A little dose of advice and enlightenment from a good friend and colleague in Paris, to the economic conservatives: Quit while you're behind. Quit now.
My friend, who was born in and lived most of his adult life in France before moving to the US with his family to establish dual residency, once observed that, "Americans are very happy, so long as they have their homes. No complaints. No street protests. No strikes shutting down society. So much efficiency. It is really quite remarkable, you know?" he said. "Definitely not like France." With that in mind, one can sense why this financial crisis and recession may lead to a larger and more pointed public response in the US.
In my view, the American people are remarkably patient and fair. They tolerate much. They forgive over and over. They are patriotic and loyal. They are perpetually (some say eternally) optimistic. Unlike their brethren in France, my friend says, they cheer the fact that their CEOs, executives, and company owners make more money than they do and they want them to get rich and grow in wealth. They applaud ingenuity, innovation, acumen, initiative, sacrifice, and hard work, and they want to see it rewarded with wealth and other riches. And they hope for the same in themselves.
Lately, though, the American people have grown a little uneasy. Amid necessary adjustments, including the election of a new president, to put the U.S. economy back on a sustainable growth track, there's been some sniping and complaints by economic conservatives, market absolutists, and many Republicans about the reforms being implemented. "They should come to their senses and accept these reforms, for their own good," my Paris friend said. "It is in their interest."
Liberte, egalite, fraternite
The mild, fragmented, unorganized populism that's being expressed in varying degrees around the country could coalesce. Most likely, it won't. It never has in the states, historically, for a myriad of reasons. However, a couple more events and the folks who do most of the working and paying could say, 'Time for really big change.' They could realize that 'the banks' aren't the financial system, the source of the nation's wealth, and neither are 'the industrialists,' but that the people, as expressed through their Congress, are the source of the nation's wealth.
My friend says at that point the reforms undertaken probably won't look like another tweaking of the tax code, such as another investment tax credit aimed at encouraging job growth or an adjustment of the alternative minimum tax.
Al Smith, the late, great governor of the State of New York, the Empire State, said the answer for the problems of democracy, is more democracy.
My friend from France said that if some in power are not careful, they're going to get just that.
Financial Editor Joseph Lazzaro is writing a book on the U.S. Presidency and the U.S. economy.
Bankers beware, this recession could get political