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COMMENTARY:

Thinking about Accelerations

by Fred Cederholm

We are witnessing quantum changes in almost every aspect of our lives (or should be). Is this good, or bad? The logical answer to such a rhetorical question is “that depends.”

I’ve been thinking about accelerations. Actually I’ve been thinking about time and progress, Afghanistan, banking interventions, the equity (stock) markets, health care reform, and the Obama administration. We are witnessing quantum changes in almost every aspect of our lives (or should be). Is this good, or bad? The logical answer to such a rhetorical question is “that depends.” As I look at the things in our world, I am finding that the more “changes occurring,” the fewer real changes in real life.

You see last summer I basically took a hiatus from everything. With open heart surgery for valve repair, a potentially terminal infection, a 2nd “re”-re-corrective surgery, and two months of multiple IVs of antibiotics a day to terminate the “bug” which had infected me; I really don’t remember day to day details, or events. Such induced amnesia was probably a very good thing. I’d normally spend a couple of hours a day reading and on-line to follow global, national, and local events to get the news and subject matter for my weekly column. THAT did not occur for June, July, or August. In recent weeks I’ve been studying the events of the summer of 2009 to fill in the blanks. The immortal words of Shakespeare summed things up pretty well – It was a time “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Macbeth.) While much was happening, nothing was really progressing to the resolution of anything. Such a trend of speedy “nothingness” continued in September and October, and I don’t see changes on the horizon.

Afghanistan is THE current hot spot. We are floundering there. Obama identified this land of perennially warring lords and factions as the focus of his foreign policy. He was opposed to nation building and yet THAT seems our only objective/goal. We in the US define “more” as being better. The only “mores” we are seeing is in the deaths of our service men and women, and endless costs. Election fraud was so great within the first election there that Karzai’s opposition withdrew from a coming 2nd election. Obama has been asked to increase our troops there by some 40,000. All summer and fall, he has delayed such a deployment while he re-TH*NKS our policy there – whatever that policy is???

Last Friday saw 9 bank interventions (takeovers of insolvent financial institutions). Such actions were the largest number for any week in all of 2009. This brought the number of Federal assumptions to 115. We are told how the recession/depression has turned around, yet unemployment continues to rise and the FDIC resolution fund equity is negative with more and more banks going down. One institution in this most recent grouping of failures really hit me --- and it hit me hard.

FBOP (First Bank of Oak Park in Illinois) was near where I lived in the 1980s. It was a fine, stand alone, privately owned institution. It had total assets of about $125 million in the early 1990s. In less than 20 years it grew to $19.4 BILLION of total assets. This is a 155.2 fold increase! It went from a solvent stand alone community bank to an insolvent behemoth in just less than two decades. How many of its 28 bank acquisitions were pushed thru by Fed Regulators to clean up insolvent banks in Illinois, California, and Texas? Such a policy was also deployed by my former employer (the RTC) on Savings and Loans. This only accomplishes much in fanfare; but in reality, signifies nothing in permanence.

The close of the equity (stock) markets on Friday marked the end of a truly downer week for most of the global exchanges. Last Friday was also the 80th anniversary of “Black Tuesday,” the market crash in 1929. It also heralded a return to stock pricing levels of one year ago. (That is... twelve months later and the markets had not budged an inch.) Several world market exchanges even returned to levels of 18 months ago. Is this yet another case of “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”? Humm...

The (un-)insured disaster that characterizes health care in the United States has been dubbed THE major “must fix” objective of both Obama’s Administration and the 111th Congress. Last week saw the introduction of a 1,990 page bit of legislation dubbed “Affordable Health Care for America Act” by the US House of Representatives. The 1,990 page description does not do this Act justice. By converting the downloaded PDF document to MS Word; it becomes 1,593 pages, 445,214 words, and 2,596,459 keystrokes. Bulk alone makes the Act one for the record books – or if you can’t dazzle ‘em, baffle ‘em!

I’ve only started reading this gross legislation by the pound. I’m certain it was only read by the lawyers and lobbyists for the respective health care interests who actually wrote it in the first place. 10% into it and I’m not one bit impressed. This, too, fits Shakespeare’s Macbeth description: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Senate will undoubtedly come up with its own version, but I don’t see much hope for any improvement.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.




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This story was published on November 2, 2009.