Posted by: Frank | September 27, 2008

Not The Best Of Times

Lyrics from Styx’s “The Best of Times” is running through my head this morning:

The headlines read these are the worst of times
I do believe its true
I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer winds could bring back paradise

I believe that these are the worst circumstances the United States has been in during my life time. What concerns me is that we won’t step back to learn from these mistakes so that we can try to not repeat them. I think it is safe to say that few consider George W. Bush’s presidency to be a great one. Should we not look at why he was elected in the first place, look at the qualities, or lack of qualities, that he demonstrated and vow to avoid them?

Watching the debate last night two things came to my mind. First, McCain is stuck in Vietnam. Making sure that the current situation in Iraq does not turn into another Vietnam is an obsession, so much so that I believe it clouds his judgement. He seems convinced that we must never exit from a war unless we win it. Where is it written that the United States must win every war? More so, where is it written that every military action the United States takes is just? Again I repeat, I believe the president’s priority as commander in chief is to keep us out of wars, and engaging in war is ultimately a failure of the presidency. There is nothing more volatile than a leader of a country with an obsession. I believe that obsession is what got us into this war in Iraq.

The second thing that came to my mind during the debate is that McCain gave me the same feeling as George W. Bush did during his debates. A certain sense of reclessness and lack of depth of understanding. The connection of government spending and earmarks is as strong with the current credit & financial crisis as the connection between Iraq and September 11. They aren’t related.

In my opinion the current financial crisis is due to two things: greed and non-existent leadership. Greed is what has been driving decisions everywhere and driving how we live. Rather than be satisfied with a good house and a functioning car we must have the mansion and luxury vehicle. Rather than be satisfied with making a fair wage we have to make more than the guy working next to us. Rather than be satisifed being a millionaire we have to be a billionaire. We have lost the ability to know what is enough!

Greed takes advantage of an unchecked market in capitalism at the expense of innocent people. How many loan officers knew their customers couldn’t afford that $500,000 home loan they offerred them? It didn’t matter because greed was behind using those loans to make millions more money. Sure noone says one has to use that $500,000 line of credit but honestly, it is damn difficult not to, particularly in a society that freely gives credit cards to college students before they are allowed to legally drink.

Truly good leadership is too rare today. Perhaps a majority of the companies in the United States today are run by people with few values other than the value of the size of their golden parachute. Does anyone even know what are the qualifications to be a CEO of a corporation in the U.S.?  Doctors have to go to med school and be licensed to practice medicine. Lawyers have to pass the bar exam. How do we know whether the CEOs of corporations and the people working directly for them are in fact qualified to perform their job? What I see is that people are put into those positions because of who they know rather than what they know. There is something wrong when promotions at lower levels of a company are more rigorus than the very top levels of the company. BTW, the same can be said for government.

I think what we are witnessing today is the result of the greed plus poor leadership equation. If this moment in history is to truly be a fork from the road we are heading down, we have got to start recognizing the greed within all of us and learn to understand what is enough, and we have got to start scrutinizing our leaders, particularly the leaders of our companies. We need to demand that they know more than simply that success is measured by the rising price of the company stock and the size of their paycheck.

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