Our government has let us down. Again and again and again and again. What upsets me as much as the government's ineptness is the apathy we collectively display? Don't you care? Don't you see the erosion of leadership I do? Am I alone? I run a media company which reaches millions each month yet I feel powerless. What does the poor landscaper feel? He has no pulpit.
I like to keep a bright outlook on life and I hope each set back is a learning experience. In the case of the latest financial catastrophe where taxpayers are paying for the risks Wall Street executives took and were heavily bonused for, I have been agonizing. After all, what did we learn?
I have put together a list and I hope you comment and make this entry something worthy of the reading by all US citizens who long for days past where politicians cared more about this great country than they did campaign contributions and lobbyists who are molding the government into whatever shapes suit them.
1) History repeats itself constantly. This is not the first real estate bubble to burst. Why do we always think every time and every bubble is different? Here is a simple concept... It is never different. Bubbles burst. When houses double in value in a few years in parts of the country, that is a bubble. It is our politician's job to know this. The fact that they ignore these cycles and allow bubbles to burst in the worst possible way, shows just how incompetent our elected officials are. Worse - when we have record home ownership - we do need to stop and ask why - however unpopular this may be to do.
2*) We have too much news. 24x7 cable news networks and the internet are the worst thing to happen to our political system. While this may seem counterintuitive, the problem with the constant news cycle is that the most qualified leaders can't get elected. Have you ever done something you shouldn't have? Taken drugs, made bad choices as a youngster? If you have, the odds are this will make it more difficult to get elected as your DUI will be broadcast on Fox News, CNN and other networks at all hours. The result? We reduce the pool of potentially good candidates.
3) Every government agency is suspect. In this financial crisis, numerous government agencies showed their incompetence in unison. The agencies responsible for regulating insurance companies, municipal bonds, banks, etc. All incompetent. We are talking about tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people working for Uncle Sam. This is bad news. We should be gritting out teeth collectively in anger. Are you mad yet? I am.
4) This same government is in charge of allowing mergers to take place. I am talking about DOJ, FTC, FCC, etc. Do we believe allowing companies to get bigger and bigger and hoarding market share is good for the market? If anything, didn't we learn that by creating companies which are too big to fail, we put our economy and national security at risk? I realize many investment bankers may not be happy with my views on this point but as you might imagine -- I could care less.
5) The boards of companies are just as incompetent as government leaders. It seems almost no one cares about citizens or shareholders. I am sick and tired of seeing companies blow the majority of their marketing budgets on advertising which is exclusively targeted at the financial community -- while they ignore spending on customer development. Most every time I have seen companies commit this frequent error, corporate management is ejected 12-18 months later in one way or another. In many cases, fraud is involved. Why? We are focusing too much on instant gratification and we give compensation packages to executives with short term incentives at the expense of long term goals and compensation. Greed is a natural instinct and if unchecked, some executives will do whatever it takes to pump the stock price and dump their shares. Boards must not allow corporate execs to boost short term stock appreciation at the expense of long-term customer building.
5) We need to come together and use the internet to change our destiny. We need to all get more involved in issues we once trusted the government to handle. We can no longer allow our destiny to be controlled by some of the most incompetent people we have seen in our lifetimes.
6) Obviously so many people can't be incompetent and the way this post reads it is naturally unfathomable for everyone in the government to be idiots. This leads me to the next point. We have a system in place - in business and in government where the smart people are afraid to speak up when they see a problem. Or they do speak up and nothing happens as a result. This has to change. We have systemic problems. We cannot continue to have a reactionary approach to every crisis with Scotch Tape inspired solutions which cost arms and legs we don't have and our grandchildren will need to pay back. This really has to end and I hope you join me in first getting angry and second doing something about it.
Carl Icahn recently put together a group called United Shareholders of America. Here is his blog entry describing the sad state of American business which led him to start this group. I suggest you read it and join this group (the form to sign up is on the top right). Please read and forward information to as many people as you can so they join this group as well.
It is time we speak up for our rights as citizens. We need to speak up for our rights as shareholders. We need to hold elected officials and corporate executives accountable. We need stiff penalties and we need swift justice. We need to stop letting the people with the biggest bank accounts control the destiny of this country. It is my sincere hope and desire we will make progress as a society on these fronts and use technology to speak with a more unified voice which strikes fear in the hearts of the special interest groups, lobbyists and those politicians who do not put the American people first.* I am aware that many recent leaders have still been elected -- even after drug/alcohol problems have been admitted