For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Rob Douglas: Steamboat sails into uncharted waters

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— If you wander down to Citizens Hall in the near future to attend a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, you'll witness what happens when a city and nation drunk on out-of-control spending awaken to the migraine headache of a monumental fiscal hangover.

The imminent manifestation of that headache will be the council trying to stem a looming tide of red ink by tapping reserves, reducing services, reducing personnel - or all three. Steamboat's economic health is in doubt to the degree that if you ask any member of the council what the future portends, you'll most likely get a shrug of the shoulders, because no one knows.

Without a doubt, Steamboat - like all communities in Routt County and across the nation - now is sailing in uncharted economic waters. The only predictable reality is that we will continue to be buffeted by hurricane-force fiscal winds generated by the unintended consequences of the gamble a majority in Washington are playing with this nation's future.

President Barack Obama, following the sorry trail-blazed last fall by former President George W. Bush, has decided the answer to increasing fiscal calamity created by long-term deficit spending and unsound government-forced lending is to "nationalize" our economy while further increasing unsound lending and deficit spending to levels even John Maynard Keynes wouldn't have dared suggest.

In case your dictionary isn't up to date, "nationalize" is the current political term of art for "socialize." There was a time in the distant past - say, last July - that, had our national leaders suggested we convert to socialism, a second revolution would have been in the offing.

Evidently, it's official. We are socialists now, and it happened without a whimper of resistance.

Says who?

Says Newsweek magazine.

The bold headline on the cover this past week screams "WE ARE ALL SOCIALISTS NOW" and is emblazoned over a handshake colored blue and red symbolizing the shared responsibility of Democrats and Republicans in moving this nation from capitalism to socialism.

Convincingly, editor Jon Meacham and reporter Evan Thomas declare that "the U.S. government already has - under a conservative Republican administration - effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art."

While making the sadly credible case that "the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state," and arguing - with unwarranted hope, I fear - that the change will be temporary, they again point to the responsibility and acquiescence of Republicans in the move toward socialism, stating:

"We remain a center-right nation in many ways - particularly culturally, and our instinct, once the crisis passes, will be to try to revert to a more free-market style of capitalism - but it was under a conservative GOP administration that we enacted the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years: prescription drugs for the elderly. People on the right and the left want government to invest in alternative energies in order to break our addiction to foreign oil. And it is unlikely that even the reddest of states will decline federal money for infrastructural improvements."

And, in a statement that arguably sums up the sad paradox of this era in American history, they write: "Bush brought the Age of Reagan to a close; now Obama has gone further, reversing Bill Clinton's end of big government. The story, as always, is complicated. Polls show that Americans don't trust government and still don't want big government. They do, however, want what government delivers, like health care and national defense and, now, protections from banking and housing failure."

Which brings us full circle to Steamboat and the reality that many of our local citizenry suffer from the same paradox. They are perfectly willing to demand more and more of government with one caveat: The burden of paying for those services and benefits must be shifted to someone - anyone - else.

Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately if we care about the debt we as a nation are piling on future generations - Steamboat and our neighboring communities in the Yampa Valley can't just print money backed by staggering levels of IOU's to communist China. So, it will be the unenviable task of our local governments to find relief from local and national binge spending.

To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail Rob.Douglas@Comcast.net

Comments

JusWondering 5 years, 2 months ago

I guess I am too much of a simpleton. Time Magazine (which I do not generally read because of the spin) actually had a pretty good article on our current crisis (link). There is no one person or one party to blame.

Rob Douglas is exactly right. To solve our problem (which really boils down to gluttony) we need to go on a diet. This means really looking at our infrastructure and how we, as a city, county, state and nation spend money. Within the stimulus package (at one time as we have not seen the final bills) there were some pretty good ideas that should not be overlooked. It is too bad that so much of it got bogged down in more administrative control. The concept of investment in healthcare, mass transit and road infrastructure are not bad ideas... ones that we cannot afford to continue to delay.

Healthcare; ours is messed up. I do not care what side you are on all will agree that our current system is flawed. The question is what is the right direction to go... the answer seems to point to some governmental oversight. Socialized medicine. I would argue we are paying for it today. When I go to the doctor and pay my bill I know that there are a couple dollars in there for the deadbeat that can't afford to pay. Why don't we just call it what it is and make it visible.

Mass transit.... why are we the only developed nation that does not have a good commuter rail system. If I could hop on a 150 mph train to get to Denver I would absolutely be commuting there!

Roads and bridges... our infrastructure was designed post WWII... think about that; over 60 years ago. What was our population then? Clearly our current system was not designed for a country of 300 million people.

Wasteful spending - adminstrative BS... since when did it become a "right" to work for an organization for 25 years and retire at 75% of your pre-retirement pay? We can't afford it. Unions; they had their time when employees were forced to work 14 hour days seven days a week. The time is gone. Kill them; they are costing us all too much money!

Credit - we all use it way too much. Tighten the supply. It is all right for me to have to save for a few years for something... it becomes far less disposable.

Real estate - homes should not be considered disposable. I can remember my parents having six children in a 1,800 sq ft home. We didn't have a guest room and we shared bedrooms; we were always glad when someone graduated from high school. I have two children in a 4,500 sq ft home; I am as much to blame as anyone.

Perhaps if we got our priorities in alignment and do some personal belt tightening like our City is doing then some socialization of programs that government CAN do a good job of managing is not a bad thing.

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ybul 5 years, 2 months ago

--further increasing unsound lending and deficit spending to levels even John Maynard Keynes wouldn't have dared suggest." - Why would you think that? --

JMK's ideas may not be all they are cut out to be. If a theoretical world where those governing can turn on and off a switch, when desired, to pump stimulus into the economy and SAVE for that rainy day when times are good does not happen in the real world. (they have simply put us further in debt to stimulate the economy or some social program)

Also, I do not think the republicans believe that things are good. The problem with their idea of a tax cut, is that the money given the government debt, no tax cuts should be contemplated as receipts are declining also.

As opposed to building roads to facilitate trade the government should have focused on jobs which are sustainable. Roads will need rebuilt in 20 years and DO NOT add wealth to any products, they simply make it easier for Wal Mart to bring in goods from China.

As for FDR, having caused the depression, NO ONE says that. The statement could be made that his actions may have delayed getting out of the depression as that occurred with WWII and then policy makers falsely believed that we needed a military based economy to keep us out of them in the future.

Much like today when the government is trying to prop up asset values, investors might sit on the sidelines and not invest in new business opportunities until values come down to a level where the risk reward ratio work again. I know that is in my mind today.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

The history of the comment "We are all socialists now" was from the bailouts of Wall St by the Bush administration in the week following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the government assisted purchase of Merrill Lynch by BofA and the AIG rescue.

It was a comment on the new reality that Wall St, in order to not be bankrupt, was now significantly owned by the government. Absolutely no one wanted that to happen. Not even the socialists because those sort of investment banking companies are not needed in a socialist state.

"further increasing unsound lending and deficit spending to levels even John Maynard Keynes wouldn't have dared suggest." - Why would you think that? Look at size of the economy, size of the economic collapse in which $1 trillion was lost in the big financial institutions and another $5 trillion and counting was lost by American homeowners then there is little reason to believe JMK would have had troubles with the size of the stimulus package. He probably would have had issues with how much of it was in tax cuts and would rather have had (wasteful) make work jobs to get money into the hands of people that really needed it.

The key for the Obama administration is when the economy recovers if they will be able to control deficits. We don't know that yet. If the Republicans continue on their course of acting like "the economy is strong" or that it'll recover by itself or that FDR caused the Great Depression then the Democrats might have 63 senators after the 2010 elections and that would make it that much harder to have financial restraint.

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popcan 5 years, 2 months ago

Rob ... Your article is correct. I have been doing my homework for sometime with the economy and the democratic party is having a hay day destroying our capitalistic society along with all the uninformed citizens that don't have a clue what capitalism is all about. I can't understand why people keep saying that this is a George Bush problem ... How one person could put this country in a downward spiral. It sounds more like a democratic congress and senate to me running the show this last few years. But to wrap up, well see how the citizens will be enjoying our current administration by next November. Maybe Bush and crew will be the gold platter compared to what we have now.

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JLM 5 years, 2 months ago

Are you a socialist? You personally? Well, of course not. These labels are nonsense and really don't have the political significance that they otherwise might have. If I voted for Obama does that make me a Democrat?

Eisenhower, who was a very, very accomplished executive having served under both MacArthur and Marshall and having run the European theatre in WWII, been President of Columbia University and having been the NATO commander. He knew how to frame decisions (what are all of the alternatives? all of them?), he made his staff complete their work and work out all of the details of each and every possibility and then HE had the balls to make a damn decision based upon fact, risk and probability. When he said go on D-Day, he took responsibility for its potential failure and when the Allies achieved tactical surprise because of Eisenhower's decisive manner, the landings were successful.

When Eisenhower was President he got us out of Korea and then BALANCED 8 straight budgets while building the Nation's nuclear arsenal. The SOB knew what he was doing because he was an experienced executive and he drove the decision making by ensuring he had all of the facts.

Why did we have balanced budgets? Because the President said to make it so and Ike was not a guy who you said "NO" to.

Today we are in the tyranny of the shadow of the unknown. We are afraid. Let's be honest with ourselves, we don't really know if anybody really knows what they are doing.

We have gotten a President Obama because of a "perfect storm" --- lousy Bush administration, troubled times, lousy Republican candidate, superb technologically run campaign and a hell of a handsome, photogenic, articulate candidate with an historic appeal. Oh, yeah, "hope" and "change" --- the heroin of the uninformed electorate.

Hell, these guys can't even figure out Turbo Tax or how to pay their nanny's SS. Tim Geithner, the guy who was so indispensable that he got a free pass on taxes, scares the crap out of me.

This is the highwater mark of the Democratic party and President Barack Obama unless this Stimulus plan works like a freakin' charm. And, it is not bloody likely to do just that. So enjoy it while it lasts.

Neither the Senate nor the House even has had an opportunity to READ the damn thing! Sheesh!

What is true is that we are making hasty, potentially very silly decisions based upon inadequate information because we are afraid. This is why experience is truly so important.

Good luck and Godspeed to all!

What do you think Eisenhower would think of this mess?

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JusWondering 5 years, 2 months ago

Scott, adopting the Euro-rail model is not such a bad thing. Steamboat would be one of perhaps two stops between Denver and Salt Lake. Can you imagine a four hour train ride to SLC versus an 8 hour drive from Denver?

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 2 months ago

I pray that there will never be high speed rail in this valley because for it to be viable requires a large population and it'd be tragic if 250K people lived in this area.

Rail only makes sense when there is so much congestion that rail is much faster than driving on the road. If the roads are not hopelessly congested then buses are far more economical and efficient.

Better roads save lives and a better graded road will have fewer turns and less sharp turns so less braking and better fuel efficiency for cars driving the roads.

This area should try to get county rd 14 to Stagecoach redone and 131 in OC canyon. Those roads have plenty of accidents and it is unfortunate that apparently there has to be fatalities before those needed projects get started.

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JLM 5 years, 2 months ago

Remember this:

When the Republicans had been humiliated at the polls, beaten like a red-headed step child, were relegated to "back bencher" status, unable to find a leader, unable to find a unifying theme, fighting among themselves, torn asunder by the failures of the Bush administration --- one leader emerged to provide them a rallying cry, rearmed their sense of purpose, gave them back their manhood, united them with a governing philosophy and call to action.

Who was that leader? Who?

NANCY PELOSI

Nancy Pelosi has provided the political Viagra which the Republicans needed! LOL

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trafficman 5 years, 2 months ago

Those who think high speed rail is a viable option between Denver and SLC must have been smoking all the medical marijuana being grown in Steamboat. The cost to upgrade track alignment to support high speed operations would be astronomical and the operating costs staggering. The NE Corridor is the most heavily used rail corridor in the U.S., operating on virtually flat land and serving the most densely populated areas of the country and it requires tremendous subsidies. It is not even feasible to consider implementing high speed rail through such sparse population and rugged terrain.

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JusWondering 5 years, 2 months ago

Wow trafficman such hostility. You know absolutely nothing about me, my background or my recreational habits to make such comments.

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housepoor 5 years, 2 months ago

tele I have to agree. Regardless if you voted for him or not you have to admit that the lack of concernattention Bush paid to his position and this Country in is last 6 months was shameful. He was MIA and without Chenney in his ear.....simply clueless

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 2 months ago

tele-house Heres a tip, watch MSNBC, it will send a thrill up your legs.

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JLM 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't think that any reasonable person blames President Obama for the economic problems. There is certainly enough greed, self interest, ignorance and lack of oversight to go around during this entire period.

It all started long before Bush got into the White House and he diligently attempted in 2003 to clamp down on the flow of subprime mortgages (mortgages in which the borrower's credit was below the historic underwriting standards of "conforming" (e.g. FHA or VA) mortgages) being purchased by or being otherwise funded by the GSEs (Fannie & Freddie).

Alan Greenspan, married to none other than Andrea Mitchell of NBC, was appointed to the Fed Res by Ronald Reagan and served both Republican and Democratic Presidents though the Fed Res Chairman has a huge amount of autonomy. He has said for a number of years that the collateralized debt obligation or CDO (the product of residential mortgage securitization) was an inadequately regulated market which attempted to convert segments (tranches) of otherwise less than investment grade debt obligations into tranches of debt of which the top tranche could be rated as high as AAA. This was financial alchemy.

The equivalent of making chicken salad from chicken excrement. The greed on Wall Street and the appetite overseas for "American" based product made this scheme blossom. And then the WS firms said they wanted a piece of their own action and leveraged it 40:1.

While there are a number of villains (Barney Frank and his boyfriend, Chris Dodd, Chris Cox), it is difficult to lay the blame at the foot of a particular political persuasion. As much as I would like to blame it on a particular party for the cheap thrill of a bit of partisan namecalling, the simple fact of the matter is that most of the villains were singularly dopey or vain or imprudent. As much as I think Barney Frank is an idiot, I cannot in good conscience blame his Democratic colleagues simply because he happened to be a Democrat. He was an idiot long before he was a Democrat.

Chris Cox, a former Republican Congressman, did a very, very poor job of running the SEC and allowed disasterous "naked short selling" as well as short selling, repealed the uptick rule and the explosion of derivatives without adequate regulation or capitalization. He did not do this in support of Republican governance objectives because most of WS has a tendency to swing Democratic. He was a dope before he was a Republican. Funny thing is that he was pretty damn tough on regulation otherwise pursuing a number of particularly punitive high profile cases (e.g. Martha Stewart which was just nonsense and should have been handled by a fine and public whipping).

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ybul 5 years, 2 months ago

tele,

It was during the Clinton administration that much of the banking deregulation occurred.  Bill signed a law at the 11th hour to make regulation of the Credit default swaps difficult.

Who is blaming Obama for the current mess.  It is a mess so grand that no one part or person could have created it.  Though it was largely created by the banking industry, that is getting the majority of the free money being passed out, to keep them afloat while their Credit default swaps blow up and the wealthy (the prince of Saudi Arabia) can take home more of the US taxpayer money.

 As opposed to thinking that the federal government is going to do something, maybe we should be thinking globally and acting locally (finding ways to put local people back to work).
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