Saturday, June 28, 2008


Last weekend I was at a gathering of poets for a Board Meeting of a local poetry circle. We were discussing what to do about some stock that the group was recently given, whose price has been dropping rather dramatically over the last few months.

All of these people are liberals.

Most of them are upper-middle class. Most of them are retired.

When one member said, "I think we'll see a change in November, an increased optimism," I knew he fully expected Obama Barack to be elected as the next President.

When one member talked about the "recession we're in," I pointed out that, by definition, we're not.

"You don't think we are?" he asked, surprised.

Not wishing to get into a big debate about it, I shrugged it off.

How can these otherwise intelligent people see that, overall, life is actually pretty good? Home prices are down, but many of those prices were overinflated. Teachers and police officers and firefighters can now afford to buy homes in the communities where they work. Isn't that a good thing? Home ownership is the highest it has ever been and 94% of mortgage holders are not in default and not late with their payments. Unemployment is still historically low (although I've now got two brothers looking for jobs).

Yes, gas and oil is expensive. But, if you factor in inflation, the price of gasoline should be around $3.00/gallon anyway. Last year, gasoline was actually cheaper than it was during the 1970's.

Does anyone remember the '70's? I graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1975 with a degree in biology and I was competing with Ph.D candidates from Stanford for lab jobs that were basically washing dishes. Oil prices were all over the place and changing daily. We had odd/even rationing with stern warnings "not to top off" our tanks. But we did anyway because the gas station may have run out by the time our day came. Home mortgages were 13-14% and many experts predicted the days of single-digit rates was over.

Does this economy look anything like that?

Iraq seems to be stabilizing, North Korea--under pressure from China--may be coming to its senses, plots by terrorists to play havoc in Europe seem to be discovered every day, fortunately before they are carried out.

There are many reasons to be optimistic now. Why wait until November? And why would the election of a man who has limited experience (Caroline, take note: even your father had more legislative experience than Mr. Obama) and whose philosophies and friendships change with the polls (did he study at the feet of Bill?) bring optimism? I haven't been impressed by the knowledge, skill, or finesse of his advisors now--I should be optimistic about his potential Cabinet appointments? He guessed wrong on the constitutionality of the D.C. gun ban law--and he's going to appoint judges?

The worrisome part is these fellow poets mean well. They really, truly want a Utopian Society, where there is no strife, no want, no disease. Ironically, without challenges there would be no poetry, no art. They don't seem to recognize that. But it seems so self-evident to me that I'm not sure how I can (if I can) change their point of view.