The Leadership Cliff

Punishing the metaphor; there are ‘cliffs’ everywhere: our own economic well being, Europe’s economy, North Korean missiles, the Iranian nuclear program, China setting the stage for hegemony in Asia, the entirety of the Middle East and North Africa, Russian intransigence, radical Islam; all cliffs waiting for blind men to stagger over the edge.

What have we got? The President is on the verge of sounding like a recalcitrant child, holding his breath till he’s blue and stamping his feet over his singular point of economic policy; tax rates for 2% of the population. That policy, that mission will have zero impact on the overall economic challenges we face. To appearances the economic fate of the nation hangs on the ability to execute a campaign promise based, not in rational economics, but in popularism. Economic deal proposals are delivered by the President’s men with the absolute foreknowledge they will be rejected. We are absent leadership, we are awash in posturing and political gamesmanship.

Since the onset of Social Security our life expectancy has improved by about 14 years, however, a two year extension of eligibility for folks who won’t get there for another decade is a bridge too far. Apparently a ten year warning is insufficient. Everyone knows what the Social Security fixes are, including an extension of the income cap; and yet there is no solution.

The President is not holding his breath over generating revenue or fixing entitlements. He’s not turning blue over debt or deficits, only over tax rates for the 2%. The President’s Iran sanctions have worked to a degree, but the Senate’s attempt to do more of what finally had an impact has been rejected by the President. Stimulus spending was essentially a corruption of waste and political payback; let’s do some more says the President in his proposal to the Speaker!

One does not have to be an economist to reach the conclusion that spending, revenue and entitlement reform is the three legged stool of the solutions, all three legs must be addressed we are beyond the point of simple or painless solutions, that time has passed. Complex or difficult solutions demand visionary leadership and an understanding of how leadership is applied to produce results.

Looming crisis should be an opportunity to govern, to lead, to aspire to greatness; to look to solutions that could unify the nation based on common sense steeped in truth and reality. We have no evidence that visionary leadership is coming our way. There is no Lincoln, Kennedy or Reagan on the political horizon there is only Reid, Boehner, Pelosi and Barack Obama. We have a political class comfortable with the perpetuation of falsehood delivered with insults. We have internecine warfare that, by his silence, is accepted by the President. Leaders of vision simply do not accept that culture or climate, in this case it appears to be not only acceptable but encouraged.

Leadership on the other side of the isle may be more polite, but no more effective. No dramatic new approaches, no stand on principal. Conservative voices are being silenced and Speaker Boehner seems to be sliding to agreement with Leader Reid that the ‘real’ problem is the Tea Party folks. The folks who showed up two years ago are the real problem; the real problem is not decades of political and economic corruption, it’s those damn Tea Party folks; you know, the folks that actually attempt to stand on principal. Our political class appears to be weeding out any of those folks who are actually prepared to stand on principal.

Leadership, to those with any experience in it, is about unifying. Gathering and deploying resources around forward looking vision and clear goals. What we have is a body politic interested in separation; by color, demographics, income, age, heritage and religion. Too many of us have been willing accomplices, too many of us are concerned with the same thing the political class is concerned about; ‘what’s in it for me”?

We don’t have leadership, we have rhetoric. We don’t have vision we have internecine combat. What is the actual big issue to be considered regarding the fiscal cliff? Who will be blamed! Leadership demands courage and a moral center. Leadership means being willing to lose the battle in the interest of winning the war.

We are about to go over the Leadership Cliff, that fall takes everything along with it.