Waiting For Accountability, Closure
“Our current stock market slump and housing bust can seem like natural calamities without identifiable culprits, creating free-floating anger in the land. A public deeply disenchanted with our financial leadership is desperately searching for answers. The new Congress has a chance to lead the nation, step by step, through all the machinations that led to the present debacle and to shape wise legislation to prevent a recurrence.”
–Ron Chernow, “Where is our Ferdinand Pecora?”; The New York Times (1/6/2009)
Imagine if a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB“), at a press conference today, announced that, effective immediately, it was suspending its investigation into the US Airways crash into the Hudson on Friday.
“We simply can’t justify risking our divers’ safety in the river’s treacherous currents,” the NTSB spokeperson said. “What’s important at this sensitive juncture is that we focus our energy on moving forward, not looking back, and not waste precious financial resources looking for scapegoats.”
The uproar would be instantaneous and deafening.
U.S. air travel is the safest in the world precisely because after each and every mishap, the FAA, NTSB, the airplane manufacturer and all other relevant parties comb the crash site looking for clues, then exhaustively analyze them until they’ve located the cause(s).
Would anyone seriously argue today that that spirit of objectivity, scientific inquiry, and regard for the public’s (financial) safety even remotely describes Washington’s stance towards modern-day Wall Street?
There are times when it’s appropriate to extend an olive branch to a vanquished foe (“with malice toward none, with charity for all . . “). However, what’s needed in the wake of today’s ongoing financial calamity isn’t magnanimity (or amnesia), but scrutiny and accountability. Without those things there is no closure, and without closure there can be no recovery — never mind preventing recurrences.
“Charity for all” can wait until Obama’s second Inaugural address.
(Another year of George Bush, and “charity for all” might very well be what everyone’s in line waiting for.)
*Ferdinand Pecora, who’s overdue for a posthumous 15 minutes of fame, was the lawyer who led Congress’ investigation into the Stock Market Crash of 1929.