Sunday, February 19, 2012

We need Policy Makers, not Politicians

As I sit here in my Harvard Law/Kennedy School class, we discuss Capital Market Regulation. We have reviewed reasons why the financial crisis happened and then examine some of the "steps" taken as response in the form of Dodd Frank. A recurring theme is "why do we have so much money lost, and yet we have very little change"?

Secondly, as reported by the New York Times on Feb. 16th, there is an interesting response of congress to "paying for" the impending payroll tax cuts: "The measure would be a rare instance of the government compensating private companies with the proceeds from an auction of public property — broadcast licenses — once given free."

When we have a need for congress to do their most fundamental job in attempting to negotiate a solution, their solution is for both parties to avoid the pitfalls within their respective constituent groups and now step into a private market to sell a "product" that has always been free...never mind the fact that even though the "market value" of this product won't be verified for 1 to 2 years (we only know what it is worth when someone is willing to buy) and the govt is calling these payroll tax extensions "paid for" right now.

Thirdly, it looks like America will hit the debt ceiling again, but with some debate as to when, but it appears to be around august. Folks, the debt level IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. Part of my focus at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Govt is finance. We must have a real solution...but to date we just have members of congress (republicans included) who won't get our spending under control

And just for fun...the Senate haven't passed a budget, in quite a long time...even though that is specifically there job.

Just to summarize where we are:
  • When we lose trillions of dollars of investments in the financial crisis, very little is done Dodd Frank), and no one is prosecuted.
  • We still don't have a budget to fix our unsustainable levels of debt...even though that is the Senates job.
  • The Payroll Tax Cut problem was "solved" by govt stepping into what appears to be a private market to "sell" a product which will theoretically raise most of the necessary 1 to 2 years
  • We will likely hit our debt ceiling before the election, perhaps in August. Then what???
When we have a need for congress to do their most fundamental job in attempting to negotiate a solution, their solution is for both parties to avoid the pitfalls within their respective constituent groups and sell a "product" that has always been free...never mind the fact that even though the "market value" of this product won't be verified for 1 to 2 years (we only know what it is worth when someone is willing to buy) and the govt is calling these payroll tax extensions "paid for" right now.

We desperately need a reality check in Washington. Fake finance is fake finance. Smoke and mirrors will ultimately reflect empty space. They are touting bipartisan work, but they actually haven't created any real value...they are only projecting value. I can't build a business plan on those type of assumptions. I certainly would take someone else's money on that bet.

Keep in mind for those that would like to blame "liberals" that this "solution" for the payroll tax / long term enemployment benefits funding "solution" was created by both parties in congress. Unfortunately, our congress is deadlocked. I'm not in those meetings, I don't know specifically what the other options are, but I have a hard time not looking at this as another example of empty budgetary gesture. Theoretically the benefits need is paid for something that may receive the hoped for value which will be realized in 1 to 2 years...and that pays for hard numbers today.

We elect representatives to work together to make a decisions about what should or should not be govt business, and then execute that business while stewarding American tax dollars well.

Among my colleagues at Harvard, from both Democratic and Republican party, we share the sentiment that we just want to get things done.

America needs a generation of policy makers (not politicians) who aren't as concerned with getting re-elected as they are for doing their best for their constituents and our country. Notice I said OUR country. Our country holds dreams for people all along the political spectrum.

I think most of our parents have sat out while other people ran for office, while for the most part doing nothing about it. It was fun to blame politicians (still is), but I think if you are reading this, you care enough to take action. Please find something that aligns with your political beliefs, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

My Mom can barely stand it that I've always voted Republican and that I'm very conservative. My dad could hardly believe it before he passed away, but we did agree that the point was to work together (both parties) to get the job done well.

I believe in the creativity of Americans, particularly from those in college. Get creative, find your voice, and look for where you can help.

If I can help you, please let me know. I will do my best.

Lucas Scanlon
President, Harvard Tea Party at Harvard Kennedy School

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get a Rope!

I read an article on Fox News titled Dem Rep: Tea Party wants Blacks ‘Hanging’ on Tree, where Democratic Rep. Andre Carson, a black congressman from Indiana’s seventh district, told a Miami crowd that “the Tea Party movement would “love” to see black Americans “hanging on a tree”. He stated “Some of these folks in Congress right now would love to see us as second-class citizens…Some of them in Congress right now with this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me…hanging on a tree”. Here is the link to the video: LINK

In the same article, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), also told a crowd that the “Tea Party can go straight to Hell.”


My question is how can that be a part of the National conversation? That man actually gets paid by his community’s tax dollars to make decisions. Our California representative sits in the highest legislative body in the US, and she wants anyone associated the Tea Party to relocate to Hell. Someone also thinks it’s a good idea to pay her to make decisions that affect millions of people.


How can people try to shift conversation from creating value (and I mean real value in which there is net benefit, meaning the value outweighs the costs) to hate rhetoric?

The purpose of starting the Harvard University Tea Party via the Harvard Kennedy School, is to get national conversation and action going between relevant people on relevant ideas to the problems and environment of today. We have more debt than we have ever had. We have a more fragile economy than we have ever had, and we are divided politically to the point that we can’t perform the most basic function of any household – make sure the checkbook balances at the end of the pay period.

The Tea Party is an argument that about where the government creates value. It’s about how much power rest in the centralized few. It’s about defining what is responsible financial policy.

There is a place where the government operates better and is more efficient than private enterprise. There is an argument where sharing wealth from our country with others makes sense. There is value that the government can add that no other entity can add. It’s efficient, it can work, and it can raise the standard of living not just for those in our country, but it can also improve the standard of living around the world.

However, I don’t see how any of that relates to hanging black people, unless you are trying to cite that one people group will lose government benefits and welfare programs. If you want to talk about lose of benefits to a people group, I get that, but then let’s talk about what that means.

This time in our history has to be more than sound bites. If we continue to allow other people to think for us and take our education from sound bites, then we are responsible for our own deficiencies. No one can take that responsibility away from you. If you are a citizen, then you have rights. Where is the line where the increase of your liberties means my liberty decreases? Who decides that line.

The conversations we need to have are difficult, and they can’t be summed up in caustic speeches that seek to win support by polarizing people from one side to another.

Sure, it’s proven that in business people buy products because of stuff around the message, rather than the message itself. If you put pretty people having fun on a commercial, you will intuitively prefer that product to the same product in which you have not pretty people doing boring stuff. That’s marketing 101.

People, let’s get past marketing 101 in being a citizen. It’s our time to get past our parents politics. This squabbling is stupid. There isn’t another word for it.

Take 15 minutes to learn. Do it once a week. Find your opinion. Find your why. Understand your options. Talk to your neighbor. I’m going to try to make each entry something that is relevant and starts a conversation that will spark your own search for value. I’m not interested in telling you exactly where that value lies, but I will spend time looking at the input to the argument, and then let’s find the end value together.

It’s time we take the conversation up a notch. If we don’t, we might get lynched by our own apathy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dispelling the Democratic Myth

September HUTP Monthly Meeting will be on Friday September 16, 2011 at Harvard Kennedy School in the Taubman building/Wiener Auditorium. 5:30-7:00pm.