*

I can’t wait…

26 comments:

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Laurel said...

The politics bubble burst for me years ago. I have been telling people since about 1995 that the two party system in the US can be summed up as follows:

They all suck.

A few of my friends are starting to think I might be right.

I don't get it. It's like people have picked football teams and they just root for their guy no matter what. But if you're paying attention, you'd realize your team is making all the same recruiting violations as the other one.

My republican friends get mad at me because I didn't like Bush. Either one. My democrat friends get mad because I didn't like Clinton and I'm not a big fan of Obama.

But if you look at their records they are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Everybody spends money like drunken sailors. They look different on social issues but when the rubber hits the road we get policies like "No Child Left Behind" and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that sound great and don't have any meat. And sometimes cause a whole new batch of problems.

And republicans can yell until they are blue in the face about opposing more government involvement in health care but when they were in power and buying votes we got Medicare Part D.

They all suck.

Jon Paul said...

Rick,

Much as I wish your conclusion were true, I'm afraid I must vehemently disagree. For the other bubbles you mention, as compared to the Politics bubble, there was an underlying reality--"Hey, wait a minute! We're losing a lot of money!"--that simply doesn't exist in Politics. There are too many hidden interests and hidden players for anyone to really know what's going on, or to identify what we are really losing.

Also, much as I hate to comment negatively on my fellow citizen, I simply don't believe our collective awareness is high enough or interest evolved enough to affect the change you suggest is coming. Compare the U. S. to other countries in the world on a number of issues--defense policy, health care, drinking and driving, corporate rights, white collar crime, etc.--and you see that other country's citizens have a much firmer grasp of what they will or will not allow than Americans do. An example is the refusal of most of the world to allow the import of genetically modified food, while the U. S. not only allows genetically modified food, but has spent public money on research in this area (I'm not saying GM food is bad; I am pointing to the lack of visibility in the U.S. and lack of public outcry over people tampering with our food source, arguably one of the most fundamental areas of our national interest). Another example is the 2008 jailing of 9 bank executives after the Austrian BAWAG bank scandal--which sounds amazingly like a precursor of what happened to investment banks here in the U. S., yet no U.S. bank executive has been held accountable. The change you talk about would be based on better accountability, but we in the U. S. just don't seem to know how to do it.

So, much as I wish you were right, I don't in the end agree. Unfortunately, I think things will continue on just as they have for the last 25 years, with alot of talk about making things better, but no concrete movement in that direction.

A great post though. Thanks for putting it up.

Rick Daley said...

Laurel- I would start the revolution myself if I weren't such a chronic procrastinator. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow.

Jon Paul- The Bubble exists, whether or not the American people have the resolve to pop it is the real question. You have a point regarding the ignorance and apathy of many Americans (and that is a particularly dangerous blend).

The Political Bubble does include a financial loss, though not for the politicians. The Dems that rail against money paid to Republicans through insurance and Big Oil lobbyists get plenty of cash from UAW and other labor organizations. Our *cough* Honorable *cough* Representatives are not hurting for cash.

It's the regular people who are suffering the financial loss, and it will be with our families for generations.

Sadly, many may be too poor to buy a clue.

Rich said...

You are right! Hope it pops in my life time!

Anonymous said...

Right On Rick....

I love your blogs, read them every day. They should be in a national newspaper (except for bubbles being back in town, ha ha).

xxxooo
Grandma Diane

Kristi said...

Anyone using Haiti and it's 200,000 dead and counting as a way to denounce the President like Limbaugh did not only has no compassion for humanity, they're a sucky human being. I couldn't listen to 5 minutes of his show without having a heart attack so thanks for doing it for me. :)

Rick Daley said...

Diane- Being my own editor is the joy and the challenge of writing for the blog. I can say things that would never get printed in a paper, but I still have to be careful what words I use. Sometimes I'll let Angie proof-read a post, but most of the time it's my sole judgment.

For this post, there were many angry sentiments that still linger on my cutting room floor...

Sharon said...

That was great- & I agree w/ Grandma Diane- aka Anonymous that it should be in the paper... I'd leave the first line in though!!haha!!

Anonymous said...

I think the religious bubble popped about 3 years ago. Problem with this one popping is there is another one just inside. It is fun theater though.

DWD

Lady Glamis said...

*pop*

I sure hope so.

I'd love to see your cutting room floor, Rick. I'll bet there's some great stuff there many of us would agree with.

Bane of Anubis said...

I'm waiting for the revolution any time. Nope. Already happened. I'm w/ Laurel... very apathetic to the idiots on the hill.

Scott said...

Good post, Rick. And you're right, things do need to change. As to whether our political system will go pop, I'd say probably not.

I think there are a lot reasons why most Americans are apathetic. Pragmatically, most folks are so busy and wrapped up in their individual lives that they don't pay serious attention to anything the local, county or Federal governments do until it directly effects them.

I sat through a lot of city council and planning commission meetings as a reporter. Not many folks showed up for those meetings until there was a NIMBY situation. Then you'd get a room full of angry, uniformed people that would scream at the politician.

Also, I think most people tend to feel powerless. I'm just one person, what can I do? So, most go along with whatever their government does be it good or bad.

In terms of Rush, you have take anything he says with a very large grain of salt. He is simply a flak for corporate America. There are zealots on both sides that will back their party no matter what.

While I don't have the all the answers, I think I have an idea of how to improve the political system.

The problem with large scale elections is that the candidate with the most money almost always wins. It doesn't matter if it's a Republican or a Democrat: money talks, and BS walks.

Why not take the $$$$$ out of the equation?

By that I mean, why not have the public fund elections - perhaps just on the Federal level?

Each candidate would get exactly the same budget (no outside dollars contributed by anyone - including PACs.

I wouldn't limit it to just two parties either. Competition is good, right? What if four parties were funded equally for the next presidential election? Would we wind up with a better president? Would we have a real choice?

Maybe, maybe not. I'd be willing to cough up a few more dollars to give it a try.

Teri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Quinn said...

Rick - as one of those dreaded politicians, I'm afraid you may be a little optimistic to hope for that popping sound. Everyone gets excited about national politics, but the same thing goes around at the local level (where I am), and I keep thinking, "NOW, the people will rise up and realize how horribly wrong these people are and throw them out on their bums!"

And it never happens.

Power is an insidious thing, and many (not all) who crave it are not there for the best interests of "the people".

The majority of the people are busy with their own lives, and I understand that to some extent. They are industrious, busy, nose-to-grindstone, making the country great. I take solace in that, and the belief that if things TRULY got far enough out of whack that they would protest.

But I'm not sure about that.

What I do know is that the people themselves are the best force for good in the country. My husband's company, who make water filtration equipment, just arranged to send three large (very expensive) water treatment system down to Haiti. A non-profit group has arranged the logistics, to get the systems there and set them up. Then our fabulous military personnel will take over and make sure there is orderly delivery of water that will support approximately 50,000 people a day. Not only is my heart bursting with pride that my husband designed these systems and retrofitted them to work in a disaster scenario, but it confirms my believe that the bedrock of the country rests on the goodness of people.

As long as the infrastructure continues to work, I'm afraid the bubble will loom over us, but not pop.

Rick Daley said...

Dave- Fun theater it may be, but there are many who can't tell that it isn't real. That's what worries me.

Michelle- The cutting room floor is the angry stuff. Many would probably agree, but it's not as interesting to read!

Bane- I'm right there with you two.

Scott and Susan- I could clarify that the Bubble isn't our political system as it relates to the infrastructure of the government, but rather that dialogue that transpires between the parties. The degree of polarization is growing, and if it doesn't pop and come back to a rational level, you will see it spill from the pundits and into the population at large.

It's already to the point where it is difficult to have a political discussion with many people with out immediately being branded a Neocon or a Liberal. All Republicans get turned on by guns and torture, and all Democrats want to do away with money completely and live in a commune...

Some people are trying to make it better. Jon Stewart went on Crossfire several years back and read the riot act to both Tucker Carlson and Paul Battaglia (and you could see the disappointment in Battaglia's face when Jon didn't gang up with him.

Stewart had several good points:

- The show was theater, it had nothing to do with debate
- It was hurting America

And then he called Tucker Carlson a dickhead.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFQFB5YpDZE

Later I thought he struck a defining blow when the show got cancelled. Then they gave more air time to Glenn Beck, who put some vapo-rub under his eyes to make himself cry for America, and the show was back on...

http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/glenn-becks-sobbing-secrets-revealed

Annie Louden said...

Wow. You have written a masterpiece. I hope you are right about the bubble bursting and the quiet Americans taking back the mic.

But then most of your commenters brought me down, so...

Rick Daley said...

Annie- Thanks! The others have some good points, though. It won't be easy, but I think we can bring honesty and decorum back to the process if we try hard enough. It's time to set a new standard, and introduce common sense back into the system.

Donna Hole said...

As a member of Apathetic America, I should just say no comment.

You know, my beef with politics is - though I admit to being ignorant of the issues driving global politics - it just doesn't matter what common people think or vote on. Big money, as you all note, drives the campaigns.

I haven't voted or participated in politics since Swartzenneger took CA's govenor's office. He said all the right Democratic things, then turned around in less than a year and put the lie to every promises he made. Now, CA is in deep dodo financially, and he still says: hey, long as we got tourism and entertainment, we don't need jobs, and as for money for social and educational services, its someone else's problem.

Ick, hate politics. Just get you riled up and nothing get solved.

........dhole

Shellz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shellz said...

It's just really scary that there are millions of ignorant people out there just falling over what Limbaugh, Robertson, Pallen and the rest of their ilk spout as the "gospel" truth. They are f$%king sheep that are willingly led by any crap these blow-hards feed them. I hope that this bubble pops soon, but I'm afraid, when it does, there's just another bubble blower around the corner to fill the void. The types that listen to this anything so they don't have to waste their precious little brain energy to think for themselves.

Like religion, this type of politics attempts to offer simple minded answers to complicated questions. It won't end soon.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

BUBBLES... wanna knows bubbles, go here...

Google, Matt Taibbi The Great American Bubble Machine

Haste yee back ;-)

Rick Daley said...

Haste Yee Back...Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the suggestion. I'm familiar with Taibbi's work and will check this article out when I get a chance.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Rick,
Have a stiff drink or blood pressure meds nearby... BUBBLE MACHINE is a 7 part story from Rolling Stone.

Also by Matt... Obama's Big Sellout. Not as long as Bubble, but just as informative.

Good luck with Rooty-Toot and say "Hey" to BB from me!

Haste yee back ;-)

MKM said...

I say get rid of the Republicans. Get rid of the Democrats. Why not have a government that is designed by the country's people and for the country's people. Oh wait....been there done that. I hate the tit-for-tat and the us against them mentality. Let's just have a group that agrees to work together to get things done. Now there is a novel idea.

Pat Robertson? Delusional windbag. I got to know. Did the Chileans also make a pact with the devil.

Waiting for the bubble to burst!

Rick Daley said...

MKM- Good point about Chile. Hopefully more will ask the question to highlight the absurdity of the claim.

I agree, we need a total reboot.

I'm trying to figure out which are worse, the politicians, or the pundits.