Listening to President Obama talk around our dire fiscal problems in his State of the Union address was like sitting through the earnings call of a flailing company, says Megan McArdle in The Atlantic. The CEO knows his business is "on the road to disaster," but he "puts the best face on things," because it would be worse to say, "Sell my stock now, guys!" And often the analysts who dialed in "actively, even eagerly, participate in the denial." The American public can't afford to do that. We have to steel ourselves for "some very hard choices about taxes and spending," and for the reality that, no matter what our nation's CEO does, we're headed for "lower economic growth, angry voters, and some real loss on the part of whoever's ox is gored." Here, an excerpt:
What do those CEOs do? They spend a lot of time talking about their company's proud history, even if that history only stretches back a few years. They lavish extravagant praise on their awesome, dedicated workforce. And they deftly avoid talking about the big problems, for which they have no solutions, by talking about strategic areas for potential growth (green jobs)...
You can't blame the dodges, but they are a warning sign. Not that the CEO is a bad CEO, but that the CEO is in a bad situation he can't fix. It's not that Obama doesn't know how to fix the problems; I think that like most people in Washington, he understands the broad parameters within which the fixes will be carried out. But he can't make Congress do it before there's an actual crisis. And saying all of this is all too likely to trigger the crisis — a crisis he'd much rather would happen during someone else's presidency.
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