Monday, March 31, 2008

Oprah: Suze on financial crisis; New Earth Web Event

Today (March 31, 2008), Oprah had financial expert Suze Orman back on again, this time to give the audience a pep talk on how to handle the financial downturn.

I had reviewed Suze’s book on Feb. 14, here, during the “freebie” period for the book on Oprah. Suze was also on Oprah Feb. 13 (review).

Suze has a pretty lucid explanation for the current financial crisis. In 2002, as she explains, President Bush wanted to make it easier for minorities to become homeowners. The political incentive to do so may be apparent, but it’s dangerous to encourage people to go into debt for more than what they can earn. Regulation was eased, and Wall Street was encouraged to “securitize” the mortgage debt of buyers who often could not have qualified in a conventional way. (Why the usual mechanisms of FHA and Fannie Mae weren’t enough, I wonder.) Since banks were insulated from consumer defaults, Wall Street bore the risk, and big investment banks like Bear Stearns could come into risk if creditors made a run on them with “margin calls.”

Suze also blames consumers for wanting something for nothing, and for over investment in material possessions as compared to relations with other people and with their own inner selves. Suze and Oprah hint at some kind of balance between self-interest and caring for others that is always hard to pin down, but the latter obviously has moral importance. A recession, Suze says, is like the normal contraction of the lungs in breathing: you inhale, you exhale. But we did some of this to ourselves.

The program interviewed a couple of distressed consumers. Then Suze pointed out that the current Fed actions would hurt small savers or retirees on fixed incomes because the Fed had to artificially lower interest rates, encouraging inflation for commodities and necessities. She suggested savers invest in certain dividend-paying stocks. She also advocated dollar-cost averaging. (Others say there are desirable rations of stocks and bonds in investing; a ratio that decreases with age, but 75% stocks is typical.)

Oprah went on to summarize the latest episode of The Big Give (which went against the HBO “John Adams Part IV”). This time the contestants had to gumshoe and hunt down families in need in Atlanta and do grunt work, helping them out in person with chores, as well as with raising money. One of the families had just had a death. There are four contestants left, and next week Donald Trump will be on the show.

Suze Orman also appeared on NBC's "World News Tonight" on March 31 to discuss personal financial advice briefly.

This week, I tried the Oprah’s New Earth Web Event, which is now in Week 5. It required downloading a new media player, “Move Media”. The Event overlayed Oprah’s site, and access to the rest of the site was suppressed during the Event. I don’t know why this was necessary; why not put it on another domain with a link. Maybe she wants to force people to try the event. The guest speaker was Eckhart Tolle. Attendees can queue up to ask questions (I don’t know if they need a webcam in order to be seen.) The show also showed a real "class" at a Borders store in Chicago.

There was discussion of the concept of “pain body.” Some movies and shows recreate or feed the “pain body” by playing out fantasies. Artists sometimes believe that they need to be in touch with a "pain body" in order to have something to say. A screenwriter from Copenhagen called in to question this idea. A film that provides interpretation of an event rather than just exploiting the “pain” doesn’t raise this objection. It’s possible for people to want to demand atonement from others who have caused pain when those others may have had no consciousness of the pain they were causing. (Of course, recreating the incident to teach others could be a kind of atonement that is constructive, as compared to revenge.) Oprah and Tolle mentioned Senator Barack Obama ‘s idea of “communal pain body,” as to how the wealth of America (particularly the South) was based on slave labor of African Americans, and the question as to whether non-blacks have any moral responsibility for this today. But to obsess on that would be counter-productive. They also discussed "worry" as an obsessive-compulsive pattern that makes thoughts omnipotent for their own sake. Some of this show reminded me of an East Village Ninth Street Center talk group from the 1970s. The voyeuristic enjoyment of someone else's "pain body" is what Paul Rosenfels would have called sadism, and a typical "psychological defense" for the "feminine personality."

Also, last week, Oprah had a couple of shows on household “pack rats”. The show suggested that giving up “stuff” was a way to accept living in a community with other people.

Update: April 3

Today Oprah did an interview with the world's first "pregnant man" and his wife. He was inseminated after a partial sex change from female to male, and is legally married to a woman as a heterosexual man in Oregon. Link is here. It's interesting to check out the PBS Nature film "Secret Life of Seahorses," here. The Oprah story surprises us because with mammals, the female always carries the young. In some fish, such as the seahorse, the male can carry the eggs after fertilization.

There is a site that refers to "women in the Bible."


Anonymous said...

Bush's intention may have been to give "minorities" the opportunity to get cheap loans, but I suspect it was more about all people in a certain economic strata, not just minorities.

Orman went out of her way to say that it was minorities who took the loans and who are in trouble. I bet if I checked the demographics of folks who have defaulted on their mortgates, I'd see plenty of white people, and people across all economic classes. I think it was either really, really stupid to say it that way, or it was just plain racist. Oprah looked dumbfounded, but you wouldn't expect her to have a comment, or to clarify. She's not that smart.

Bill Boushka said...

Concur. I think this is more a matter of economic class than "minority status." Suze's comment left herself open to misinterpretation. Perhaps she will restate this more clearly on another program.