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Kathleen Reardon Headshot

What Happened to Foresight and Common Sense?

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Two venture capitalist friends of mine visit now and then, not because I know an ounce of what they study every day, but because anyone who is deeply involved in the vicissitudes of the economy likely lacks the big picture. It reminds me of when I was learning to play golf and a truly accomplished golfer said to me, "I'd love to be where you are now. You can still change your swing and how you play. I'm stuck with habits I can't undo." That describes the supposedly "indispensable" economic experts we've been relying on, and continue to rely on, to pull our country out of a terrible mess.

Let's leave the likes of Ben Bernanke to the able Ann Pettifor and Timothy Geithner to the considered thoughts of David Sirota. Both of these men are supposedly among those "indispensable" experts who, though complicit in the economic crisis facing our country, are facile at passing blame or lying low while the reputations of others are tattered.

Criticism of Timothy Geithner has been tantamount to an attack on Barack Obama in some quarters, but the truth is our president stuck his neck out for this guy. He spent a lot of favor bank assets to get him on board. And as each day goes by, we learn that Geithner is over his head when his job is to save rather than sink the ship of state.

Yesterday was another lesson in politics. You may recall during the primaries when Chris Dodd publicly threw his support to Barack Obama. And now it is the Obama administration pointing fingers at him -- blaming him for removing constraints on executive bonuses that would have prevented the AIG travesty. And if indeed he did do their bidding, as he has admitted, he was wrong. More wrong than those who pressured him? I don't know, but the blame is being passed around as if they're all playing hot potato. Daily those in high places who thought themselves indispensable or owed too many favors to fail are learning quite the contrary. That's when you know something is deeply amiss.

Barney Frank is coming on strong about AIG. But he should have known that greed does not respond to fear of shame because greed is already shameless. He and his colleagues should have known that people who live for money and power don't suddenly change and reject huge bonuses.

Where are Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? They're very quiet right now -- not in front of cameras day and night, despite how visible they were when the bailouts needed support -- when there was supposedly no choice but to rush them through.

And let's look for a moment at our new president. He might take a lesson or two from all of this even if his popularity remains high. He shouldn't be wasting political chits. As a Harvard graduate, he has come to believe, despite his concern and compassion for average people, that the best answers come from members of the "club." But big shots do indeed put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. Many of them are stellar in their particular areas, but not impressive when it comes to seeing the bigger picture. Few have had to balance checkbooks from the age of sixteen, but have instead learned about economics from books rather than reality. Their understanding of people is wanting. President Obama would be better served with some people experts on his team -- psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, communication experts, political scientists and others who know what people do and how they spend under stress -- not what they're supposed to do based on some abstract formula on a white board.

Change means finding people who have foresight and common sense uncommonly found among the "indispensable". It means not calling in the people who created the problem to fix it.

When your stove is on fire, having a conflagration expert around to discuss the likelihood of spread is interesting, but give me a down-to-earth, experienced firefighter any day. Now there's the indispensable guy!

That's what we have -- a raging firestorm of overqualified incompetence and no experienced firefighters around. We have a plethora of wealthy big shots intending to stay that way. They owe a lot of people and they've paid off many of them at our expense. It's time for all this disingenuous finger pointing to end. No more yelling at each other and deflecting blame. No more "the buck stops here" to cover the many places it stopped on the way up.

Forget about hiring anymore of the pedigreed "indispensable" types. Let's get some smart, big picture people for whom foresight and common sense are not, at best, soft science. And let's stop looking for someone to hang so all the other bandits can go free, and, most important, let's get on with saving the country.

Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.