The Wall Street Journal recently gathered a large group of CEOs together to discuss the top issues facing the country. The broad theme was “How to Rebuild Global Prosperity.” Under that theme were four subsections, and in each subsection a committee of CEOs produced five recommendations. What was fascinating to me was how each set of recommendations matched up with generally liberal positions.
The Energy and the Environment committee recommended:
- Diversify U.S. energy
- Promote energy efficiency
- Cap-and-trade bill
- Federal plan for electric grid
- Diversity transportation systems
The Economy and Finance committee recommended:
- Sustainable job creation
- Bring back winning spirit in U.S.
- Build greater certainty
- Enact global trade pact
- Tax reform
The Educated Work Force committee recommended:
- Education is our top priority
- Council for educated work force
- Reward effective teaching
- World-class teacher corps
- Mobilize parents for change
The Health Care committee recommended:
- Reform health-payment system
- Measure health outcomes
- Hold patients accountable
- Reform medical malpractice
- Promote integrated care
I’m not saying that these are a super-liberal set of recommendations. Certainly if Mother Jones or Howard Dean issued a set of recommendations on these topics, they would be different, although there would definitely be some overlap. But if you take the entire set of recommendations, I would say that they match up more closely with the Democratic platform than with the Republican platform. And if you take the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, I’m not sure that they would agree with any of the CEO recommendations.
What does this all mean? That when you get outside of Washington DC, the country isn’t as polarized as the media makes it seem. A collection of the most powerful CEOs in the country comes up with recommendations that are mainstream liberal. The majority of citizens are sitting solidly in the center, and if politicians and pundits would stop acting like jerks – if they would stop, listen and think – then maybe we could actually solve the big problems that our country faces.
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Tagged Business, ceo, ceo council, economy, education, energy, Environment, finance, health care, jobs, Politics, wall street journal
Yesterday’s NY Times magazine preview had a thought-provoking article by Peter Singer on health care rationing. Singer clearly comes at this from an extreme position (this is a guy whose fame is due to weighing hypothetical lives against each other), but he raises some excellent points. I’m not sure where I come down on rationing, and how it might work, but it’s clear that spending $50,000 on new drugs that only extend life by a few months is not a sustainable system. As congress gets ready to debate the health care bills coming out of committee, we should all start thinking about how America pays for health care, and reading Singer’s article is a good place to start. You only really need to read the first half. In the second half he goes into his usual shtick about disabled people vs. fully abled and goes off point.
This is the last post in my series inspired by President Obama’s inaugural call to “set aside childish things” and start pulling together for the good of the nation. And in this post, I hope to speak less of specific acts of greed and more of a general attitude that has pervaded our society over the past couple of decades. This attitude – one of “I want it all, NOW” – was perhaps not among the childish things of which the president was thinking, but its consumptive nature and its impatience certainly strikes me as childish. In fact, it reminds me of nothing so much as Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the first movie, of course, not the remake), whose constant claim of “Daddy, I want it now!” led to her falling down the garbage chute after being judged a “bad egg.”
I wrote last week about how this attitude played out in spending, with people buying houses and cars and TVs that they couldn’t afford. But it also had a dramatic impact on economic and policy decisions, or often decisions put off. Examples include:
- Asking for lower taxes while demanding more government services
- Expecting cutting edge medical treatments while complaining about ever-higher health care costs
- Unwillingness to invest in infrastructure
- Refusal to address the impending catastrophes of Social Security and Medicare
- Managing companies for quarterly earnings instead of for the long term
I could go on and on. But don’t listen to me; the NY Times magazine put it much better a few weeks ago:
“The norms of the last two decades or so – consume before invest; worry about the short term, not the long term – have been more than just a reflection of the economy. They have also affected the economy. Chief executives have fought for paychecks that their predecessors would have considered obscenely large. Technocrats inside Washington’s regulatory agencies, after listening to their bosses talk endlessly about the dangers of overregulation, made quite sure that they weren’t regulating too much. Financial engineering became a more appealing career track than actual engineering or science.”
Frank Rich added his own take, typically overwrought, but still relevant, here. But whether the phenomenon is described by the Times or by me, the process is still the same. When we, the public, all think like Veruca Salt, then our business leaders will think the same way, and we will elect politicians who will implement Veruca Salt policies. So unless we want the whole country to go down the garbage chute, let’s be less Veruca Salt and more Charlie. Instead of wanting it all now, we can aim for getting most of it soon. Remember, Veruca was sent down to the furnace, but Charlie ended up owning the whole factory.