Thursday, April 2, 2009
IN MY OPINION (Column)
When Is a Crisis Not a Crisis?
By TED RUHIG
By now, it is becoming pretty well established that President Obama is a most pragmatic politician who, if a political move does not work, will discard it and move to something else. Obama’s pragmatic way of doing things is what Time magazine must have had in mind when it put out its special annual issue entitled: “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”
Time suggests that the world economy is being remade “right before our eyes.” Everything is being remade, from our attitude about our jobs and work (and the kind of work we are willing to do and who will do it) to what kind of communities we want to live in and how we will travel between work and home (think light rail).
Lifestyle decisions will be made against the fact that we will be living longer, with more opportunities to “wring every drop out of life.”
Time notes that we do not have the luxury to ignore what is happening in the world around us. The world financial crisis is forcing all countries to take stock of their future and to acknowledge “that we live in an infinitely connected world with finite resources.” Aligning values with dollars is a significant component of remaking the world economy.
That being said, Time, in a recent article, points out that warnings by leading American economists suggest that Obama’s agenda has become too sprawling and provocative and that he is trying to take on too many crises at once.
Obama’s response is reported in Time: “I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time … We don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.”
The political strategy of the Obama administration can be summed up in a motto: “Never waste a good crisis,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it.
Time points out that this phrase has been the rallying cry of the Obama team for months. But it increasingly appears that the administration was unprepared for both the severity of the recession and the political resistance to trying to do so much at once.
And so the Obama team must respond to another motto that has been making the rounds: Sometimes a crisis is an opportunity — but sometimes it’s just a crisis.
We may have to look to John Maynard Keynes for a good response to the current situation. Though he lived and worked in the middle of the 20th century, he may be the only economist who would have a handle on what is currently going on. He famously said: “The best way not to waste a good crisis is to put the stress on ‘crisis.’”
Time observes that “once Obama does that, the antsy gang on Wall Street and in Washington will have to pay attention.”
— Capitol News Service