Saturday, September 20, 2008

Markets Schmarkets

I write this post over the drone of chainsaws and big chipper machines which have been steadily at work since Monday. As I mentioned previously, Ohio was slammed by the tail-end of Hurricane Ike (how bitterly ironic: here I am 600 miles from an ocean and yet still being slammed by hurricanes!). The result was a major disaster. By anyone's best guess, over 1 million Ohioans lost power. Some were dark for only a day or two; over 100,000 are still without power today. Schools were closed, in some places water emergencies were declared; food was in short supply in others.

And as far as I can tell, most of the country didn't hear about this. And that's fair enough - bigger stories to report. How often do world financial markets meltdown almost completely, after all??!!

So let me put these two things together in a crassly political way: You didn't hear much about our troubles, and at the same time, we didn't hear much about the market meltdown. Some local Ohio papers in small and mid-markets couldn't even publish on Monday or Tues; they didn't get around to putting the market news on the front page until Friday. And that's fair enough too, given all the chaos in Dayton, Columbus and points in between.

But as a result, the biggest crisis of this election cycle happened without Ohio noticing it much. By the time the sawdust settles, so too will this particular phase of our economic crisis. The story will be spun that the Fed intervened, Bush called for a bailout to rescue the market, and all will now be right with the world. Until the next bank needs a bailout, which may or may not happen by November. Even had the story not had to compete with the weather, news of Wall Street's collapse was liable to feel very remote to voters in Ohio. As it is, the worst week in recent American financial history will hardly register I suspect.

In other words, McSame and the Republicans dodged a major bullet in Ohio. Rather than focusing on the failure of Republican economics, and on McSame's staunch resistance to regulating the financial sector, Ohioans had to focus on their spoiling food and their neighbors who needed help. Rather than putting this economic disaster front and center, the Ohio media put local news on center stage.

If this election really is like 1992 when it was the economy, stupid, then the Obama campaign had a real opportunity blown away by Ike's 75mph winds.

4 comments:

Bob Kowalski said...

I don't know Steve, I think some Ohioans heard the bad news. I can personally state that in Columbus, the local TV stations didn't even bother to report the financial news, but the newspapers did try. And you have to give people some credit in that a large number of the population does use the internet for news.

The Ohio Republicans are the ones who caught a break: The sorry condition of the state treasury that they left us is not getting the attention it deserves.

kathy a. said...

this financial story is not going to be one week. unfortunately.

and ohioans would be forgiven for asking some fair questions -- where is the bailout for us? texas makes the news. collapsing financial institutions get the support. why isn't anyone paying attention to us?

Steve Conn said...

Bob,

Speaking only personally, my internet was down along with everything else. And our town library was closed for four days.

You are quite right about the state treasury - in that sense, Ohio will prove a foreshadowing of Washington once Bush/Cheney leave. Republicans will ride off into the sunset leaving the rest of us with the largest credit card bill in history.

And Kathy, you are certainly right that Ohioans ought to be asking those questions - my concern is that because of the timing of events, the period of anger at the financial bailout will have passed.

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