Friday, February 20, 2009

The Teamwork Trap

Where are the leaders when we need them?

Where is Teddy Roosevelt?

Where is Robert Moses?

Where is Lee Iacocca?

To our great misfortune they are long gone. Some dead, some retired but all long gone. Even Bob Lutz has had enough and announced his retirement from General Motors leaving the future of the American car industry to Harvard Business School imbeciles like Rick Wagoner.

When America's westward growth and emergence as a world power depended on a reliable seaway connecting the east coast with the west coast, Teddy Roosevelt went into action, unilaterally. Rather than let Congress debate the merits of the project he simply went ahead and built it.

"Should I let them debate this issue endlessly or go ahead with it and let them debate Teddy Roosevelt. They can debate me for the next four years and when they get tired of talking the canal will have already been built."

President Roosevelt didn't build consensus. He didn't appoint a commission. He didn't invite the leaders of the House and Senate into the Oval Office for tea or make speeches about bipartisan teamwork. He built the Panama Canal--under budget and ahead of schedule.

When Robert Moses received millions of federal dollars under the WPA he could have easily used it to pay off political cronies.

After all, that's what the power brokers from other states did with the money. Instead, Moses built a state parks system that still endures, providing recreational opportunities and state revenues for nearly eighty years.

Moses also realized that the automobile was the engine that would drive economic expansion and built highways and bridges.

In addition to building them, Robert Moses protected these massive infrastructure projects from the political hacks and parasites who would use the revenues not for the maintenance and expansion of the system, but to create political patronage and fuel corruption on a massive scale.

Of course, since his death this is precisely what has happened. Today, with a round trip on the Verrazano Bridge costing $10 (with $9 going to the MTA) the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is still teetering on the brink of insolvency.

Left to a commission or the state legislature we would still be debating the merits of a two-lane highway between Spring Valley and Albany or an upgrade of ferry service between Brooklyn and Staten Island.

When Lee Iacocca took over a troubled Chrysler Motors he went to Congress with a personal pledge to turn the company around.

He made himself personally accountable and through the power of his leadership and his keen insights into the American car market he succeeded.

It wasn't a management committee that brought Chrysler back from the dead, it was the leadership of Lee Iacocca.

The Chrysler bailout was still a bad idea because it now provides the rationale for every conceivable use of taxpayer money to rescue banks, car companies and securities firms without any reasonable expectation that they can survive past next month.

Can anyone who has witnessed the pathetic spectacle of the auto and financial executives appearing before Congrees honestly say that there's a Lee Iacocca among this gaggle of dimwits?

And what has consensus building, bipartisanship and teamwork gotten us?

For starters there's a stimulus bill with virtually no stimulus. President Obama let Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Bernie Sanders and Harry Reid write the bill and he has signed it into law without even pretending that this has anything to do with reviving the economy. And while our President speaks so eloquently about getting this economy going again immediately, unsurprisingly most of the Porkulus spending goes into effect next year when the best legislators money can buy are all up for reelection.


So while America's leaders are using our grandchildren's money to pay off today's political debts, the Chinese--yes the Red Chinese--are using their trade surplus to build roads, bridges, nuclear power plants and their own worlwide automobile manufacturing industry.

The Tiger Champ, designed and engineered in China, will be assembled in Oklahoma for sale in America and throughout the world. No doubt this is just the beginning.

I wonder how home prices are faring in Guangzhou?