Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Can We Trust

The stock market boomed yesterday. The Dow was up 250 points. The stated reasons were the better than expected earnings from Goldman Sachs and Intel and the overall sense that the economy was improving. While this was happening Chief Justice nominee Sotomayor was being grilled about her opinions on abortion. She refused to give a straight answer. I don't blame her. Most people respect the analysts who comment on the rise of the stock market but are skeptical of Sotomayor who was hesitant about stating her opinions.

We live in a society in which having an uneducated or biased opinion is considered better than admitting that you don't know. The way you present yourself is much more important than what you have to say. Dressing for success qualifies you as knowledgeable. Having money especially signifies that what you say is valuable. Most of us won't admit how much we are influenced by financial success and attractive appearances. The consequences of this are that we elect good looking, wealthy politicians to most of the important positions in our country. Fortune 500 companies are run by tall, good looking, smooth talking, well groomed, Ivy League graduates.

I'm not sure if this was the case before television. Abraham Lincoln was not known for his looks. I don't think Benjamin Franklin was especially dapper or rich. John Adams was on the short side. Teddy Roosevelt, if I remember wasn't especially handsome. Neither was Herbert Hoover or William Howard Taft. In the post TV era though we had presidents with movie star looks, Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton. The Bushs' had old money and connections.

It doesn't seem that we are going to be able to solve our problems until we put a greater emphasis on intelligence and especially wisdom. We need leaders who actually can think and are willing to admit weakness. Obama is a charismatic character with a good looking wife, cute kids, and a pleasing appearance. He, at least, has a sense of humor and seems willing to show humility.
The big question is whether or not he will have the courage to recognize when he makes mistakes and be able to correct them before they cause too much damage. I also wonder whether he will be able to see the degree to which government controlled businesses and projects are wasteful and inefficient.

It is one thing to have a good idea with a worthwhile goal. It is another to execute successfully. From what I have personally seen in the mortgage modification programs, the small business programs, and the energy conservation initiatives, things are way out of control. It is going to take a major effort to get them back on track. I find myself in a difficult position. I feel those who criticize Obama are not objective but neither are those who support him. I want to believe that Obama can make a difference but I have not yet seen any evidence that he has what it takes.

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