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‘I didn’t really say everything I said’

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By Wendy Binnie

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” baseball legend Yogi Berra is credited with saying. This summary of several financial reports is for informational purposes only. It is based on excerpts from broadcasts and speculation from some top banking officials: It has not been documented by or commented on by the treasury or the government.

The financial gurus were still waiting for the other shoe to drop. And for those who complained about the pitiable state of the housing market, “they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” According to one report aired on CBS, the financial gurus told us that if we thought what has happened was bad, we just cannot imagine what’s coming up.

When asked how bad is it, they said that it’s only about half over; the other half, made up of a couple of different kinds of loan arrangements, including ARMs and other higher level loans, have kicked up their interest rates and based on the numbers, it seems that it’s a shoo-in that 50 percent at least of those outstanding mortgages will fail. That tops more than $1 trillion for the ARMs alone, with total new debt probably pushing close to $2 trillion or more that will be added to the already depressing totals of home foreclosures.

The government has also just reported that as of now, more than one in 10 homeowners is at least one month behind in their mortgages; this is the highest level since the records were first kept in the mid 1970s. The only good news was the stock market; so they thought. The gurus thought that the market had already accounted for the bad news and now represented an opportunity to buy American assets on the cheap.

These holidays are shaping up as quite a bit different than those in the past and while people are for the most part going through the motions, happy that a new government is scheduled to take over on Jan. 20, many still are frightened in ways that transcend the good years of the past, and for good reason. Although we believe and hope President-elect Obama will infuse the economy with all kinds of programs, a la President Roosevelt, we don’t know what he will discover when he takes office or whether such a program will actually loosen the purse strings and get the mechanisms for credit negotiations and re-negotiations back into motion.

So far, the Bush attempts have failed.

Banks, once they received their “bailout,” now hold back doing business with those they were supposed to help, and the prospect for increased foreclosures looms large. That’s why most people feel queasy about the future; they don’t know what it holds in these times of economic malaise.

Just look at Christmas spending. The reports tell us that Christmas activity is way down – even with sales of 70 percent off by some of the top retailers. When people decide not to buy with these kinds of sales, you know that these are not average times.

That should not be surprising with word that more than two million jobs may disappear before the beginning of Obama’s term. There is still some question as to whether the big three automakers will survive, with another 2 million jobs at stake. Our president has seen to that with thoughtless, sloppy governance that demonstrated little concern for the middle class or the average wage-earner.

A lesson that has gone down hard for both middle class wage earners and others on fixed incomes who must struggle mightily to balance fuel costs with mortgage payments, health care expenditures with food costs that keep rising to reflect fuel costs, even though fuel costs have reversed themselves.

What do Americans think after the second term of Bush? Well, they know that in eight years, we have gone from full employment to record unemployment; that we have gone from a record surplus to a record deficit. Yet, our leadership continues to practice denial and, in the process, reinvent history.

Part of that retelling involves the mythology that our government saved us by making sure that we were not attacked again. Although that may be reassuring to some, for a government to measure its success by a non-event kind of boggles the mind of most rational people.

There will be books, too, by those who will tell us that we didn’t appreciate what we had or that all of the mistakes that occurred on the Bush watch were somehow due to Clintonian policies or left-wing maneuvering.

And it has always been so.

How would the Republicans survive without the so-called “Left Wing” to blame for everything that goes wrong? Well, they can save themselves that effort. Virtually, 90 percent of the country can’t wait for change; Bush’s ratings are dead in the water; the consensus is that this might eventually set the record for the worst government of all time. But no one should underestimate this regime’s ability to rewrite history.

As most of us prepare for a lean, unknown and unknowable 2009,  we cannot help but wonder how historians will view the MBA in the White House and the man without a heart laboring somewhere down in its innards, and the cabal of special interests they represented – for surely they didn’t represent you or me – who did their best to sabotage democratic government and deprive us of our freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

But they have failed to take into consideration that Americans are resilient and cannot simply be edited out of their revisionist history. No matter how they slice it, however, this is the end of the line for the Bush dynasty and along with it an end to their cronies, the Rumsfelds and the Che- neys and they will never darken our path again.

Uh oh – just heard Jeb’s name mentioned as a possible senator from Florida – “say it ain’t so, Joe!”

… As I was saying …

Wendy England Binnie, a novelist and op-ed columnist, lives in Oak Trace Villas. Contact her at smcnews@earthlink.net.