Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Candidates Begging at the MAX, Bloated Pension Promises, and More of the Same from the FED…

11/3/2010 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…
Today Ben Bernanke and his band are completing their sound checks and preparing to sing the tune that the markets are waiting to hear.  It is a classic tune (debauching the currency is as old as the concept of currency itself) that the FED is simply performing a modern version of to the tune of $1 Trillion dollars .  As we wait for Ben to sing and for the election results to roll in, the markets are calm so we will satisfy ourselves today with a personal anecdote, the significance of which we are still pondering.
As you may or may not know, Portland has a public transit system that is the envy of much of the US.  Due to a little old fashioned foresight and out of the box thinking and "redirection" of federal highway dollars (which took place long before we pitched our tent here), we enjoy transit amenities on the scale of much larger cities with technology that may rival any city in the world.  Whether or not the public can afford it is another story.  Trimet, the organization in charge of the system, allows employees to retire after 10 years with full health benefits for the employee and their family.  At last count, benefit costs were higher than the wages paid to existing employees.  Something has to give.
 But we are getting off the subject.  Now your author rides the train into Portland nearly every weekday.  Yesterday, as we were walking towards the station, we were greeted by an aspiring politician, someone running to represent Oregon in the Senate, at the top of the stairway leading down to the train platform.  Through the 6:30am fog, both literal and mental, we were able to make out that it was really the candidate in flesh and blood and not a cardboard cutout.  However, we were too shocked to give a proper greeting and hurried down the stairs to catch the train.  Apparently we were not alone as we watched any number of our fellow commuters cruise down the stairs on autopilot without so much as noticing the man whose party had certainly spent millions of dollars to assure that he is recognized and who, if elected, would influence the flow of literally billions of dollars of Federal expenditures.  Why were we so indifferent to his presence?  The thought troubled us.
Today, we awoke to a heavier literal fog but this time with our wits about us.  Upon arrival at the train station, we noticed a number of media vehicles parked where, for mere mortals, parking is not permitted.  What was going on?  Has a terrible accident just occurred?  As we approached, the answer became apparent.  A terrible accident was in fact in progress and the media was right on top of it.  As I approached I saw that the cameras and microphones were trained on a Candidate for Oregon's Governorship, a man who has held the post before and allegedly left the citizens of Oregon much worse for the wear.  The reporters were eager to hear how he felt now that the polls show him behind his opponent (a former NBA player who's platform includes free Trailblazers season tickets and, if elected, will probably need to remodel the Governor's mansion to occupy it).  We didn't hear what the Candidate answered those eager for anything worth printing, but we die notice that our fellow commuters raced on by, ambivalent to what the man had to say or offer in his defense.
Does this guy want my vote or my train ticket?  Your author thought to himself in the early morning haze.
Why would this man, who apparently grossly mismanaged the State of Oregon in his first attempt, make a second attempt?  To finish it off?  What party would give him that chance?  More vexing, why would an Ex-NBA player want to leave what is certainly a comfortable retirement to be blamed for every problem in the State?  These questions troubled us as well but again there was the underlying agitation of the day before, Why were we so indifferent?
I truly don't think that I or my fellow commuters intentionally ignored these men of great stature who are striving for office.  Rather, after further reflection, I believe that it is because these Candidates, who hope to occupy the highest seats in the land, were unwittingly occupying the place at the top of the stairs leading down to the train platform normally occupied by a young person begging for change or a ticket to get on the train.  Given Oregon's current situation, you may excuse my fellow commuters and I for not noticing the difference.
Stay Fresh!