Monday, November 23, 2009


Last week’s finger-pointing session before the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress actually gives me some hope. Not because the criticism of Treasury Secretary Geithner and the administration as a whole was all that fair or balanced. Not because Geithner’s defense was all that convincing. And certainly not because anyone on either side had much to say about how we might exit from the economic crisis that won’t go away.

Geithner and the Obama administration have made their share of mistakes, to be sure. So has the Congress. The problems we face are not the work of one branch of government and certainly not of a single administration, past or present.

Our economic problems are structural, inherent in the fundamentally flawed growth model we have pursued – with short-term success – for a number of years. To end the current crisis, we need a new approach to economic growth here and abroad, which Geithner in particular has recognized. Americans need to avoid new debt and to pay down the huge excess of foreign debt, which Obama has now recognized. That will require a new approach to international trade, massive new investment both public and private, and the development and adoption of innovative technologies in this country. No one on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue has yet offered a credible strategy for achieving that.

We also need to refashion our system of government so that it is up to this historic task. We need effective regulation by the executive and effective oversight of the regulators by the legislative branch. We need to find a way to keep our promises and to live within our means. We need smart spending on public investment and an end to pork fests like the 2009 “stimulus” package. Most fundamentally, we need to define a national economic strategy and to implement it intelligently and urgently.

These challenges are the joint work of the Congress and the executive branch. Finger-pointing doesn’t do more than waste precious time. My clear sense of the American public is that they are sick of the bickering, impatient with the inaction on big things, and profoundly skeptical of any political promise. Now is the time for action -- bold, swift and purposeful. My advice to all office holders, regardless of party affiliation or position, is: “Get on with the work of economic and governmental restructuring as a matter of the utmost urgency. The job you save may be your own.”