An article entitled “Mismanagement 101” by Daniel Gross in the March 24, 2008 issue of Newsweek magazine (p. 22) agrees with dire predictions regarding the United States economy that come from almost all knowledgeable economic experts.
In a recent CBS News New York Times poll (AOL main page, Friday, April 4th, 2008), 81% of respondents say our nation is heading in the wrong direction. The poll has existed since 1990 and this is the highest number ever of respondents saying that the ship of state is floundering,— due to mismanagement, according to Daniel Gross’ article.
Gross points out, “The greenback last week hit new lows against foreign currencies. The dollar is so sad, we should consider renaming it the dolor.” (p. 22 of “Mismanagement 101”). He goes on to say that the dollar’s declining value reflects poorly on us, as a nation.
Other countries think we are incapable of managing what was once viewed as the World’s Super Power. “At some level, the dollar’s woes reflect the world’s collective verdict on the ability of the United States—businesses, individuals, the government, the Federal Reserve—to manage the global financial system and the world’s largest economy. Lately, the verdict has been two thumbs down.”
With thanks to Gross for pointing out the obvious, what did we think would happen when we elected a rather dim-minded sort whose crowning achievement in life had been fortunate parentage and cheerleading for Yale and Andover? George W. Bush was a failure even in the eyes of Ronald Reagan, who wrote scathingly in his diary of young “W’s” visit to meet him, shepherded there by his father, the Vice President. Reagan was right on the money in viewing “W’ as a ne’er-do-well who had “never held a real job” (Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Diary). In those fields that he attempted (oil, the Texas Rangers), young George had failed at every turn or been bailed out by “friends of the family.” Drug use. Draft-dodging. Sudden embrace of religion (much like convicted criminals). All good credentials for having a beer with the guy, perhaps, but not-so-good credentials for running a complex economy, or, more accurately, letting his stooges (Cheney, Rumfseld, Wolfowitz, Libby, et al) run the country and the economy into the ground.
So, today, as Gross says, “Thanks to widespread incompetence, American management is on its way to becoming an international laughingstock.” (p. 22 of Gross article) On its way? Methinks Daniel Gross doth under-estimate the journey. We are not “on our way” to becoming an international laughingstock. We are there! That ship has sailed! And George W. Bush was the captain of the Bad Ship Lollypop who has (more-or-less) guided us on this ill-fated experiment in electing a not-very-bright-or-hardworking guy to be the leader of the Free World.
A few countries had the great good sense to stay out of President Bush’s unfortunate, ill-timed, ill-conceived, expensive, immoral and mismanaged Iraq War (the much maligned France, for one), but the Coalition of the Willing followed like sheep to the slaughter. I’m pretty sure that, today, Tony Blair regrets standing by his man.
Where to begin in listing the nation’s woes? The sub-prime mess? Food costs rising? Pollution aplenty? The housing crisis? $4 a gallon gasoline? OPEC President Chakib Khelil responded recently that the price of gas “had nothing to do with the reluctance of the Persian Gulf nations to pump oil, and everything to do with the ‘mismanagement of the U.S. economy.'” (Gross article, p. 22) Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury and, prior to that, the CEO of Alcoa, wrote an entire book about Bush’s incompetent bungling and desire to hear only what he wanted to hear. It’s now running on PBS as “Bush’s War.” Watch it and you’ll soon understand why we’re in this mess. Or try Richard Clarke and “In Defense of Liberty.” Richard Clarke was the man “on call” when 9/11 occurred and he has some scathing criticism for this President—-one of many he served. The one thing you don’t want to do in this Administration is “speak truth to power.” Do so and your career is over.
How about our aviation system?
I’m writing this on Friday, April 4th, and the airline—ATA— that was to carry me to Cancun tomorrow just went under, taking with it the jobs of 2,200 employees and my ticket to ride. When I reach Cancun and snake through the security line at the airport, I will be asked to sing this refrain along with the security people there: “Please. Do not. Remove. Your shoes.” American management has come down to stupid rules made by stupid men with stupid consequences. Removing my shoes when I board the airliner (the result of the French “shoe-bomber” incident) has made all my fellow passengers feel much, much safer as they sit on the tarmac hoping that this airline, too, won’t go belly-up before we get to our destination. Or, worse yet, fail and go bust after depositing us all on the shores of some country where we don’t speak the language and will have to cope with the fall-out, trying to make our return flights in a foreign tongue (since so many of us are unwilling or unable to learn a second language, unlike Europeans.) In my own case, my $500 ticket is now a $1700 ticket on American Airlines—and I was lucky to get it! I’ve been going to Cancun in the spring for fifteen years and the highest-priced ticket was $800. This year’s will set a new record, and something tells me I’m in for more of the same, largely due to the PTB.
On a “Sixty Minutes” segment recently (CBS’s “Sixty Minutes”), Carl Icahn, the 1980s corporate raider who has reinvented himself as a comedian and activist investor told Lesley Stahl, regarding American incompetence in management, “I see our country going off a cliff, and I feel bad about it.”
The bail-out that the U.S. government just provided to Baer Sterns was provided, I have read, because Baer-Sterns was the lynchpin of a house of cards that, if not supported, would come tumbling down with horrific ramifications, nationwide and system-wide. I think we’ve all heard Michael Moore’s assertions, made in his Oscar-nominated film “Fahrenheit/911” about what would happen if all the banks we owe money to called in the debt on the same day. China has largely funded our misguided war efforts, and the Saudis certainly have their finger in our national pie.
The same government that bailed out a firm that was floundering, is not rushing to bail out all the homeowners losing their houses. Forget the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Good luck with that, Brad (Pitt). The government can’t be bothered.
The “ARMS” that people without enough money took out to purchase housing they should have known they couldn’t afford, (interest on said loans now rising faster than the Iraq War debt), have come home to roost. The financial “safeguards” in banking and finance, put in place years ago after the Depression-era crash, were tampered with or removed, and we are now reaping as we have sown. [My father, a long-time banker, predicted another Great Depression for years, and—even though he is long dead—I fear he is about to get his wish.]
The Administration “experts” say it is just a “recession” that will “self-correct” and that we are just teetering on the edge of it, but those of us filling our tanks and paying more at the grocery store see things a little bit differently than George W. Bush in the White House. And your pension?: You may as well kiss it good-bye, if we don’t elect a smart candidate to be our next President who understands how to pull our economy out of the mess it’s in ( which pretty much excludes the Republican nominee, who has publicly said that he “doesn’t understand” the economy much; that makes him fit in nicely with the current crop of White House Republicans. But bombing a country back to the Stone Age? McCain’s your man for that!)
As Daniel Gross put it, “But those of us who aren’t billionaire corporate raiders—which is to say pretty much all of us—must manage through this management crisis on our own.” (Newsweek, March 24, 2008, “Mismanagement 101”, Daniel Gross in “The Money Culture”, p. 22).
Amen, and please say a prayer for the United States of America. If you’re an atheist, simply observe a moment of silence. No matter what your religious persuasion(s) (or lack of same), it seems pretty clear that we need to NOT vote for more of the same.
The Titanic, despite its myth of invincibility, did sink (a lesson in mismanagement) and so can we.