March Madness

March has proven a crazy month. Between work, travel, and illness, I’ve had little time to write. However, I’ve been doing a lot watching and listening.

I’m baffled.

We seem to have lost our collective minds.

The country was so outraged over bonuses paid to AIG that Congress responded by proposing a 90% tax. Never mind that the Constitution frowns on singling out a select (small) group of people for legislative action (e.g, bill of attainder).

Critics of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were calling for his head after he’d been in office less than three months. These calls came despite the reality that few individuals could offer truly different alternatives and the consensus is that we won’t know of months, if not years, whether initiatives implemented to date will have the desired impact.

Pundits are posing the question of whether President Obama (and his family) suffer from overexposure. From appearing on Jay Leno to hosting a virtual town hall, Obama seems to be everywhere. So the question is asked, “Can he do all those things and his job, too?”

What we’ve overlooked through all this madness is our role.

Does it make sense that AIG executives who played a role in the current mess are receiving a bonus? Hardly, but when did we become a society that embraces the breaking of contracts? We also need to be careful what we wish for. If Congress proved willing to tax a selective group, what’s to keep them from doing so in the future at your expense versus the corporate bogeyman?

Tim Geithner, whether you agree with his policies or not, has undertaken a herculean task. In our 24-hour news cycle, he’s operating under circumstances that likely would have broken the New Deal before it was ever implemented. We also put unrealistic expectations on how a public official should handle himself. Do we want polished politicians whose expertise lies in sound bites or bureaucrats whose expertise lies in sound policy?

To the last bit of madness, I say this: while I didn’t vote for Obama, I find the criticism of his every action to be ridiculous. No manual exists for the job he holds. Lyndon Johnson put it best when he said, “The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.

I believe we are a nation made up of mostly smart people. Isn’t time we started acting based on our intelligence instead of our fear?


1 Response to “March Madness”

  1. April 1, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I too didn’t vote for BO but like you I think it’s silly and unfair to belabor every decision, every move, he makes. He will make mistakes, but so would anyone, so let’s offer support when he’s right and constructive criticism when he’s wrong.

    In some respects it might have been beneficial to have the 24×7 news cycle during the FDR era – if it had killed the New Deal, we may not have a lot of the mess we’re in now. We all know what they say about “ifs and buts” though.

    What really steams me about all of the MSM coverage of the bonuses is that I think it is little more than a red herring to distract our attention from the real crime in all this – that the government is taking a more and more active (and activist) role in single companies (AIG is but one example, but is an important one). Not only do the funds come with strings attached, but the people supplying the funds (we, the taxpayers) have no say in who gets the funds or which strings get attached.

    The other high profile case du jour is General Motors. It is, I believe, unprecedented for a company president to be fired by a U.S. president, but welcome to 21st century GM. Ditto the lines in the previous paragraph about funds/strings.

    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking, and pulse-increasing post.

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March 2009
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