Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hero or Zero?

Crises have a way of quickly showing whether individuals are heroes or zeroes. The financial crisis of 2008, and now 2009, is no different. It has quickly made evident the number of zeroes that exist in business and government.


  • CEOs. Ken Lewis, Bank of America CEO, was named 2008 Banker of the Year. Bank of America , which acquired Countrywide Mortgage and Merrill Lynch in 2008, has lost over 90% of it's market capitalization from the peak. Ken Lewis is a ZERO. Rick Wagoner, CEO of GM, --ZERO. Bob Nardelli, CEO of Chrysler, LLC, --ZERO.

  • Government. Former Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulsen had a brief moment as a hero, when he proposed TARP I to buy bad assets. He quickly became a ZERO, when he didn't do what he promised. Tim Geithner has followed the same path as his former boss, from hero when his appointment was announced in November, 2008, to ZERO when he had his first press conference on February 10, 2009. Oh, and don't forget he paid zero social security taxes while working for the IMF.

    Candidate Obama was perceived a hero by some, as he promoted hope, change, inspiration and bi-partisanship. President Obama now talks fear, catastrophe, and a single party agenda. To me, the Democrats are using the financial crisis to impose Socialism on the American people, under the guise of saving the economy. The administration's latest plan to prevent home foreclosures is great example. Based on his first month in office, President Obama is a ZERO, which is not surprising based on the lack of any significant results in his prior record of public and community service.

    While I'm at it, let's add Congress to the list of ZEROES, especially Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Christopher Dodd. And let's not forget the Chair of the SEC, Christopher Cox -- ZERO, which is what investors with Bernie Madoff have remaining in their accounts. Soon to be a ZERO, Sheila Bair, Chair of the FDIC.

    Finally, to show my bipartisanship:-), I include former President George W. Bush and candidate Sarah Palin as ZEROES.


  • Responsible Americans. The real HEROES are those who live within their means, pay their mortgages (92% of mortgage holders), keep their small businesses going, and pay their taxes. If they lose their jobs, they'd rather work for less than accept government assistance. They don't whine when the financial situation becomes difficult. They understand the American values of standing on one's own two feet, being responsible for one's action, and opposing the socialism that's being imposed on us.

  • CEOs. There aren't many worthy of consideration. My vote for HERO is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, which had a record holiday sales season in 2008. Steve Jobs of Apple would be a close second.

  • Journalistic truth. This video is going viral, with over a million views in the first couple days. Surprisingly, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs (another ZERO), thought it was necessary to respond with a patronizing and insulting comment. I guess the Obama administration doesn't appreciate people holding up a mirror and telling them the truth, as they have offered to do for others :-)

    We need more journalists like Rick Santelli, who recognize and say that the emperor has no clothes.

  • Unfortunately, but not unexpected, there are many more zeroes than heroes nowadays. Hopefully, the proportion will change when we decide it's time to reward responsibility and to stop rewarding irresponsible behavior.

    For more on Reflections and Musings, check back every Saturday for a new segment.

    This is not financial, political or policy advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2009 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


    traineeinvestor said...

    With one exception, I'd have to agree with your list.

    The exception is Sarah Palin - a hero for providing so much entertainment value during an otherwise dull and predictable election.

    Spitzer can be put down as another who went from hero to zero. Greenspan went from zero to zero in my book. The list goes on.....

    Anonymous said...

    Rick Santelli's on-air emotional tirade should not make him a hero. His short-term popularity bump is like Jim Cramer got when he almost had an on-air heart attack about a year ago, the bump was not for the message but the on-air meltdown. Add Rick Santelli to your ZERO list.

    He is the standard-bearer for a double-standard: he doesn't want to provide relief for homeowners (especially for those who made bad decisions about ARMs, refinancing, or other forms of real-estate speculation) but feels its 'imperative' to do something to improve the markets' stability despite all of the irresponsible actions that have been perpetrated by people across the financial / banking / trading 'value' (?) chain.

    You should also cut GIBBS some slack. Just compare him to Tony Snow or Scott McClellan. Gibbs may not be perfect, but he is far more competent, honest, and rational, than either of those two.