TWO BOYS AND BIN LADEN

The other day I saw two boys running home after school. The “hare” sprinted ahead then faltered and stopped. The “tortoise” kept running and disappeared from view far ahead.

I thought of conservatives—and many liberals, too—who take the “hare” or sprinter’s approach to the economy. Either push some free-market buttons or throw government cash at the problem. Then watch the economy soar justlikethat. I don’t think so.

It took nearly a decade to find Osama bin Laden. Persistence and hard work bore fruit. President George W. Bush made a costly mistake in not letting American troops go after bin Laden at Tora Bora after 9/11, but he never intended for bin Laden to escape. President Obama concluded that our “friends” in Afghanistan and Pakistan should not determine American actions and moved forward with SEAL Team 6. They succeeded.

The markets yawned at bin Laden’s death. I liked that. Investors would have responded enthusiastically in the months after 9/11, but in some ways, bin Laden already was history. Investor attention focused on the state of the economy which, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke reported a week ago, is recovering albeit slowly. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, among others, has long written that many Americans fail to understand the depth of the hole into which the economy plunged and how much time we’ll need to get out of it. Quick fixes like cutting vital social programs to the bone or increased government spending that bloats the deficit may play to a number of voters but represent dereliction of duty.

Let’s give President Obama some credit here. Now that the birther movement has dissipated—less a few diehards who will remain—perhaps the nation will attend to real issues with an eye on reality. America’s penchant for mechanistic thinking—anything can be repaired quickly as if it were a car engine or some other mechanical device—requires modification. By opposing mechanistic solutions, Mr. Obama reveals himself to be a tortoise.

But as the 2012 election grows nearer, Republicans may find the tortoise too far out front to catch. Economic data keep trending up. Today’s non-farms payroll report showed a gain of 244,000 jobs. While unemployment rose from 8.8% to 9.0%, this most likely indicates growing confidence in the economy and more people reentering the job market. The Dow closed at 12810 on April 29 then dropped back this week, reinforcing a two-steps-forward, one-back approach. A very possible scenario: the Dow approaches 14000 a year from now when election season kicks into high gear. Many people have said to me that we’ll never see that number again in our lifetimes. Those conversations are now all of two years old.

Emotions have run wild over the last several years. But indeed, the President was born in Hawaii. Bin Laden is gone. And the economy, while not where we want it to be, has made significant progress. Americans may yet conclude that patience and pragmatism represent virtues.

I’ll be taking the next few Fridays off. It’s a great opportunity to review past posts—just scroll down. Want to respond? Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

 

5 Comments


  1. Jane
    May 06, 2011

    David – hi – it will be interesting to see if your cheerful predictions re jobs and the economy are justified. For Barry’s and all our sake’s, I hope yes! But – listening to Robert Reich and to Paul Krugman and their compatriots – and respecting them as I do – I find myself less inclined to optimism. The recovery is shaky. And threatened by Republicans who can find nothing better to do than to continue govt subsidies to oil companies and to support tax breaks and exemptions for the uber rich – while declining to consider the unemployed (many only yesterday middle class) let alone the poor as deserving of anything. Optimism is good. Realism is necessary. Optimism without realism can lead to complacency. That’s what worries me. I’m not sure your analogy works, therefore.


    • David
      May 06, 2011

      No question, the economy is still on shaky ground. And I believe that Republicans want it to stay that way as a tool for the presidential election. So while I’m not saying we’re out of the woods, I would urge Americans to look at the numbers, concede we’ve made progress and focus on what we need to do to solidify our gains and prevent another financial disaster based on the false god of the free market.


  2. Sandy Lipkowitz
    May 06, 2011

    Hi David,

    As always, I love reading your blog. I was behind a few weeks and just caught up now.

    I would love to see one on the celebrations (Super Bowl style) after the news of Ben Laden’s death. They nauseated me. All I could think of was the photo I saw in the Jerusalem newspaper after the first Intifada. I was in Israel that October. The Palestinians had killed several soldiers and dumped their bodies out of a second story police station. One of the Palestinians held up the heart of one of the soldiers the blood running down his arm.

    I am glad Ben Laden was killed, but it is not a time to rejoice. I wish people would have gone to Ground Zero with candles and stood in meditation. I hate to think we have lowered ourselves to the same level that we find offensive when cetain Muslims rejoice at the killing of Westerner’s.


    • David
      May 06, 2011

      I was delighted by bin Laden’s death and salute SEAL Team 6. But the kind of public celebrations we witnessed certainly don’t represent my approach. I have some thoughts on that and, after a few weeks break, may have some new perspectives. So I’ll keep your suggestion in mind.


  3. Carolyn Power
    May 06, 2011

    The one word that comes to mind when I saw people cheering bin Laden’s death is, “Unseemly.” The fact that we murder in order to achieve peace is sobering both in scope and reality.

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