Throwing the kids out of the second story window

This last week I had the opportunity to attend a post board meeting dinner at the Quadrangle Club in Hyde Park. Chairs of all the departments of our school were invited as well as the President of the Union (how I qualified), about 35 of us all together. The meal was delicious, the company loquacious and on their best behavior.

The speaker was, Austan Goolsbee, the former chair of economic advisors for the Obama administration. He had recently left this position and was returning to his original job as professor at the Booth School at the University of Chicago.

He was charming and very, very funny. One of my table mates said that when Goolsbee was in college he actually did stand-up, which, after his presentation, came as no surprise. He was obviously well-informed, articulate, very bright, and spirited.

He shared that before the president took office, as the president-elect, Goolsbee and the other economic advisors were in a briefing with Obama. Each of the advisors had a specific sector of the economy they had researched and one after the other, from housing to financial markets to banking, the news got grimmer and grimmer. He said that it was more than clear that the economy was at the edge of the cliff, ready to topple into the abyss — a crisis nearly as bad, if not worse, as the Great Depression.

He said the first part of Obama’s term, dealing with the failing economy, was like being in a burning building, a building about to be engulfed in an epic conflagration, and that they were throwing the “kids” out the second story window into the pool below in order to save them. They were trying everything. Now, years later, others are judging them and the quality of their actions, using the Olympic standards for diving. “Unfair,” he said.

And I say so as well. This crisis didn’t grow out of the Obama administration’s response to it. This crisis was long in growing, a nefarious and protracted corruption, consequences from lack of oversight and the shrinking of federal regulations on markets and institutions. Handing the keys back to the party that got us into this mess in the first place and who doesn’t seem to have any new ideas from the ones they employed before, seems the epitome of insanity.

I am hopeful, however. But, of course, this hopefulness is founded on everyone voting in the upcoming election. Everyone. And not just for the President of the United States, but also for members of the House and Senate too. This is how we are all part of the process of solving problems and shaping our future. Exercise this most basic of rights. Don’t let lethargy make the decisions for you. Step up.

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