Monday, July 27, 2009

Barack, I hardly know ye

Here's another one of my letters to the editor of the SB NewsPress. I'll update with info if it's published in the hardcopy paper.

Update: The letter appeared in the NewsPress on August 5, 2009.

To the editor:

A liberal’s assessment of Obama’s brief tenure.

His Sotomayor nomination rocks. However…

The economy. I grant that he’s not had nearly enough time to reverse the disastrous impact of decades of America’s profligate, credit-addicted consumption, but he’s hearkening to the same persons and institutions to effect “change” that created and fed on those now-entrenched cultural/economic memes. While he seeks to improve our financial straits—to constrain our unregulated markets, to cure our loss of decent-paying jobs and widening earnings disparities—there’s little prospect of stemming America’s decline so long as he employs the tools crafted by the same folks who wrecked—and profited from the wreckage of—our nation’s economy.

Our “security.” His rhetoric occasionally feels satisfying, but his actions—the buildup in Afghanistan/Pakistan, the still-growing Pentagon budget, the continuing secrecy—are doggedly similar to those of his predecessors. He also promotes America’s global-policing role, thereby energizing the “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower warned about five decades ago. Indeed, but for his recent (and politically safe) elimination of some Pentagon-derided F-22’s, Obama’s foreign/military policy appears as pugnacious as Reagan’s.

Surely he’s too well schooled to be ignorant of an acutely salient lesson of history: empires invariably decline due to consumptive over-indulgence and militaristic over-reach. Therefore, his failure to activate true “change” must be the result of something in his character that is ultimately ruinous of meaningful achievement: fear.

After suffering through eight years of an executive who acted through ignorant arrogance, must we now endure one who suffers from informed cowardice?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Well, whadda you know!

The feds are finally getting back to some serious antitrust enforcement. It's actually quite a modest start. By way of background (not related in the NYT story), the loosening of antitrust enforcement began many years before Bush II, with the slow turning away by the US Supreme Court from truly aggressive rulings favoring competition between businesses as the means to create a healthy climate for the marketplace. The "Chicago school" (based on Milton Friedman's concept of unrestrained capitalism) took over, the most salient disciple of which was Professor (now federal appellate judge) Richard Posner and influenced the course of judicial as well as administrative decision-making, creating the doctrine that consumers benefit more from economies and efficiencies of scale than from competition among equals. There began a long history of approvals of huge mergers that created "too big to fail" entities: not just banks but conglomerates that spanned many business arenas.

Well, maybe we've learned that "bigness is badness," to repeat an adage that used to dominate antitrust thinking. I hope so, because it has gotten so that entry into some low-investment businesses is becoming prohibitively costly, almost impossible. With high rentals of huge malls, massive chains of retailers and suppliers, how, really, could a small entrepreneur begin, for example, a sandwich shop or a burger joint? What about a carpeting outlet or a clothing stor?

As I said, a modest start, but a start toward once reducing the power of the monied and vested interests in America.