Friday, September 26, 2008
Disasters help people see clearly.
Even if only for a moment, people always cling swiftly and surely to what they value most just as the proverbial shit hits the fan.
Two very different disasters struck last week, one in my country and the other in my adopted country. I've come to better understand the character of the people involved as a result.
Last weekend there were several political rallies here in Budapest. The most publicized event was held by the Hungarian Democratic Charta. It was held almost in concert with a demonstration of several Roma organizations. Those rallies were held to protest against the menacing rise in influence of the far-right here in Hungary.
Far-right extremists held a counter-protest which allegedly threatened the safety of people leaving the Hungarian Democratic Charta rally. The counter-protest led to a violent clash with the police. Petrol bombs and cobblestones versus riot gear and tear gas. Property was damaged. Police and citizens were injured.
Since the anti-government protests of 2006, the extreme right has been gaining political traction - slowly perhaps - but such progress is alarming nonetheless. The ideology of the far-right in Hungary is not something many Americans would recognize as a legitimate part of political discourse. Many of the far-right protesters arrive at rallies wearing swastikas or other symbols harkening back to the days of fascism. At the protest last week, anti-Semitic chants were interspersed among the anti-government chants. The far-right is proudly racist, hating both the Jewish population and the Roma population with equal vigor. And the violent enthusiasm with which they threw themselves into last week's protest shed some light on what they're all about.
The far-right here in Hungary is cornered, threatened, and frightened. They are lashing out at anything that resembles a threat to their twisted anachronistic values, and they are doing so with the strength of an animal in its final throes.
I would normally think this was a positive sign, but I know a cornered animal is dangerous. And I thought fascism went through its final throes last century.
I am happy the left came out to protest the influence of the far-right. In a country of very reserved people that is progress, but I think it is time for more unified action against such extremism. Fidesz is the mainstream party on the right, and they will certainly win the next Parliamentary elections. They have no need for the votes of extremists. So now is the time to put that dying animal out of its misery. Now is the time for Fidesz to condemn the extremists outright... But where are the Party's leaders? No one can say. What are those leaders saying when they fail to condemn violent racist behavior?
Speaking of party leaders, what the hell is Congress doing about the impending financial disaster? The Republicans can't govern their own, and the Democrats seem to have forgotten they have the majority.
What I've learned about America's political leaders from this disaster is making Hungary look pretty good right now. It seems the panic in D.C. is going to cost Americans even more than the past decade of incompetence.
Let me try and sort this out. For all the politicians who read my blog (none), here's my advice:
Republicans: You have failed. Your fiscal policy has led to a disaster of epic proportions, and the solution is going to run counter to your core principles. So sit back and watch the Democrats make the painful choices needed to put this right again. Oh, and by the way, thanks a lot.
Democrats: You do not have to accept the Administration's Bailout Plan. If you do and people don't like it, the Republicans are going to pin the blame on you. You are the ruling party in terms of legislation. Draw up a plan that illustrates your party's commitment to the middle class.
Here's the plan:
1) Be realistic. Make it a trillion dollars.
2) Buy up the bad mortgages and re-write them, helping %80-%90 of at-risk Americans keep their homes (primary residences only).
3) Extend lifelines to troubled banks on the following conditions:
a) loans are paid back with interest, or if the bank becomes profitable again taxpayers get a percentage of that profit (whatever benefits the taxpayer more)
b) cap executive salaries for three years, but give a substantial loyalty bonus to execs who weather the storm (we need talent now more than ever)
c) Until the loans are paid, banks that receive aid must give monthly reports to a panel of financial experts appointed by a bi-partisan committee, this panel then offers recommendations to the committee which may exercise control of the bank
4) Establish a regulatory apparatus capable of overseeing the financial sector that emerges after this crisis passes
5) Use remaining funds to give a cash infusion into sectors that have been neglected while the housing market was being inflated artificially.
That should do it. Any questions.
Now playing: OK Go - It's a Disaster
Posted by Hogan