Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gloomy Times: Where's the Leadership?

Yesterday, as I watched the goings on in D.C. and the plummeting of the Dow, in addition to the same gloom so many others are feeling from the impact on businesses and families across our country (not to mention the dramatic local effects this may all have, which really scares me), I felt another feeling: embarassment.

Total embarassment for what has become the ugly and completely dysfunctional "profession" of politics.

What did we see yesterday on Capitol Hill? Fingerpointing. Lack of trust. Running for cover and flimsy excuses justifying votes. Dueling press conferences posturing and blaming one another.

Unnecessary and reckless partisan rhetoric when what we really needed--just once--was a little good faith unity to get through this and come up with a solution a majority can agree on. Campaign after we solve this crisis, not as it's unfolding!

Egos run amok. This morning, one Republican Congressman said that yesterday's vote was about teaching Henry Paulsen a badly needed "civics lesson" because he had seemed arrogant. Very sound reasoning at a time like this.

So few willing to step up and be true leaders. Maybe worse, so few able to do so because the collective credibility of DC starts out at such a low level to begin with, and because things have become so polarized and broken that so few listen to each other in the first place. (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1845655,00.html)

People voting "no" out of political preservation, without having said a peep over the last week, and not having made any constructive efforts to actually propose or ask for solutions they could live with. (If you don't like something, get in the mix and work to improve it--don't just vote no, make a statement, leave town, and think you've done your job).

Politicians more concerned about how to use this crisis for their own political ends rather than how to actually solve it.

Leaving D.C. en masse for a few days as if this economic crisis is going to take a timeout!

The following story walks through the leadership failures from all sides: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/business/30assess.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

This is crunch time. Our Congresspeople each take an oath to look out for the best interests of this country and its citizens. They each make $169,000 per year to do the public's work. They are not simply elected to get re-elected, but it seems that for too many, that's about all they spend their worrying about. That, and tallying results from phone calls and emails so they can determine how they should vote on issues. (If I voted in that way in the political jobs I've had, Fountain Square would still be the underused and stale place it was six years ago, and all the new restaurants surrounding it would be elsewhere).

While we all tolerate (more than we should) a lot of political bickering, posturing and rhetoric at less troubled times, we at the very least expect the short-sighted politics to take a timeout, and the grownups to get serious, at the tough, critical times. Which was why the petty antics and dysfunction of yesterday were so startling. We looked for leadership, and we found ourselves staring into an abyss.

Make no mistake. This is a complicated problem, and no solutions are going to be simple, wildly popular, or risk-free. Constructive opposition and bipartisan negotiations over the past week improved the original proposal greatly, and hopefully the deal can be further improved in the next couple days.

But outside of the details themselves, if we don't see different and vastly improved leadership emerge in the next couple of days from those in Congress, we will all pay a steep price for a long time. And that price will most certainly be borne along Main St.--as well as Vine, Walnut, Reading, Beechmont, and Harrison, not to mention along our riverfront.

UPDATE: columns that make a similar point:



This quote from Tom Friedman also sums it up nicely:

"I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us for the week, with no stake in the outcome. "


Mark Miller said...

You're missing the real lesson:
The system worked. The plan was voted down because the people hated it.

I know you won't give us the condescending bit, "But you don't realize how bad things will be" that we get from the so-called national leadership. They think we're stupid.

It's not that the American people as a group are experts on financial affairs or anything. We're not. But we are far enough away from the eye of this particular hurricane to see that this too shall pass, and another day will dawn. The politicians in the middle of it are too blinded by the crisis to realize the sky isn't really falling.

The people chose to let these companies fail, go bankrupt, and liquidate because they clearly plied their trade in a way that served neither their shareholders nor the public. It would simply be wrong to prop them up.

And we don't mind enduring a little short-term pain to insure the long-term health of our Republic. In their heart of hearts everyone knew the housing bubble was ready to burst, and it has. Bush's big bailout, like all the other bailouts we're still doing, only delays the inevitable reckoning. And we'd rather take the big bath now than watch government throw good money after bad, threatening what’s left of the economy.

It's fiscal Darwinism at work. Now the vultures will feast on the carcasses. Smaller solid performers will grow to fill the void left by these gigantic losers. And hopefully Congress can correct the regulations in the calmer light of day, instead of trying to rush a patchwork through at the eleventh hour.

Rejoice, for this is a triumph!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Miller-

Were you cheering Herbert Hoover's masterful leadership as well?

Mark Miller said...

Way before my time.

Why? Was Hoover trying to shove an enormously expensive bailout down the taxpayers' throats too?

Anonymous said...

Since you mention your vote on the Fountain Square deal, why don't you tell us how much the estimated garage revenue will be over the 40 year term of the lease?

Surely you couldn't have signed away 40 years of garage revenue without having a solid estimate on what that number would be, could you?

Why has this been kept a secret if this was such a good deal?

Why don't we bail out the American workers instead of the greedy fat cats that created this mess?

Jeff Capell said...

Among the examples of poor leadership - the Speaker of the House bashing the people she's supposedly trying to work with, just moments before the final vote. I've had to work with people before who I disagreed with on a lot of things, such as killing your tax increase last year; bashing them is not how we got the job done.

Pelosi just couldn't check her comments and work on behalf of her stated goals. I'm not angry about it, however. That bailout was a bad plan and deserved to fail. I for one appreciate Pelosi's work to kill the bill.

Anonymous said...

lol Mr. Miller - take a brief history course - you've only proven your astounding ignorance on the issue.

This isn't the first time the stock market and American economy has collapsed - the economic policies of Hoover preceded and caused the Great Depression - and it took a major bailout led by FDR to save children from starving, elderly and disabled from being thrown onto the streets, escalating crime that went off the charts, etc. --- this was America under the last GOP reign of economic terror.

Get a clue before you vote next.

Anonymous said...

By the way Pepper - very presidential statement here -

Anonymous said...

So you want to just pretend that your vote for Fountain Square was a good one without either knowing how much garage revenue you were giving away?

Either that or you don't feel a need to be transparent.

Where's the leadership? Hiding!

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