Reading Response 2 / Ali Pflaumer

Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? elaborates on the use of humor as a mechanism for political influence. The reading points out that jokes are both cheap and viral; a good joke is funny whether you agree with it or not, and all it takes to produce said joke is your own mind. The use of jokes as political commentary has been around for centuries, but the popularity of internet-based communication has made this humor inescapable. Cracking jokes has always been a universal capability, and the creation of memes is no exception. You no longer need to be a designer to come up with a political cartoon that hundreds of people will see–websites now generate memes using the standard top/bottom text formula, making their creation accessible to everyone.

This video by Vox (“Comedians have figured out the trick to covering Trump”) brings up a different point on the topic of humor+politics: “comedians are doing a really good job of covering Trump…sometimes better than serious news networks.” Carlos Maza discusses how political satire’s “low tolerance for bullshit” is leading political comedians to look more critically at government actions than major news networks do, who are accustomed to taking political events at face value. These news networks constantly air unproductive debates about hypothetical situations, which makes watchers feel less able to figure out the truth. On the other hand, satire trains your brain to think critically about what politicians are saying. Lastly, he mentions how news networks are hung up on showing all sides of an argument, while satirists are concerned with showing the truth (an integrity I think we all want to bring to this project). While this video obviously has some bias to it, I think the ideas it brings up are important things to keep in mind as we continue crafting our exhibition proposal.

An interview with News Literacy Project president Alan Miller conducted  by the Wall Street Journal (“When Does Political Satire Go Too Far”) delves into the benefits of using political satire to educate an audience on a normally confusing or mundane topic. They also touch on when satire can get offensive when put in the wrong hands, and the history of political satire. Miller considers political satire a measure of the health of a democracy.

Secondary Research, 10 Years Later / Ali Pflaumer

The Financial Crisis 5 Years Later: Response, Reform, and Progress

This data-filled PDF created by the US Department of the Treasury recaps the government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis 5 years after it took place through a brief history of the financial crisis, the government’s crisis response, its reforms to Wall Street and protecting Main Street, and the progress and cost of these actions.

DATA:

  • Household wealth has grown since the recession, but has further to go before reaching pre-crisis levels:
  • $432 Million: Amount of money refunded as a result of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforcement actions to consumers who had been subjected to deceptive practices.
  • 2 Million: Number of households for which nonbanks originated mortgage loans in 2011 and which are now subject to federal supervision for the first time.

THESIS:
The government’s quick reaction (with legislation being passed within a month of the collapse) was critical to the recovery of the American economy. With the new regulations put in place, Wall Street’s risky practices are being monitored and shut down to prevent history from repeating itself.

2008 Financial Crisis Impact Still Hurting States

This 2013 article by USA Today, written by Jake Grovum, Stateline Staff Writer, recounts the events that lead to the financial crisis of 2008, and details the slow recovery of the American Economy. The article focuses on housing, jobs, state spending, and the public workforce. 

DATA:

  • By one Federal Reserve estimate, the country lost almost an entire year’s worth of economic activity – nearly $14 trillion – during the recession from 2007 to 2009.
  • In the second quarter of 2013, the U.S. homeownership rate was 65.1%, according to Census Bureau data, the lowest since 1995. In the mid-2000s, it topped 69%, capping a steady pace of growth that began after the early 1990s recession.
  • Homeownership rates among people with children under 18 fell sharply during the recession, declining 15% between 2005 and 2011, according to Census Bureau data. In Cincinnati, the homeownership rate is currently 38.5%, according to the US Census Bureau.

Thesis:
While there has been an improvement to the state of the American economy since the 2008 crash, it has been sluggish, similar to the recovery from the Great Depression.

Cincinnati – Steady and Widespread Growth Continues

This 2017 article (along with its companion PDF) highlights the economic success of Cincinnati following its recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. Full of relevant statistics and charts, this article by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland provides a well-rounded view of Cincinnati’s current state. 

DATA: 

  • After declining by more than 12 percent from pre-recession peak prices (September and October 2006), Cincinnati area home prices fully recovered in mid-2016 and are now 3.8 percent above their 2006 peak levels.
  • In the most recent data available (January 2017), the rate of new permits authorized in both the Cincinnati metro area and the United States surpassed the average application rate for the six-month period before the downturn (June–December 2007) for the first time in the post-recession era.
  • The median home values of Cincinnati are above Ohio’s and nearby area’s averages, growing an impressive 6.1% this year.

THESIS:
While the American recovery from the 2008 financial crisis might be slow, the recovery in Cincinnati is keeping pace (or better) with the country. The strong recovery in Cincinnati in the housing market (among other areas) is trending upward, so we can expect only improvement from here.

SYNTHESIS STATEMENT:
Thanks to quick government action, the post-2008 American economy is generally recovering slowly. In Cincinnati, the outlook seems slightly better, with what seems to be a faster and more universal success in revamping the condition of the local economy and housing market.

Reading Response 1/Ali Pflaumer

The Center for American Progress’s article, The 2008 Housing Crisis by Colin McArthur and Sarah Edelman, focuses largely on the idea that the fault of the US government was not its over-involvement, but its lack thereof. McArthur and Edelman discount the notion that the government’s support of GSEs (particularly Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) is to blame for the collapse and points the finger at Wall Street, who provided subprime, adjustable-rate loans with little to no regulatory standards. It was once these unreliable loans defaulted that the housing market crashed.

In Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse, the US Senate outlines what they believe to be the four main causes of the housing collapse of 2008: “high risk lending by U.S. financial institutions; regulatory failures; inflated credit ratings; and high risk, poor quality financial products designed and sold by some investment banks.” The report does this through clear explanations of the factors in play and relevant case studies of those responsible for the crisis, including Washington Mutual Bank and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

The Center for American Progress’s article seems to be written with a more focused lens on one or two specific issues, while the US Senate’s report outlines what they believe to be all the major causes. Also, the former appears to be trying to obviously persuade readers into agreeing that the government’s lending isn’t to blame, while the report by the Senate reads as a very neutral analysis of the situation. Both articles agree that the root cause of the collapse was Wall Street’s irresponsible practices regarding distributing mortgages and other structured finance products.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was a committee created to examine the causes of the 2008 financial crisis; the committee was comprised of 6 individuals appointed by Democratic leadership of Congress, and 4 appointed by Republican leadership of Congress. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report, written by this committee, outlines what they believe to be the main causes of the collapse. After some research, I found that all 4 Republicans dissented from the report, but their main reason for dissent was they disagreed with how the report prioritizes telling the story of the collapse over explaining the causes (both of which are useful for our purposes). The Conclusion of the report (pages xv-xxviii) provides one of the clearest (and frankly, most brutal) explanations of the crisis that I came across. They site the lack of government supervision, risky practices by financial institutions, a breakdown of accountability and ethics, low mortgage approval standards, incorrect credit ratings, and a lack of a prepared governmental reaction as the main causes for the financial crisis. These causes align with those presented in the other two articles.