Real True Confessions With Padre Pienbique
Sometime last year, a local news anchor- who once sang the blues with the Big Wu- was appalled when asked how he felt about the trend of Americans getting their news from the action tandem of Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart. Besides the usual business of griping that we need to stay involved, (probably by watching his channel) he gave recourse to the general public for turning away from the craptastic overkill CNN/CNBC/FOX offers as they fill up their daily 24 hours. If anything, he felt that the straight news should get it right from the start and keep people engaged.
Like any veteran newsman, he’s right, save one problem: Some of us stopped caring.
I don’t if you’re aware of this, but shitty things happen to people all the time. However, there comes a time when I just don’t want to hear about more rapes and murders. Having the local news report them won’t hinder the offenders from doing anymore damage, and my awareness of their ill deeds won’t help their victims sleep peacefully at night.
So I’ll admit it. I’ve joined the Stewart/Colbert Nation, and I’ve become certain that I’m no poorer for my choices. Ignorance is bliss.
Besides, with Edward R. Murrow gone, Daniel Schorr of NPR is the only news guy I can trust. Not that NPR is part of the solution- see below.
Bad news is around every corner, no matter how carefully you tread. In my case, I accidentally stepped in it last week when I forgot to check the time before I changed the channel on my car stereo.
I was pleasantly high last Sunday morning, driving off to the Minneapolis farmer’s market to buy some petunias when I started dial-doodling on the car stereo. Classic rock, heavy metal, cheesy 70’s singer-rawk, it’s all available on the local FM radio. So is NPR, that harbinger of doom and home to the North American White-Tailed Ninny.
Thinking that Car Talk was on (I didn’t check my watch and see that it was still early), I hit the NPR preset.
I could’ve changed the channel before I heard anything too depressing, but I had copped a buzz with the morning coffee, and curiosity (or casual forgetfulness) got the best of me. It only took a minute of NPR’s End-Is-Neigh financial reports before someone got on and announced that mutual funds were no longer what they used to be, and to that end, have become as desirable as a Manson Family Reunion.
This small piece of information represents no small problem for Joe Q Public as the very premise of a mutual fund is that one US Dollar equals one US Dollar. Apparently, this may not be the case anymore.
Mutual funds are everywhere you look: You see that sidewalk construction project down the block? Or the street that’s being ripped apart even though it was perfectly fine a week ago? When your city decides to rebuild a slab of concrete for kicks, they aren’t given a pile of cash after landing on Free Parking. Someone down at the City Hall packaged the whole deal and sold the cost of the project as a bond to the kind of folks that stash extra cash away from the taxman. In this case, the likely culprit is your father.
Fathers love mutual funds for all the same reasons they love to keep ticking the thermostat down on cold days, yell about air conditioning the outdoors when you leave the door open, and checks the milage on the Oldsmobile before he let’s you borrow it for prom: Mutual funds are a safe, conservative, yet profitable way to make a buck while keeping their cash out of harms way.
So when your dad and ten thousand others like him buy a bond, they’re simply picking up the tab for someone they should be able to trust, like the city of Gary, Indiana. In turn, Gary, Indiana is supposed to collect taxes from the citizens over a period of 10, 15, or perhaps 30 years and pay off the bond, plus interest. The risk for investors is spread over a large pool of similar investments so that nothing short of a nuclear bomb can derail them. This is where dad gets money for braces and college.
Well, it wasn’t a nuke that blew the shit out the lending base, but the lending base itself that dropped the golden turd. Now that we’re in a period where folks that bought houses aren’t expected to actually pay for them, there are fewer properties with real-live tax payers living inside the house, let alone leaving for work. All of which brings us back to the fact that there are Gary Indianans everywhere that are having trouble keeping their promises to the local taxpayers who want new sidewalks on every block, not to mention the rest of the taxpayers everywhere else that bought their piece of crap bond and aren’t making dividends like they used to.
It’s not just your dad that’s absorbing the hits and buying debt (because it’s the only thing for sale these days), the Chinese have been busy doing the same. In fact, they own gigantic chunks of American debt. In the battle of Dumb vs. Evil (I’m not sure who is which), this is a two-way street. The more dough Chinese market mavericks shell out for our strip malls, the less they have to listen to us telling them to stop being assholes to, well, themselves. On the other hand, they won’t ever bother nuking us, as that would be the equivalent of blowing up their own piggy bank. I’m not a financial adviser, but I can tell you that if we’re not careful, the dimmest of us might be sold as pets to middle class suburban Beijing households.
Then NPR told me that we’ve gone from dumb to dumber, via government’s good intentions. Remember that weird morning last spring when Uncle Barrack told us that we just bought 60% of a company that no one wants, namely General Motors? Well, it turns out that he wasn’t kidding. (I was hoping he’d fess up over a beer- tell us it was Biden’s idea for yucks.)
Now you can really enjoy supporting unions that work for twice what the market will bear, building cars that we can’t afford and don’t buy anyways. Not that anybody useful at GM will ever see any of that money. The last bailouts for banks and overstuffed housing outfits went directly into the management’s pockets, so goodbye actual good deed.
But the other car companies (read: Everyone else that doesn’t pester the feds for freebies because they bother to turn a profit) must have been at a competitive disadvantage because congress threw a Detroit sized monkey wrench into the whole plan: Cash For Clunkers.
Let’s just say that again: Cash for Clunkers. A government-sponsored giveaway for up to $4500 in free cash that is not only poorly funded (and that’s the good news), but encourages people to buy well-made, fuel-efficient cars made by foreign automakers right away.
Are American car makers, such as GM, so far behind the eight-ball that we can’t wait another year or two for research & development to design a car we might want to purchase (although we already paid for it)… in a year or two? Why must we blow our wad now?
(As an aside, during wartime, traitors have been shot for less. Just an idea…)
Now, I have nothing against foreign carmakers. My car happens to be made overseas. It’s also 17 1/2’ long, weighs 5000 lbs. and is celebrating its 20th birthday this summer. It also gives every one of these do-goodermobiles a kick in the ass everywhere it counts: handling, ride, traction, (especially around Rice County, MN county roads at 100+ mph), so the latest offering from KIA with its rogue subsidizing can kiss my ass. The newest and best KIA off the production line has nothing on my machine, and it would be downright Un-American of me to trade down, especially if the government tells me to.
Folks, this is where I give up. After bailing out GM (and so many more), I’m encouraged to spend cash that neither I (nor the Federal Reserve) has, to purchase cars that everyone that can is already buying, so that the debt can be sold to a country so crazy and ass-backwards that their government fears Harry Potter and Falun Gong. It’s like choosing- no begging- for Jimmy Carter and Jon Ashcroft to plan my birthday party: No fun, and if it threatened to be, then illegal.
This is why I can’t stand to hear “the real news” any longer. It’s too depressing. It doesn’t make me feel enlightened nor empowered. I feel like a jackass caught in an endless spin cycle of expensive nonsense. Daniel Schorr aside, it makes me want to get the world’s most depressing news from a… comedian.
Old Style Zealot of the Month: Edward Blake a/k/a “The Comedian”
What the hell: Even though Mr. Blake was a baby killer, would-be date rapist and general scum bag, he understood that it all must have been a bad joke all along. So here’s to you Comedian, I give you: American politics, circa 2009!