A Grim And Morbid Fascination

Well, the Browns are 1-7, and they suck in ways that are beyond all imagining.  Only those people who have a certain morbid bent — the kind of people who slow down to carefully scan an accident scene in hopes of catching a glimpse of blood and bone — would watch the Browns play.

Their owner, Randy Lerner, says he is “sick” of losing.  Well, thank goodness he has taken such a strong position!  The reality is that the Browns have been poorly managed since their return to the NFL, having gone through an endless parade of GMs and coaches who have wasted high draft choices and failed to develop talent.  (And the most recent Browns GM reportedly was escorted from the Browns’ practice facility today and has gotten the boot.)  It is time to point out that fish begin to stink from the head down.  Mr. Lerner is part of the problem, and his claim to be sick of losing is meaningless.  What has he done about it?  Mr. Lerner, are you sick of taking one of the storied franchises in NFL history and running it into the ground?  Are you sick of taking a team that was rich in tradition and turning it into a laughing stock?  Are you sick enough of the Browns’ abysmal play to refund part of the season ticket prices paid by the poor sap, loyal, blue collar fans who support the Browns through thick and thin?  I read an article recently that argued that Eric Mangini was the worst head coach hiring decision in the history of the NFL.  I think we could argue that Randy Lerner and the current Browns ownership are the worst owners in NFL history.  Nothing that has happened since the Browns returned to the league suggests even a shred of competence and capability.

In the meantime, a quick look at the Browns’ statistics demonstrates how mind-bogglingly bad they are.  The Browns are 31 out of 32 NFL teams in total offense.  They rank last in total defense.  in the last two games, they have been outscored 61-9.

Thanks to UJ for wisely recommending several weeks ago that I not watch any more Browns games this season.  I took his advice on Sunday and raked leaves instead, raising and bursting two blisters — and it was far preferable to watching the Browns.

Bailout, Then Bankruptcy

CIT Group, a commercial lender, has filed for bankruptcy, 10 months after it received $2.3 billion in bailout money.  The bankruptcy means that the federal government — and, ultimately, taxpayers — are unlikely to recover any of the bailout funds.  With the bankruptcy, the preferred stock and warrants that the federal government acquired in exchange for the bailout money will be pretty much worthless.

I think it is fair to ask what the American taxpayer received in exchange for the bailout.  In this instance, the answer appears to be “not much.”  CIT staved off bankruptcy for 10 months, and its bankruptcy will be of the “prepackaged” variety that will allow the company to shed certain liabilities — like the warrants and common stock held by the federal government — but continue to do business like it has been doing business.  Bondholders will still have an interest in the company and, most notably, the CEO who joined CIT in 2003 and apparently pushed CIT to get into subprime mortgages and student loans still has his job.   Thank goodness!  No doubt that will help to make every taxpayer feel better that their share of the $2.3 billion has vanished on the wings of the wind.

I recognize that a case can be made that the federal government had to step in and help banks and other financial companies to ensure that the crisis of confidence that occurred after the fall of Lehman Brothers did not result in a general collapse of the financial markets.  Still, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the bailouts were without cost.

California Vs. Texas

This thought-provoking article compares the performance of the “high-tax, high-benefits” model of state government (exemplified by California) to the performance of the “low-tax, low-benefits” state (represented by Texas). The author’s conclusion is that Texas is winning handily — and his conclusion is supported by population migration statistics, which show people leaving California and moving to places like Texas.

The single most amazing statistic in the article, to my mind, is that 9,223 former civil servants and educators are receiving pensions of more than $100,000 from California. Good lord! What did those individuals do to deserve such lucrative retirement packages, and how in the world is California ever going to right the budget ship if it has to bear those kinds of costs for pensions?