American Revival

I am very excited about the new Lincoln movie. I have read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals,” which explores how Lincoln was able to take a cabinet made up of competitors and antagonists, and turn them into a team able to deal with one of our more difficult events as a country. Maybe Obama and Boehner should read, or reread if they have already read the book, to help develop an innovative strategy for dealing with the upcoming fiscal cliff.

Lloyd Blankfein, in Wednesday’s WSJ, produced some poignant elements required for the revival of America, and presented them as a business plan. To set up the process he described how Lincoln and FDR were able to take antagonists and turn them into productive teams.

FDR was hated by the business community!  This was especially true during the latter part of the Depression and early World War II. His Second Bill of Rights was highly controversial, resulting in extreme bitterness within the business community. Business executives during those years referred to FDR as “that man in the White House.” Two very wealthy families were said to have hired General Butler to overthrow the United States government. However, somewhere along the line, business and FDR united to defeat the Germans and Japanese. FDR was able to get people that did not get along to work together for the good of the country.

I hope Obama and Boehner figure this out before it is too late. Blankfein states, “The challenges the United States faces are not those of World War II. But meeting today’s challenges will demand a similar dedication to cooperation – and not just between political parties. A spirit of compromise and reconciliation would do wonders for the economy if government and business resolve together.” I think this is a true statement.

The fiscal challenges that we face as a country illuminate a substantive character flaw within our culture. We like to live beyond our means; we don’t like anyone telling us what we should do; we think we know it all; and we think it will always be this way.  These are terminal character flaws that will undermine the standard of living within this country. To deal with these flaws will take a systematic revival resulting from metanoia.

This self-correction will need to include flexibility and shared sacrifice that usually occurs during a necessary war, such as World War II. This new bipartisanship will lead to a fiscal plan that will include revenue hikes tied to cuts in spending. No cuts in spending no tax increases. However, the convoluted tax system in this country needs to be revised. Everyone knows the powerful people in this country want a convoluted tax system because it creates the ability of the powerful to hide wealth. With a simplified and clear tax system all will benefit. Last, but probably the most important part of the puzzle, and probably the most difficult, is to revive the will to compete. I know this is a huge generalization, but we have become lazy, expecting things to come to us easily. We have forgotten how to struggle.

Yesterday I and another professor were discussing the current academic environment. We were exploring reasons for the variation within student performance. The other professor made the comment that for some students struggle is a natural part of the learning process. These students struggle and fight to learn, while others expect an A, because that is what they received in high school. This illustrates a systemic problem within our culture, we want in to come easily and we want it now.

So President Obama and John Boehner, the enemy is out there. How are you two going to rally us to work together for the good of this country? How are you going to create the shared vision that a highly divided country can rally behind? How are you going to get people that absolutely do not trust one another, to work together and create the innovative solutions needed to our social and economic problems? I know we are supposed to be the solution, or have ideas ready when we identify problems. The fact is, our country needs leadership during this time of uncertainty. Instead of inflammatory comments made to press, how about you two becoming leaders? How about channeling the spirit of Lincoln and FDR for a change? We need leadership not rhetoric.

And that is my thought (challenge) for the day!

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