I learned to love Fridays these last few months, newly appreciative of weekends after 18 months of telecommuting contract work. I had finally landed a Dream Job at a Dream Company. Life had stabilized into something more suitable for long-term planning. I started reading both Krugman and Brooks on the train ride to my Dream Job each Friday, marveling at the irony of how unhinged the former sounded, notwithstanding my agreement with many underlying policy principals, now that the latter was writing from a minority position.
This past Friday was no different.
Scratch that. It was totally different. I found out on Monday the 9th that the Dream Job was over after only three months and Friday the 13th would be my last day. I was promised a year-long contract (“That is sure to become two or three years…”) but was being preemptively laid off. The Dream Company had steady profits and a sunny outlook but was “forced” to dispose of someone who took six months to source and another three to train on their highly complex global information systems to meet some unattainable Wall Street metric.
“These are Perilous Economic Times,” Dream Company told me, an arm thrown companionably around my shoulder. “We must remain cautious. Perhaps we can reevaluate our relationship in Q3?”
America has created a business environment that requires public companies to focus tactically at the next quarter independent of long-term strategic goals for the organization, let alone for the country or the
economy. We can’t allow for slow or no growth during perilous times to prepare for new opportunities when they arrive. Instead, American companies must cannibalize their already scarce resources, laying off valuable
(not to mention fragile and human) employees and sabotaging the company’s ability to deliver on long-term strategic goals.
This leads to uncertainty and fear for the employees who remain when what we need is innovation and risk to provide the momentum for all of our success.
Companies pursue moronic tactics with atavistic glee (the 1920s called and they want their decade back) or else the idiots on Wall Street might start panicking and drive the market down by a hundred points. I am not sure
how we allowed such shrinking violets to be in charge of a central piece of our society, but that is different blog altogether. I am not bitter about the premature ending of what had promised to be a long-term and fruitful relationship. I understand the reality of a contract worker’s place in the hierarchy of American business.
I am a little heart broken, of course, but still believe each challenge is quickly followed by an opportunity and have yet to be proved wrong by maintaining optimism in the face of adversity.
Which brings me to America’s lack of confidence and how Barack Obama failed to achieve what was actually possible in these initial rounds of going toe-to-toe with Congressional republicans by way of Congressional democrats. Barack may have gotten his bill through Congress using a left cross where George Junior used a right hook, but he missed a huge opportunity to tell America a different story of how we would fix our Republic. He let partisan divisions and the media spotlight paint a narrative for the American people that was independent of historical context or strategic vision.
He didn’t describe a progressive America and the two trillion dollars we would have to spend to get there. He didn’t call special interests to account for leading us to this precarious position. He didn’t tell us all we have to fear is fear itself.
Instead, Barack allowed the democratic Congress to blow the dust off of everything they couldn’t get through the republican idiots on Capital Hill for the last eight years and present it as the foundation for a Revolutionary Recovery Package to Meet These Troubled Economic Times, Our Greatest Challenge Since The Great Depression. They gathered in Committee like so many Councils of Nicea to create a liberal Frankenstein monster that would provoke a predictable response from both the republican minority as well as the media.
Our “leaders” in Congress didn’t look at our current moment and craft new solutions to address old weaknesses and take advantage of new opportunities, settling for uninspired and reactionary measures instead.
This country suffers deep psychological wounds inflicted over four decades of brutal partisan warfare. Even when our very future is at stake, our Ideological Warriors can’t break free of their destructive embrace. Barack campaigned (and won) on the desire to change all that. The “common wisdom” on the left now says Obama needs to forget about all this bipartisan nonsense and Bring the Hammer Down. The GOP is intractable and want the Country To Fail, so the president has no choice but to get Medieval on Their Republican Asses!
I think that misses the reality of the opportunity by a mile.
The strategy of bringing Americans together to achieve progressive changes demonstrates Barack’s innate understanding of our structural weaknesses as well as awareness of our greatest strength, but the tactic of using the
republicans in Congress (not to mention democrats) as a vehicle for change shows the president’s learning curve in action. Barack missed his first real opportunity to go straight to the grassroots of both parties with his vision for an America renaissance financed by all of our hard work and sacrifice over the decades to come. He failed to build on the momentum provided by both his election and his inauguration.
Our new president should use the opportunity presented by our current media environment to speak directly to voters of both parties and inspire them to force Congress to be as big and as bold as our current situation demands.
The bill may not be exactly what we need, but Barack can use the Bully Pulpit to keep the American people involved in the process and inspire them to provide eyeballs at the local level where the money could easily hemorrhage into the black hole that is government contracting. The administration can use the distribution process to force common sense changes in governance, transparency and accountability. All the fine details of how the money is allocated should be immediately reviewed to ensure the holes that led to the money being needed in the first place are plugged even as we deploy massive new infusions of capital into some obviously broken programs.
We’ll need to fix our systems of government even as we seek to transform America into a 21st Century nation, but until the voters get mad, our dysfunctional Congress won’t be able to find its ass with both hands.
Barack needs to help to country get through the Anger and the Fear and the Regret of eight lost years. Twenty-eight lost years, actually, because this story is not new. Obama promised to bring the country together and I think our shared feelings of vulnerability are a great place to start the conversation. He needs to articulate a Dream Nation we can all be inspired to support and work our asses off to achieve. Given the president’s approval ratings, I think America is finally ready to listen. Once we understand the opportunities and risks involved with pursuing innovative solutions to our various and sundry and well-entrenched problems, we can pester our ineffective Congress to continue modifying what might be an adequate plan right now into something that will truly deliver the sustainable future dictated by both our Common Sense and our Common Need.