tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Broken political system fails to produce real leadership

Tony Snow, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, spoke in Orlando at a conference hosted by the American Bankers Association on February 18. I was there covering the meeting for NorthWestern Financial Review magazine. Snow offered analysis on the presidential race and on the political envirnoment in this country. Following are excerpts from his remarks:

We’ve got a political system that is broken. If you don’t believe it, look at what’s been going on up on Capitol Hill. There are 208 appointments, many of them vital, that simply are not being filled because Democrats hate the president and they are not going to help him. It doesn’t matter if it is in the national interest. If there is a campaign irregularity this year there won’t be any investigation because there are hardly enough members on the Federal Election Commission to get a quorum. There are many judicial circuits that are now woefully short on judges. This is not what we elected people to do, but because we have a system where being elected is almost like being elected for life, members of Congress have stopped thinking about the public interest and their communities the way they ought to, and they are going after each other. It has become small and insular and very childish.

We cannot afford that as a country. We’ve got to find a way to revitalize the system, so that in all matters the individual becomes sovereign once again. The voter becomes sovereign with the member of Congress. When you think about health care you come up with a system where the consumer is sovereign. When it comes to the economy, something where we reward entrepreneurship rather than punishing it. Something where we go back to the Horatio Alger model where someone works hard and succeeds and we say “Hurrah! That’s what this country is all about.”

The other thing we are missing in politics right now is a sense of real optimism. If you take a look at what has happened in the world in the last seven years, it is absolutely extraordinary. We always hear in the press about failures, whether it is in Iraq or in our own country. Let me run you through some things that don’t get covered when it comes to this country since Sept. 11.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we were in a recession. There were a couple of tax cuts that came along but since then we have had the Enron and corporate scandals, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have had the costliest natural disaster in history (hurricane Katrina), we’ve had $100 oil, and the subprime mortgage mess. If I had told you in 2001 that we would encounter these obstacles you would have thought we’d be in bread lines by now.

Well, what has happened? Since 2001, despite all these obstacles, which have imposed trillions of dollars in cost on our economy, we have had 52 consecutive months of employment growth. That has never happened in the history of the United States. We still have six-and-a-half years of continuous economic growth. Yes, it’s more sluggish now but it is continuing to grow.

We also have a country where some pretty extraordinary things are happening. More people are working than ever before. They are making more money than they ever have before, and they tend to save more than ever before. We’ve got more people going to college. People are doing better in school. We have this ownership phenomenon. More Blacks and Hispanics own homes more than ever before. Those are good things.

You need to take a look at what’s going on in home and hearth: Crime rates down, youth crime down, drug use down, alcoholism down, teenage pregnancy down. You also have divorce rates down, abortion rates down.

The Pew organization conducted a poll a couple of weeks ago where they asked “how’s the country doing?” Everyone answered “stink-o.” And then they asked “how’s your life doing?” Eighty percent responded they were satisfied or very satisfied with their own lives. They understand that once you get past the America of the front pages some amazing things are still going on. And one of those things is we are still privileged to be part of the most dynamic country, the most dynamic economy in history.

If you don’t think we are awash in dynamism in this country, think about your kids and your grand kids’ Christmas lists. Do you understand any of the stuff they are asking for? … The fact is, innovation is exploding in this country. Everyone in this room probably has a PDA or cell phone, and in that PDA or cell phone is more memory and computational power that existed on all the aircraft that took every American to the moon and back. The world is generating new information equivalent to all the books in 37,000 Libraries of Congress, essentially billions of volumes per year. We are living in an explosion of information, an explosion of challenges.

We live in a dynamic economy where you cannot shelter your eyes; you’ve got to plunge in and figure out how to win. The challenge for government is to realize they shouldn’t try to protect people from that economy; they should equip them for it. Give them freedom. Give them the ability to innovate. Do not punish them when they try new things. Nobody in either party is talking in these terms about the world we actually encounter when we go to work. Nor is anyone saying: “This is a great country awash in a very special kind of success; let’s build on it.”

We need leadership that says there are dynamic new challenges ahead and it is time for the United States once again, without any doubt, to reclaim its position as No. 1 in the world.

1 comment:

TwoPutt said...

Michael, when a guy starts out:

"The reason they're doing this, is they HATE us..."

You should immediately question the validity of what follows.

Tony Snow went from a job as a shill for the administration at Fox News, to a job as a shill for the administration within the administration.

No one noticed the difference.

And there's no difference now.