Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Too little, too late for the President

President Obama has just appointed Professor Alan Krueger of Princeton University to provide much-needed, albeit too late, aid to Timothy Geithner as they grapple with a stymied economy and a lackluster jobs market. While I am no Columbia MBA graduate, it is clear that if people do not have jobs, they cannot pay their bills, nor pay their mortgages - a jobs bill was promised by both Democrats and Republicans but in their need to have a major pissing contest, these so-called elected leaders have come up with nothing.

As of this writing, the President's approval ratings are positively abysmal, in the 40% range - low 40's, that is. While it is laudable that Professor Krueger has joined the Obama team, that is an action that is years overdue. This recession did not occur overnight - Krueger or someone else of his stature and economic prowess should have been appointed when this nightmare began two years or so ago.

President Obama began his presidency promising change - he has tried to deliver but has caved far too often when what he needed was to use his executive powers as Executive in Chief and veto any legislation he did not like and instruct then Senate Majority Leader Pelosi to keep the balance in the Senate and get Republicans and Democrats to come up with a comprehensive jobs proposal - one that both sides could live with and failing that, he should have admonished his economics team to do just that - come up with a plan and insist that congress fall in lockstep.

That brings me to the ne'er do well Mr. Geithner. From reading his bio and credentials, Mr. Geithner should have brought a lot to the proverbial table of the Obama economics team - he has, however shown little leadership; instead appearing like a deer in the headlights when confronted on difficult economic subjects - he has clearly no clue what he is doing, nor what needs to be done.

The time for Americans to be patient is past and the President has unfortunately squandered far too much political will and capital on playing Mr. Nice Guy - it has backfired and horribly.

What is needed now is strong leadership and a fiscally responsible President - one who is not scared of making tough decisions, no matter how unpopular - it is nice to be liked, but politics is not for the fainthearted.

President Obama has made history and for that, I am grateful - his time has clearly passed. It is still, after all is said and done - the economy, stupid!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moratorium on PM David Cameron

I have been enjoying my vacation in London. I have been staying with my sisters who live in South Norwood and Croydon respectively. You may recall that the location of the huge furniture shop fire was Croydon. I have yet to witness first hand any destruction but have been riveted to the reporting on TV and in newspapers regarding same.

PM David Cameron is desperately playing catch up, trying to assure his blue-blooded, private school cronies that all is well and that the police have this matter in hand. He has a new super cop from America who will consult with the PM on sensitive gang issues and help him strategize, along with the police department, as to how to get a handle on the crime that is sweeping across pockets of London and other larger English cities.

Cameron is in a coalition government and did not win the last election by a sweeping majority. He needs to hit this situation out of the proverbial ball park in order to re-install faith in his constituents and the country. If he does not regain the trust of the public, he will likely not be re-elected. After speaking with several people since being here for two weeks, I realize that most of all, they wish to be heard by their politicians and overwhelmingly, they feel that they are not being heard and that politicians are out of touch with what people need in London, in particular.

News reports seem to back this up as they have been interviewing individuals of all ethnicities, religious backgrounds and ages.

PM Cameron should tread very carefully at this time......his days might just be numbered.

Why Warren Buffett is right

Warren Buffett has recently called for millionaires and the ueber wealthy to pay more than their fair share of taxes. The entire country has been asked to share the sacrifice, take lesser paying jobs, move back home with family and are otherwise doubling up in their living arrangements. They are working part time jobs sans health insurance, working more than one job to make ends meet and not foreclose on their mortgages. They are sharing the sacrifice.

It has been suggested that the wealthy not pay their share as they have earned their money the old-fashioned way in many instances. In today's CNN online edition, Jeffrey Miron of Harvard University suggests that the circa $73 billion generated by taxing the wealthy at 10% would merely be a drop in the bucket and would do little to alleviate the financial issues presently facing the country. Miron believes that demonizing everyone who hits it big would be wrong.

Clearly there are policy issues to be addressed here - not least of all, the tax code needs to be rewritten to ensure that the wealthy, ueber wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share.

The Obama administration has erred greatly by not including the likes of Warren Buffett on the super committee to address budget negotiations - indeed, the Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner would do well to heed the advice of Buffett and others of his vision - they clearly know what works and what doesn't in business.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Between a rock and a hard place - PM Cameron can't win with the London police

Prime Minister Cameron has called upon the American crime and specifically, gang expert, "supercop" Bill Bratton to be a consultant and advisor to aid the British police force in reducing crime and addressing the gang problem that plagues London and Britain presently.

While it is admirable that the PM is thinking out of the proverbial box, one cannot help but wonder how that will play to the thousands of police officers presently serving the country. Granted, their reaction time to the looting and subsequent lawlessness following the unfortunate shooting of Mark Duggan, an alleged known criminal, was poor to be sure, but in this instance, a coalition effort between community leaders, faith leaders, activists and the British Home Office would be a better plan.

During my interfaith and community outreach work in the United States, specifically, serving as an aide to the Salt Lake City mayor during the Olympics and thereafter, we were particularly concerned with any gang and other criminal activity that might affect the games. Rick Dinse, former Los Angeles police chief was the police chief of Salt Lake City at the time and made every attempt to ensure smooth games. You may recall that the games went off without incident.

Policing in America is vastly different than in the UK - not only because the police do not carry guns, but because community oriented policing is not something that is espoused, certainly not here in the London area according to my sources. There is an expression in the US - driving while black - that means a successful black person driving a high end vehicle is likely to be stopped by the police either in their community or traveling around elsewhere. Were community oriented policing in place here in London, police would not spend their time profiling successful black business people, rather they would know who those people are, as a result of spending time on their feet, patrolling the community.

I would certainly encourage PM Cameron to rethink bringing in an outsider to tell his police officers how and where and what to police - this is disrespectful and highly unprofessional and downright political. Shame on him!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sneakers and flat screen tvs - the real reasons behind the looting in England

I have been heartsick in recent days as I watched the live events unfold on US television showing scenes of burning buildings, cars, people of all ages and ethnicities in anarchy.

It so happened that I was scheduled to come to London on a much-needed vacation and to reconnect with family after a 9 year hiatus due to financial constraints. It had been suggested by some that I postpone the trip or perhaps not come at all. Ironically, the IOC is in London, safely esconced in high priced hotels, I am sure as they finalise plans for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

When the deal was made to bring the games to London, according to my sources, promises were made that jobs would be made available to the disenfranchised and longterm unemployed youth - read - blacks and other minorities - unfortunately, this has not happened - rather the jobs have gone to newer immigrants predominantly of the caucasian persuasion. Coupled with the austere cuts in social programs, benefits in unemployment, etc, London's youth was sitting on a veritable powder keg which was lurking in the shadows, waiting for any minor event to set it aflame.

That opportunity presented itself in the unfortunate police altercation with Mark Duggan, a 29 year old black man who was armed with a blank weapon that had been altered to carry five loaded bullets. Preliminary reports indicate that he did not shoot at the police.

I am reminded of the violence that followed the brutal police beating of Rodney King in California years ago. In Duggan's case, there was unfortunately no-one present to record what transpired leading up to his being shot and ultimately killed.

As I began my journey to London, my neighbor on the plane asked me whether I thought I would be safe and what my take was on the situation. I responded that when a people has no hope, no jobs and no future, it takes little to set them off. My neighbor indicated that he felt this was merely an excuse for louts to be louts. I then reminded my neighbor that we on that flight were all priveleged with jobs and going on holidays or returning from same.

These youth are not rioting because they want a flat screen tv or the newest sneakers per se, though England is following fast on the heels of America and becoming very materialistic. They riot because they have lost hope and have no dignity - they live in fear of authority for whom they have no respect, they are mistreated often by police officers and are routinely stopped while walking on the street minding their own business in a way that the ACLU and Reverend Al Sharpton would find offensive in America.

There has been a breakdown in the family unit - these children and youth came from fractured homes in many cases, growing up in housing projects where violence and drug dealing is a way of life.

We need community leaders to rally around and Prime Minister Cameron needs to heed their words of caution and wisdom - they work in the trenches and know of the malcontent that plagues their lives - they know what changes need to be made to create opportunities for these disenfranchised youth. It is not enough to punish the offendors - rather, they should be made to rebuild that which they have destroyed, rebuilding buildings for no pay, cleaning up the rubbish they have left strewn in the streets, learning job skills and finally, giving them opportunities when they are finished serving out their sentences. This is a call for faith and community based organisations to address the needs of this struggling underclass who have no jobs, no hope and certainly no future.

There are clearly no simple solutions for this quagmire of a situation - suffice it to say - this has been a wake up call for Britain. With the Olympic games less than a year away, they should thank their lucky stars that the IOC is too far ahead in their planning to pull the games and seek alternative venues to showcase athletes at their finest.