George Bush’s Role in
Today’s Economic Car Crash
Everyday Americans — if not historians — are likely to remember George W. Bush as the President who crashed the family car (the economy).
However, it would be too easy to simply lay it all on #43 and move on (or try to — right now we’re all sort of waiting for Triple A — Obama and team — to show up with the tow truck).
If we’re honest about it — and there will never be a better time than Inauguration Day — we have to allow that there were other, contributing factors. Such as:
–The car Bush got the keys to had major flaws and defects, at least a few of which were non-obvious (at least to people other than Warren Buffett). The role of credit derivatives, the shadow banking system, the (far too) interdependent global banking system and the consequently high risk of financial contagion — all these phenomena are only now clearly being understood and dealt with.
–The family “car” wasn’t in such good repair. In fact, its chassis and fundamental design date back to The Great Depression. As economic systems go, that’s the equivalent of a car with 200,000 miles on it. The economy Bush inherited had none of the latest, technologically advanced safety equipment (like air bags, electronic sensors, etc.), and the basic ones it did have — like brakes — were old and poorly maintained.
(In fact, there’s ample evidence that, in what can only be called an act of economic sabotage, the brakes were intentionally disabled by the very mechanics hired to fix them.)
–The car crashed not just because the driver was inept — although that’s clear — but because of poor weather and road conditions. Specifically, visibility was poor, the road was slick, and safety features such as guard rails and proper lighting were sorely lacking.
–Unfortunately, we let the insurance premiums partially lapse. The reason people buy insurance is to make them whole in the unlikely event of a catastrophe. We’re now in the position of owning a totaled car, without all the money needed to replace it.
What Would Lincoln Do?
So what do we do now?
The first step is to attend to those passengers and innocent bystanders most severely harmed (financially) by the current crack-up. That includes, but is not limited to, people who’ve lost their homes, their savings, and their jobs. Over time, we must also attend to those who’ve lost less tangible but no less real things: their faith, their trust, and their hope.
The next step is to make sure that the current driver is the best possible person for the job. On that score, thank God for — and God bless — Barack Obama.
Once those two pieces are in place, the last step is to set about re-designing a brand new car.
As Lincoln understood at Gettysburg, the best (and only way) to honor an otherwise unfathomable sacrifice is for the survivors to rededicate themselves to the completion and perfection of the cause at the heart of that sacrifice.
In this case, that means designing a better, market-based, capitalist economy — one that’s fairer, more productive and even more durable than the one FDR bequeathed us (and LBJ and Reagan adjusted).