Thoughts on a Slow Work Day

Three things occur to me this morning, as I continue to watch the unsettling news unfold.

First, of all the observations about the American businessman’s new Public Enemy #1, Standard & Poor’s, whose downgrade of the country’s bond rating has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, this was, perhaps, the most compelling: What did you expect from the same collection of stooges that gave Lehman Brothers an “A” rating just days before that financial house of cards passing itself off as an investment bank came crashing to the ground?

After all, given the Lehman meltdown and a few others, it’s not like S&P was riding some sort of tidal wave of analytic achievement and rating success.

But nevertheless, damn them and their foolishness.

Secondly, two years ago the media in this country missed a golden opportunity to — much like Aesop might have done — tell America a story with a wonderful life-affirming moral.  In the case two years ago it was the story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s miraculous landing of his U.S. Airways A320 on the Hudson, which saved the lives of 155 of his passengers and fellow crew members.

Given that “Sully’s” heroics occurred almost four months to the day after the demise of Lehman Brothers, and at a moment when Goldman Sachs, General Motors and a number of other “too big to fail” institutions were still circling the bowl — and that  Sullenberger’s heroism somehow played itself out within earshot and eyesight of Wall Street — there was a great opportunity to tell the American business community something it desperately wanted and needed to hear.

The sheer poetry of the moment was incredible, and all it would have taken was for some business writer to stand up, point to the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel and say, “Look!”

The time was ripe for someone, anyone, to point out that just as that jet airliner landed safely on that choppy river and did not sink, so too this economy — and this country — would do the same.  But no reporters, commentators or columnists I saw or read thought (or perhaps bothered) to make the connection.

That’s why when another absolute miracle of human achievement occurred a few days back, I thought for sure some writer more talented than I would sit down and draw a parallel between it, our wheezing economy, and the kind of hope and determination that will ultimately see us through this mess.

But none did.  They just reported the facts and let the story cycle itself out.

I’m talking, of course, about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords flying to Washington last week to vote to increase the debt ceiling.

I, like many of you, was stunned to learn that a woman who just seven months ago had been shot  in the head by some psycho and left to die with a bullet in her brain, could fight her way back to a point that she could assume at least one of the duties of her office.

So short of some long-winded essay, let me just say this:  Here’s to you and your indomitable spirit, Ms. Giffords.

And may those of us on either side of this crazy, polarizing debt ceiling debate — and I mean every last one of us; red-staters and blue-staters alike — take a break from our political zeal and inflammatory rhetoric, lay down our political banners and hand-made signs of protest, and stand and applaud, if only for a moment, the absolute miracle of you.

And just as you have fought back from the abyss by some incredible combination of willpower, work ethic, hope, faith, determination and support, may we too find those things in ourselves and those around us, and immediately unleash them on the global marketplace.

And when we do, and when this economy finally turns it around, I promise you this, Congresswoman Giffords; our achievement will pale in comparison to yours.

Which leads me to my third and final point.  This one is not so much an original thought, as it is a viewpoint I share down to the marrow of my soul.  It’s a quote I read today from Jamie Dimon, Chairman, President and CEO of JP Morgan Chase.  Dimon said this following Monday’s stock market meltdown:

“When they hit the pillow tonight, people shouldn’t be dwelling on a 500-point drop in the market, but how the United States has the best rule of law, military, companies, universities and work ethic of any place in the world.”

He then added, “The strength of this system is going to blow your socks off when we come out of this malaise.”

Amen.  And what’s more, unlike so many other things in this fickle economy and these uncertain times, those words are words you can take to the bank.

(And oh yes, one more thing; may I also take this moment to ask a small favor of the zealots, reactionaries and political ideologues in Congress responsible, at least in part, for this crippling run-up in debt; the very same public servants charged with somehow finding a solution to it?

Let’s cut the current five-week Congressional vacation short, shall we? At least for this year?

I don’t know whether you’re aware of it or not, but there’s work to do in Washington.)

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