Skip to main content

Politics versus Governing

What is politics?  One of my kids recently asked me this question. For the past couple of weeks I've been watching the amazing Netflix show House of Cards, which depicts politicians as devious and manipulative and driven pretty much exclusively by their own self-interest. Based upon the polls of how Americans view their political leadership it seems that Americans see this theatrical depiction as being quite close to reality.

Recently I was speaking with a close friend who recounted a meeting he had sat in on with our President, who when confronted with a creative idea to help our economy responded to what seemed like a smart idea by suggesting that it wouldn't play well politically for him to get behind it. Needless to say, my friend left understanding just how futile this administration's efforts would be.

Also recently many of the private papers of the Clinton Administration were made available to the public. Disappointingly, yet perhaps not surprisingly, they revealed how much energy was expended on managing Hillary's public image. For anyone who really believes Mrs. Clinton to be a qualified candidate for running this country I’d ask them what exactly she’s done to persuade them?  She handled herself well at State dinners while married to Bill?  Surely her tenure at the State Department cannot be pointed to as having been qualifying her in any way.  Not a single area of her focus improved as a result of that focus.  And, there were some real doozy disasters starting with Benghazi and up to the Russian “reset.”   Let’s not even mention the Arab Spring and Egypt.  And yet, idiotically it seems, Mrs. Clinton is our clear front runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination and the Presidency.

So, I ask, what the hell is politics anyway?  It seems to me that it is a business that involves persuading the masses that one is qualified for a job, without really explaining either the requirements of the job or the supposed qualifications.  Politics is the business of winning elections.  To me, the job or career ought not be called politics but instead governing.  And, governing requires a deep understanding of a number of matters, probably most important among them economics/finance inasmuch as this area permeates everything.  The bottom line on all matters is whether we can afford to do things or not, right?  Also, governing involves managing tons of people, organizing them efficiently, understanding human behavior, comporting oneself in an exemplary manner, and, in the case of the leadership of the U.S. understanding that he/she is a representative of “freedom” for the entire world.  Finally, governing ought to require that a person possess a deep level of empathy and caring for his/her fellow man/woman.

Much worse than the Presidency, however, is our situation in Congress, where the election cycle is two years with no term limits.  This means that Congresspeople must be fundraising the large majority of their waking hours, rendering them rather useless in the area of governing.  Of course, there are people in politics who’ve devoted their lives to helping America and who are doing the best they can within the rules of the game they’re in.  I don’t mean to suggest here that we need to clean house in DC, although for sure I do think large-scale changes are in order.  As one of my old dear friends once said: “Don’t hate the players, hate the game.”  It would be so great to change the game, if only a bit.

I think we need a movement in America to re-do some of the basic problems that exist in our government and election structures.  Career politicians will not, I am certain, lead this movement inasmuch as they are a group that exists in response to current circumstances and who would be correctly threatened by any change.  Any ideas?  Anyone out there interested, or knows of organizations we can connect with?

Popular posts from this blog

Greed & Laziness

In this most contentious and fascinating of election cycles, when nearly each conversation leads to politics, and when polarization runs so high, I ask myself - what is the essence of the debate between left and right?  What does it really mean to be a Conservative or a Liberal?

Why Rates Must Remain Low

There is an old bond trader joke that I first heard in the 1980’s when I traded mortgage-backed securities at Drexel Burnham Lambert.  It went like this:  “Upon dying, Albert Einstein finds himself in what he is told is heaven.  He encounters another individual there and asks him what his IQ is.  When he is told that it is 175 he is overjoyed, knowing that he’s found an intellectual peer with whom he can share much.  Upon meeting another, he discovers that person’s IQ is 140 and is pleased to have met another highly intelligent person with whom he can enjoy chess and other pursuits.  He is feeling pretty good about heaven, when he comes across a person who tells him that his IQ is a mere 90, and he is flummoxed.  What, he wonders, is this guy doing in my heaven and what can I even say to this person?  Then it comes to him.  ‘Where,’ he asks, ‘do you think interest rates are heading?’”

CMBS In Flux

The CMBS market has been in a period of upheaval, with dramatic spread widening on bonds and a resulting much more expensive cost of capital for real estate borrowers who depend upon this channel for their debt financing.Market participants today wonder whether we’ve entered a period like the summer of 2011, when spreads on bonds last widened this dramatically and then snapped back within a year to provide tremendous returns for those who were courageous enough to purchase bonds at the time when there was panic selling.Or, people wonder, is this recent downturn a prelude to a structural or systemic problem, like what was experienced in 2007, when spreads widened and sucked investors in, only to punish those early responders with a much more dramatic price collapse in the next 24 months.