Thursday, May 14, 2009

Leadership Training

Here’s a scary thought to add to your collection of scary thoughts: All of our current leaders now in power, every one of them, grew up on television.

Think about it.

All of our presidents, CEOs, CFOs, congress folk, mid to senior-level bureaucrats and managers, who are making the decisions that impact on our fate and well being grew up watching westerns, sitcoms, cop shows, cereal commercials and “Gilligan’s Island.”

That’s something to keep you awake nights!

The last president to come of age prior to television was Bush I. (It’s fun to figure out which television shows most influenced the president since him. For Clinton, it was “Soap,” for Obama, “Jeopardy,” and for Bush II, “The Gong Show.”)

One must ask how all this television prepared our leaders for their roles. Well, for starters, we could say it:

· Reduced their attentions span.
· Led them to believe that any problem, no matter how complex, could be easily solved within a sixty-minute format.
· That when confronted with a problem, it was prudent to go with the least objectionable solution.

However, the most profound influence all those hours of television had was to imbue them with the belief that in any given situation, image trumps substance. If it looks good, it is good. If Lucy can clean up the mess before Ricky gets home, there was never a crisis.

We are seeing this dynamic at work with the much-hyped stress tests Treasury administered to our zombie banks. Asia Times columnist Julian Delasantellis does an incisive job of deconstruction the tests.

The banks’ strength was tested against a best-case/worst-case scenario. The problem is that the worst case scenario was too optimistic. As Delasantellis explains,

The problems inherent in this mendacity are obvious. If economic assumptions turn out to be overly rosy, then the assumptions on the banks’ economic health, especially the health of their mortgage, commercial real estate and credit card loan portfolios, should be suspect as well.

In other words, the much-vaunted stress tests were little more than spin. In spite of this, Wall Street popped an orgasm, even though investors should have been able to see through the scam. That only goes to show that greed rots the brain.

Delasantellis said,

I heard more than a few market commentators opine that is was due to a feeling that Geithner had morphed into Alexander the Great and had at last cut the Gordian knot. The problem of bank toxic mortgage and other collateralized assets that had bedeviled the markets for coming up two years now had finally been solved, and much in contravention to what spoilsports and worrywarts like me have been saying, the problem’s not all that massive.

So now all we hear about is the green sprouts pushing themselves out of the muck of economic ruin. The possibility of these shoots are poison ivy is ignored because the end credits are rolling, and all has ended well; Beaver has confessed his sins with such sincerity that dad has doubled his allowance as a reward for his mischief.

So, we can all sleep well tonight knowing that life is just one big sit com.

--Case Wagenvoord

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