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Manufactured crises undermine progress, obscure poor leaders

Government Shutdown Averted, The New York Time...

Government Shutdown Averted, The New York Times vending machine, New York City, New York, United States of America (Photo credit: Pranav Bhatt)

If government was run like a business and we owned the business, we would have cleaned house with all our employees. Yes, they would all be fired due to performance issues. We would have put them all on a program where they would be given an opportunity to rectify the behavior that led to their poor performance. We’d give them clear guidelines over what we’d expect from them from then on out, too. But we’d be even more compassionate after their subsequent failures upon completion of their respective improvement programs: we’d show them how much we’ve appreciated their failures by laying them all off without severance instead. We’d give those employees over 40 years of age a few more weeks on the job so as to find employment elsewhere because we know how difficult it is for the older worker to find gainful employment. Those in the under 40 set would have a week on the job before their termination dates kicked in.

The whole circus that has been tonight’s constant stream of news coverage over the pending government shutdown makes me want to puke first and then fire our poorest-performing employees, I mean, elected officials, second. I know we can’t, but it’s just another example in a mounting hill of evidence they are sorely lacking as leaders who represent us. If we are the government’s customers, we might as well be calling India to voice our customer service complaints. When was the last time you felt truly represented by your representatives? If current events were not so sad, they’d be comical.

The government is tens of trillions of dollars in debt and yet it is still in business. How can this be? The greater, bigger question that reeks of incredulity is how can they shut down? When the Federal Reserve can print money out of thin air to extend an impossible-to-recover economy, how can federal government officials that it co-exists with not be able to reach agreement on how to fund the government so that things like military paychecks can go out on time?

This certainly creates additional anxiety for military families where none should be. This will all work out, however, and will quite possibly be solved by the time you read this. The way this will happen is through compromise. Not everyone will get what they want (who does?). Everyone will get what they need and some things like certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act may be postponed. I always felt this was kind of jammed down our throats, anyway. As I stated in an earlier piece, until the Affordable Care Act includes provisions for long-term elder care, in my eyes it remains a flawed piece of legislation created in haste that serves to immediately aid the cause of insurance companies and not the citizens it was purported to be drafted for. Let’s face it. If insurance companies were not on board with the Affordable Care Act in the first place, no way it ever comes to pass. You say you want an extraordinarily complex piece of legislation (that many of our representatives will not have the time to read through) passed in a matter of a few hours in the evening? No problem (provided the insurance industry has gotten behind it).

One politician says they are not compromising and another says they are not, too. But then what do they end up doing? You got it. Just like in any marriage, compromises are oftentimes the way solutions are reached and agreements hammered out. Remember, we can’t always get what we want, right? Knowing this, ask what is it that you need? If our representatives do not know, it is time to let someone else have a turn that at the least may have some fresh, constructive hunches.

The way our system of government has gotten mangled over the years, it would not be the end of the world to institute term limits for our representatives. Using the government-as-company analogy, only a small percentage of employees remain with companies for 20 or more years. I think I read somewhere that it is not uncommon for employees to change jobs (and employers) every 3-1/2 to 5 years on average. I say whatever. Just pick your length of time and then make them stick to it. We all work off of deadlines on our jobs. Our representatives would really serve us better knowing they had only a finite amount of time to get things moving forward and thus avoid complacent malaise. The next person would have to try their best to keep the momentum of positive change. One person would not be afforded the luxury of mediocre job performance because they won re-election. The job of being the people’s representatives deserves our best and brightest—just like the students we cycle through our secondary education system in four year increments, perhaps we should at least consider the idea of term limits.

We have allowed the federal government to grow into this country’s largest employer. This fact arguably makes the federal government somewhat of a business, company, multinational conglomerate whatever term you might like to use regarding an entity that offers jobs and makes payroll. But what business continuously takes on increasing debt loads with no intention of ever paying any of it back? Eventually banks foreclose on homes whose mortgages do not get paid. Eventually company creditors force liquidation of a company’s assets before the company declares bankruptcy.

Our greed—our skyrocketing 401ks and mutual funds have many of us thinking things are alright, getting better, and in the sand our heads are buried. But think about it. Do you believe recent stock market gains are actually sustainable? How can we believe this to be the new normal? Job recovery, wage growth and the housing market (with the exception of small pockets of wealth in certain geographic areas) are ever stagnant, but our stock portfolios will lead us to retirement victory?

Those people struggling to make ends meet daily (and there are more of these kinds of folks nowadays than not) know what is going on and it does not feel right. We all know this, yet like CEOs who blame uncertain economic conditions for their hiring paralysis, instead of creating further awareness or better still, taking action, all we can muster is a wait and see attitude.

The inability to fund the government is symptomatic of dysfunctional leadership and a nation in decline. Our current political inertia is representative of our not knowing what to do. No one takes responsibility. Each politician is childish and blames the other one’s party for the way things are. Just once, I’d like to see all of our elected officials in Washington, including the President, say something along the lines of, “This thing is on us and we’re sorry for all the BS we’ve espoused to date. We are going to stop fighting with one another. We are going to stop blaming each other. We are going to work in concert with one another. We are going to get this done…together.”

Relinquishing stubbornness is not a show of weakness. To the contrary, it is demonstrating the ability to take responsibility and in the process, move forward. It happens all the time. It is the way of big business.

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