Our current political system puts reality television to shame. The average voter is repulsed and is on the verge of grabbing a pitchfork to storm the Bastille. Individual investors are also paying a steep price for this gross political incompetence.
On the birthday of arguably our greatest president, Abe Lincoln, we need to look at this sad situation in much greater detail.
Billions of investor dollars are literally being flushed down the toilet. This is due to ineffective financial regulation and dysfunctional fiscal policy that severely limits our economy’s ability to grow to its full potential.
Some of our so called “public servants” are actually trying to block a ruling that would force financial advisors to look out for their clients’ best interests.
These characters are largely responsible for our crumbling roads and bridges, decrepit airports, and painfully slow internet connections.
Our current leaders fall into several categories;none of them are flattering. Self-serving, bitterly partisan, mean spirited, anti-science, beholden to special interests, and just plain crazy are just a few of the words I can think of without being censored.
This brings us to Mr. Lincoln. After recently finishing A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, I have conflicted emotions. On one hand, I developed tremendous respect for the super human leadership abilities of Lincoln. Alternatively, the current status of our political leaders is enough to drive me to drink!
Miraculously, Lincoln was able to form a team with the common goal of unifying the country and later liberating the slaves. Amazingly, his coalition included radical republicans (hell-bent on punishing the South), abolitionists, moderate democrats, war hawks, and anti-immigrant nativists.
This group does not include Union Generals who were incompetent or refused to engage the enemy. More importantly, a very unstable home life was another gigantic obstacle Lincoln had to overcome.
Mary Todd Lincoln suffered from severe depression which was exacerbated after the death of her young son, Willie. Despite of all of these roadblocks, Lincoln was able to cajole these bickering diverse personalities into focusing upon a common cause. This effort resulted in a victorious Union war effort that reunited the nation and emancipated the entire slave population.
How did he do this? Lincoln’s successful formula included picking the best people for the job based on ability, not political persuasion. Taking blame and being very generous with credit to others was Lincoln’s guiding principle. Looking out for what was best for the future of the nation was paramount in Lincoln’s decision-making process.
That brings us to our current state of affairs. What would Lincoln do to get our country out of the political quagmire we currently find ourselves in?
Here is what I think Lincoln would attempt to do to put the United States back on the road to prosperity. First, he would take the motley cast of characters that populate our current political landscape and make the best of it.
Second, Lincoln would form a diverse Cabinet with widely divergent political viewpoints and talents. Finally, Lincoln would attempt to unite them under a common goal of creating a sustainable model for future prosperity while making them believe it was their idea!
These actions would give our nation’s citizens the best chance to maximize their own unique potential and talents. This would be in lock-step with the process Lincoln employed to create his cabinet of advisors.
Here is an attempt to construct a fictional modern age political plan that Lincoln would attempt in order to unify our current bitterly divided nation. All aspects of this undertaking would be based upon Lincoln’s political philosophy of unity over division.
Secretary of Labor – Bernie Sanders. Who would be a better choice to fight for the wages and working conditions of the average middle class employee? Lincoln was also known for his storytelling and sense of humor. References to “Curb Your Enthusiasm” would be a mood lightener during tense Cabinet meetings with this Larry David sound alike.
Attorney General – Chris Christie. Lincoln watched his merciless take-down of a quivering Marco Rubio during the Republican debate. Christie has a talent for prosecution that needs to be channeled in a more positive direction. Lincoln would also be wise enough to make sure Governor Christie abstained from any law enforcement issue dealing with Public Transportation.
S.E.C. Chair – Elizabeth Warren. Nothing puts the fear of God into bankers and brokers like the Senator from Massachusetts. She would be his financial General Sherman. Her mission would be to destroy all monetary conflicts of interests and lack of transparency. Senator Warren would most likely make Sherman’s march to the sea look more like a Sunday picnic!
Treasury Secretary- Mike Bloomberg. This would be Lincoln’s crowning achievement. Imagine a successful billionaire/politician helping to guide the economy that was not crass, ostentatious, and insulting?
Secretary of Defense- John McCain. Very few people care more about the defense of our nation than this former prisoner of war. Lincoln was all too familiar with the horrors of battle. The last thing he would want was a chicken hawk giving him advice about putting young men and women in harm’s way.
While many people may read these selections and vehemently disagree, this is exactly the point. Lincoln knew firsthand how destructive the role of political partisanship can play. An echo chamber is no substitute for sound policy making.
There are many other Cabinet positions, but you get the point. Imagine Liberal Democrats, Conservative Republicans, Independents, and Moderates from both parties working in unison toward a common cause!
While many believe creating such a political structure in modern times is impossibility, Lincoln made this a reality under much more dire circumstances. Only an assassin’s bullet kept him from the full completion of his reunification goals.
The citizens of our country and the investors in its financial markets deserve much better than the spectacle we are getting at the moment. Presidential candidates who call each other” liars” and make accusations concerning such important items such as mooning, pot smoking, etc., are entirely unbecoming of Lincoln’s proud legacy
Happy Birthday, President Lincoln! Your nation is badly in need of your wise counsel. Our citizens and the investors in its capital markets deserve so much better than the real-life Saturday Night Live skit we are currently witnessing.