Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Image And Substance

There was plenty of news from the Olympics yesterday, including gold medals for our women's gymnastics team, and more medals from the pool - including the all-time record for most medals, now held by Michael Phelps. As we noted Monday, NBC's public image goose has already been cooked, due to how they've handled the live coverage of the games, as well as how they've handled criticism by other journalists.

In short, NBC fell on their collective faces - hard. Even if they get back up and win a medal for quality Olympics television production - which we have no doubt they can do - their initial failures and attitude problems will be the enduring image of NBC that will stick with many Americans when they think of these games.

NBC isn't the only one having a problem focusing on the difference between image and substance, however.

For example, that "old" problem of the housing and real estate market that we never seem to hear about in the media any more? That problem was never solved. Yet some analysts are cheering what they call solid signs that the real estate and housing industries have reached bottom and are growing again - like home prices rising for the fourth month in a row.

Many Americans who aren't financial analysts also believe the growing image those analysts are attempting to paint, that the worst parts of America's housing and real estate collapse are mostly behind us. In fact, that image could have come far closer to matching reality if Ed DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency hadn't tripped up the Treasury Department and Secretary Geithner on Tuesday.

For much of the last three years, most sane economists have agreed that the big Wall Street banks - along with the guarantee companies that hold up those troubled banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - should be allowed to reduce principle loan balances for some lenders, while the banks would take temporary losses.

The informed opinions of those expert economists don't seem to matter to DeMarco, who refused Secretary Geithner's request - and also refused to abide by the HAMP law passed by Congress and signed by the President. Instead DeMarco told the Senate that the FHFA would not be following the HAMP law, and would not give any debt relief to homeowners, as the HAMP law directs him to. That kind of destructive action could blow away any small positive image the housing and real estate markets have gained in the last three years.

There are many examples lately of those more concerned with image - like the Romney campaign, who recently came out against tax credits for wind power, because of the support of their coal and oil benefactors, like the Koch Brothers.

Then there are those concerned with substance, like the thousands of Iowans who depend on the growing wind power industry for manufacturing and power management jobs. Wind energy continues to be getting cheaper and more profitable, while coal power is getting more expensive and less profitable. Additionally, as the massive energy blackouts in India have proven this week, every nation needs as much energy as it can produce.

These three stories are perfect examples of the difference between image and substance.

One keeps you in the light. One puts you in the dark.
One lifts a burden from all of us. One makes keeping ownership of our homes more difficult for everyone.
One is about not seeing Olympic moments live. More than 600 million residents of India don't even have electricity right now.

When we look at the substance of it, a seven hour delay on televised Olympic coverage doesn't seem all that bad, now, does it?

No comments:

Post a Comment