Getting Ones Hands Dirty

“We are living through a time of global economic challenges that cannot be met by half measures or the isolated efforts of any nation,” said President Obama in a column published in leading newspapers around the world last week.

“The leaders of the Group of 20 have a responsibility to take bold, comprehensive and coordinated action that not only jump-starts recovery, but also launches a new era of economic management to prevent a crisis from ever happening again,” he said in his preliminary instructions to those overseas.

As for what Mr. Obama intended to do to make good on his campaign promise to solve the economic woes here at home, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs revealed when he provided a preview of what the president would talk about in his second prime-time news conference scheduled for last Tuesday, the 24th. He would be discussing his moves to stabilize the financial system, prevent home foreclosures, spur access to credit, and reform the financial regulatory system to prevent a recurrence of the crisis, Mr. Gibbs assured us.

Mr. Gibbs was strangely silent about those 3.5 million jobs promised in January’s euphoria, however. And so was the president, because neither he, nor anyone else in the Group of 20 knows how to pull the world out of its economic tailspin.

But what the other members of the Group of 20 have little doubt about is that the root cause of the turmoil lies not with them but with the U.S. Somehow, they’ve deduced, the whole mess had its origin on America’s side of the pond(s) and what was once a ripple has now become a full-fledged tsunami. Those G-20 members are now awaiting Mr. Obama’s arrival, but not with any degree of optimism. They’ve also deduced, correctly, that if Mr. Obama knew the real cause of today’s economic malaise he’d be treating the cause of the disease in his own backyard instead of wasting his time at a pessimistic G-20 assembly.

Maybe we’re not being fair to those politicians who are trying to run the world. They have an alibi. They know nothing at all about the world of business and none of them ever got their hands dirty doing an honest day’s work. Those dirty hands came from other endeavors.

If they’re “studying the Great Depression”, as they claim to be doing, and if they did so without confining their probes into just the financial problems of the era, they would learn about the remarkable – or rather, the miraculous – turnaround that took place when World War II reared its ugly head. Our nation was forced into a job-creating shipbuilding effort in order to avoid the terrible consequences inflicted upon the vanquished, and it was this incredibly successful effort that brought victory to the U.S. – along with a half century of unparalleled economic success.

Recalling that success, shouldn’t we be undertaking a job-creating shipbuilding program today in order to extricate ourselves from this economic mess and “prevent a recurrence of the crisis”? The buck stops here. The so-called G-20 is of no use to us or to themselves in this international crisis.