Saturday, October 10, 2009

Attention Splitting

My attention is being split all over the place this morning it seems.

I read a great blog from Ruth Marlin last night at The FAA Follies. I was all set to build on her thoughts last night but that was last night. This morning it escapes me. Yes, this is the reason disciplined creative types will wake up in the middle of the night and write a good idea down -- before it escapes.

Anyway, Ruth’s point is a good one. Being a controller is enough. It’s more than enough. Trust me, a controller with 20 years experience has insights that a 5, 10 or 15-year controller will never have. The smart supervisors recognize this. The FAA needs more of them that do recognize this fact. Unfortunately, being scared of traffic and thinking of the job as a stepping stone isn’t a good criteria for selecting supervisors. There are many paths to take in the FAA and I don’t want to belittle any of them. The FAA needs good supervisors, managers and staff specialists -- just as they need good controllers.

Like any good blog, Ruth made more than one point. Go read it. She is and always has been an incredibly smart and motivated controller.

Paul Krugman is still doing his part to save us from ourselves. I really don’t know how he keeps at it. He warned us that the stimulus bill was too small, he warned that leaving it too small and coming back to fix it would be politically difficult and he warned us that we would have to resist the coming pressure to reign in spending too quickly.

He did it again, yesterday, in his usual unique way -- with a graph.

”If there’s one overwhelming lesson from the Great Depression, it is that putting a higher priority on stabilizing your currency than on domestic recovery is utterly disastrous. “

He did it again later in the day.

”Although I poked fun at the WSJ in my last post, the buzz about the dollar — the growing clamor to do something about its decline — is coming from a number of people. And it has me worried, because it’s part of the groundswell of demands that we begin an exit strategy from loose monetary policy now now now, even though nothing in the actual economic situation warrants such action.“

Think about it; this is a world-class mind we’re talking about here that -- almost everyday -- dumbs down his arguments so that people like me can understand them. And he makes the same arguments (albeit in unique ways) for the folks that are slow to catch on. His argument in Friday’s column is an absolute no-brainer. We all know that education set America apart and it’s the key to our future. So what are we doing ? Laying off teachers. It’s insane.

But, he too, has more than one point:

”The rise of American education was, overwhelmingly, the rise of public education — and for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Education, as one of the largest components of public spending, has inevitably suffered. “

Sound familiar ? More importantly, does it sound right ? Is it the truth ? I think it is.

I read a book some time ago, Mornings on Horseback
I think it was. I didn’t bother reviewing it because I didn’t like it. A great author (David McCullough). A great subject (Teddy Roosevelt). I can’t explain what happened so maybe it was just me. Anyway, in it I read about the grand estates on Long Island that fell into disuse after the Depression. No one could afford such extravagance anymore. The houses became hospitals, museums and whatnot. No individual could afford them.

This is from a story a couple of weeks ago in Time.

”But maybe that's O.K., because the Great McMansion Repurposing has begun. People are finding new uses for huge houses that were once inhabited only by nuclear families. A film collective in Seattle has taken over one behemoth, turning the wine closet into an editing room. Outside San Diego, the former residence of a husband and wife and two kids is being converted into a home for autistic adults. Architects around the world are dreaming about what they might do if they could get their hands on such massive spaces.“

History does repeat itself. Maybe not exactly, but the tune is still familiar. The signs are all around. The situation is enormously complex yet smart people need to find ways to explain it simply to busy people. Here’s my contribution.

FDR got it right.

You’ll hear a lot of people trying to rewrite that history. They’re delusional. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a lot of mistakes and took more than one wrong turn. But in the end, his instincts were right and he saved capitalism from itself. He used the borrowing power of the Federal government to replace the private spending that had collapsed. He put people to work. He cleaned up the banks and he regulated Wall Street. He empowered workers -- unions -- knowing they would check the power of Big Business. And he was right. We went 50 years without another financial crisis. That was unheard of. If you want to know where we should go and what we should do, that’s as good a blueprint as you’ll get.

FDR got it right.

Don Brown
October 10, 2009

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