Roger L. Simon

CEO or President: The Fiorina-Vietor Skirmish

I suspect Carly Fiorina  was and is correct and Tony Vietor full of it (who? another Obama spokesperson) when Vietor was thrust forward to castigate some remarks by Fiorina: “If John McCain’s top economic adviser doesn’t think he can run a corporation, how on Earth can he run the largest economy in the world in the midst of a financial crisis?” said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor. “Apparently, even the people who run his campaign agree that the economy is an issue John McCain doesn’t understand as well as he should.” Watch Fiorina says Palin isn’t ready for big business »

That last video link was added by the even-handed professionals at CNN.  Actually what Fiorina said is that none of the four candidates – Palin, McCain, Obama or Biden – could run a company like her own Hewlett-Packard. (“Well, I don’t think John McCain could run a major corporation, I don’t think Barack Obama could run a major corporation, I don’t think Joe Biden could run a major corporation,” Fiorina said.) I wouldn’t doubt she’s correct.  And as she later points out, Presidents aren’t supposed to (run corporations).  That’s not their job.

Of course, this is just another of the dumb daily (or hourly)  partisan skirmishes in this heated campaign season with the hapless Vietor willingly or unwillingly in the  hatchet man role.

More importantly, who is the most fit to solve the current economic crisis?  Beats me, but I admit to the following  suspicion – the President doesn’t have nearly as much control of the economy as his detractors or admirers, depending on the circumstances, would like us to believe.  At least to this layman, business and stock swings don’t seem to correlate very well with Presidential decisions. Administrations shift in the midst of business cycles with the new claiming success for the apparent victories of their predecessors and vice-versa.  It may be “the economy, stupid,” in James Carville’s immortal words, but no one knows what to do about it. Our giant economy with all its moving parts is susceptible only to marginal control from the outside and the vast majority of that is done by the Fed, not the President.  (Of course the Chairman of the Fed serves at the pleasure of the President, etc., but how often have you seen one fired?)  Still, we are in difficult times, even if not to the extent the media wants us to believe.

In all this confusion, there is, however, one interesting paradox if you accept our current crisis began with  sub-prime mortgage lending.  The initial  idea for these loans came from an idealistic impulse (at least by some) to bring our more disadvantaged citizens into the economic system by helping them to own their homes. Yet another example of no good deeds being unpunished. [And how.-ed.  And how.]