Posted tagged ‘white house’

Mitt Romney At Treasury?

November 10, 2012

There has been speculation since Tuesday’s Presidential election results became known, who would President Obama select for his next cabinet.  Two big openings will be Treasury and State.  Will the team of rivals expand?

One of the intriguing possibilities would be for President Obama to tap Mitt Romney for Secretary of Treasury.  Reaching out to his opponent would underscore both Obama’s desire for bi-partisanship as well as a nod to Romney’s business savvy.  Is this just wistful thinking?  Is Mitt even qualified?  Why would the President consider it or why would Mitt accept?

My guess is this is wistful thinking.  This proposition suggests that politicians are both selfless and possess magical qualities that can fix anything.  If any thing, Washington DC is the home for egotists, the self involved, and the greedy.  DC means “what’s in it for me”.  Strangely, however, our Federal Government seems to function as well if not better than any other in the world.  Never the less, thinking that the President would offer the post and Romney would accept it, puts DC is a romantic light.  The image raises very pleasant wistful thinking.

Hmmm.   But what if?

Romney is a Mormon.  He is a church leader and lives his creed genuinely.  Giving back to the community and sharing widely your gifts is mainstream Mormonism.  At 65, what’s left for Romney?

He could become CEO of a wide range of firms.  He could pursue higher church offices.  He could head a major University.  And he could write a book and sit home counting his money.  Doesn’t sound like new frontiers.

On the other hand, after so many years of public life, a compelling offer to put his talents to work putting America back on fiscally sound path might be attractive.  History would be extremely kind to someone who put first his country.  Pragmatically, what a chance for Romney to contribute to policies which shaped the business environment while fixing the deficit mess.

A Romney appointment would send shivers down the backs of many Liberals.  The anti-Wall Street crowd would think the President had lost his marbles.  Even big banks might worry…  Romney has nothing to gain or lose in his Treasury role…  He would not be for sale under any conditions.

Normally, there is a chemistry associated with these high level appointments.  President Obama, however, picked both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton who opposed his nomination.  The President found ways to work with both without the need for close friendship.

Mitt Romney is a complex character.  He made public statements during his run for office which were all over the map (far right to maybe center left).  Romney just might be able to accept a centrist White House direction and mold Treasury policies to match.  From this inside position, he could ensure his business views were heard.

Dreaming?  Maybe.  The biggest hurdle for Romney might be being a number two in the biggest tent, rather than a number one in some other tent?

Unions’ Difficult Road

June 10, 2010

When Blanch Lincoln was successful Tuesday in retaining the Democratic nomination for US Senate against an opponent highly supported and funded by organized labor, the pundits claimed a victory for the White House and the opening of a rift between Democrats and Unions. This is simply too easy a conclusion to draw and its import is worrisome.

The road for Unions today is difficult. Generally people are employed in reasonable ways and the social safety nets that exist are night and day different from when Unions sprung to popularity. It is just difficult for a Union to make a case for why someone should join.

Unions are political organizations where people run for leadership positions and then try to hold onto that position as time goes on. It looks very much like those who run for Congress or other elected office. Union leadership is a profession and not an act of public service. From that arises the opportunity for Unions to form policies that do little to help the worker and do a lot to help enrich the leadership. I am not talking about corruption (although there has been plenty), I am talking about human nature where preservation of the organization demands preservation of the people in power. Somewhere in this mess, the purpose of Unions gets lost.

This is not a blue collar issue. Teachers Unions represent some of the most compromised unions that exist. In order to combat errors introduced by weak or ineffective supervision, teachers unions have consolidated immense power and they wield it freely over contract, performance, and seniority issues. Lost in their rhetoric is the quality of education their students are receiving. Principles and Administrators often self injure themselves with poor decisions and for a brief moment, unions can say, “see I told you so”.

At the national level, what should be the relationship between organized labor and any political party? Often the relationship is financial and promises of voter turn out. But what should the quid pro quo be?

The President has to be the President of all the people. As a result, he is not likely able to support the most sweeping changes sought by organized labor (or for that matter, the Chamber of Commerce too). The best a President can do is act in a way that is generally supportive. For teachers, White House support of health care reform along with strong support for better quality schools are directionally favorable. The Union, however, is disappointed that the public option was not included and that there could be such a thing as merit pay or teacher selection based upon performance.

I think organized labor has got to wake up and see the larger picture. Growth in the US is going to be moderate to slow for the future and every aspect of the economy has to work well together. Communities are finding it difficult to fund schools yet the Country desperately needs better quality education to remain competitive. Unions supporting manufacture have seen a vanishing of jobs through globalization. Yet the goods made overseas are quite acceptable for quality and cost much less that when they were made in the US. Labor needs to be a partner in how to change the US work environment in order to become more competitive, and as part of that process demand the proper pay and dignity that should go with success.

I wonder whether these discussions are taking place behind closed doors?

Finally Sense in the White House

October 24, 2009

The White House has been grappling with what its strategy should be going forward in Afghanistan. General Stanley McCrystal has submitted a request for more military personnel and is awaiting a response. The collective White House is weighing its response and for good reasons.

According to Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, getting the strategy right is the most important step that needs to be taken. Gates said that up to now there has not been any thought through strategy for Afghanistan. What a surprise.

Gates also said recently that there was need for robust consultations with other allies. He said that Afghanistan was not the sole responsibility of the US. The pieces may be fitting together as one thinks about all the consultation that has been quietly underway with allies and other interested parties (like China and Russia). The press has presented the White House considerations as only a two dimensional think project, centered on what is the politically correct number of troops to deploy. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Militarily, Afghanistan is already a quagmire and the Afghan Government is a cesspool. Both are not likely to change quickly and so there would appear no quick and clean path to peace and withdrawal. What the Obama team seem to recognize, however, is the dysfunctional Taliban leadership that would replace the current Afghan Government should US troops withdraw, would pose a menace for the entire world and not just the US.

Hence the need to get commitment from other Countries, and back home within his Administration, a common and coordinated approach among all the Cabinet Departments. Having an aligned and coordinated approach to Afghanistan is the best chance of achieving a positive outcome, a stable, peaceful Afghan Government.

So it is with some amusement that former Vice President Dick Cheney’s comments are received. Cheney speaking to a like group of chicken hawks said President Obama was “dithering” and should just give his commander the troops he needed to win. Oh, this is so Bush and Cheney, it is hard to not fall down laughing.

The Bush/Cheney team allowed the US Afghan war effort sit on the back burner while it foolishly pursued an unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq. In both military efforts there were no robust plans, no exit strategies, and no identified set of goals that would define success. And, even more telling, there was little or no involvement of allies or interested parties. It is refreshing and even more, a sign of real change to see the manner in which President Obama is conducting his foreign policy.

Finally, there is sense in the White House.

Mob Wisdom

August 12, 2009

The health care reform legislation has produced one positive outcome so far.  It has provided the faceless voices of many Americans to surface. Their voices are surfacing at public events such as Congressional “town hall meetings” or other places where local politicians are present. In most all the meetings captured on video, one is struck by image of “mob rule”. The louder one speaks, the more certain he/she is that their opinion is correct. While there is scarcely any truth or even useful information in the tirades being spewed forth, there is plenty of hidden messages.

Mobs are very dangerous events. They are formed when deep seated feelings erupt. Mobs, however, lack the coherent thinking that would provide judgement and place sensible limits to their exercise of free speech. So what is the deep seated feeling these Americans are expressing?

Could it be frustration compounded by confusion? Could it be these mobs are frustrated with government in general and Congress in specifics? Could it be that no one can understand why the government would negotiate at all with health insurance companies unless it was to agree upon a deal in return for all the political donations they have received? Could it be that they had witnessed time and again Congress including special concessions for their benefactors? Could it be that the mobs simply do not understand how the government can forecast endless unbalanced budgets and not be asking the country to sacrifice in order to balance taxes with expenditures?

If you listen to those speaking angrily at these town hall meetings, you will find that their comments make no sense and are almost always false in their claims. But should they be dismissed as “nut cases”?

Mobs bear no value in a debate. They can, however, and in this case, do represent a sort of “wisdom”. The “wisdom” here would reveal that Congress is justly held in very low esteem and that the White House has done a terrible job in framing the health care reform debate.

As a case in point, the White House negotiations with health care insurers makes no sense. Are these companies insurers or administrators? A true insurance company takes premiums, invests these payments, and then pays claims with a combination of premium income and investment income. If done well, there is no reason that the insurer could not compete with a government “public sector” option. What does them in now is the level of administrative costs (20% versus 3% for Medicare).

Maybe the mob has some wisdom in this case.