These days it seems like each week is greeted with a new call of doom and gloom or a new apology. In fact, of all the bubbles on the cusp of bursting, I'd rank the doom and gloom crowd first and the apology crowd second. The fear-mongers typically begin with a good premise, whether it's the unraveling of the country and what made America great or the Fed printing too much money or an acceptance of mediocrity that will leave the nation out of position to compete in the future.
The thing is that most of the timelines for devastation are unrealistic. It's like any day now the nation will simply fall over like a house of cards.
Yes, we are in no man's land with respect to the Fed's balance sheet and to hear a president say a balanced budget is not important raises red flags.
Yes, the watered down educational system that thinks a school without whiteboards and computers should engage in grade inflation to level the playing field is just setting children up for massive embarrassment and failure in the future. When teachers become the protected class and parent are absolved of responsibility the answer is to lie to children with grade inflation.
Yes, the war on success will deter innovation, risk-taking, and success (novel idea isn't it), but the notion that the DNA of the nation has changed so dramatically overnight is belied by all the great companies popping up on a daily basis and people still getting up each morning at the crack of dawn to work jobs with low pay and little upside in order to give their children a step up in life.
There's a lot of brouhaha going on over David Stockman's new book "The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America" and his op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend. I agree the Fed is doing too much, and I think businesses that fail shouldn't be saved on the taxpayers' dime but I disagree it's sundown in America, which takes from the line of Stockman's former boss Ronald Reagan. The assertion that a giant collapse is in the offing so people should sit in their homes with a pile of cash and wait would only make such a prediction self-filling.
I'll read the book and come back with a more in-depth critique, but this looks like another populist rant where some guy tries to be on both sides of the debate stoking the fears of the left and right. That's a neat trick.
What Would Steve Do?
In the meantime the apology-nation rolls on with Tim Cook, CEO of AAPL, and the latest to offer Chinese customers sincere regret. Apologizing is a wonderful thing when it's sincere and without ulterior motives. I didn't think America owed Middle Eastern nations the apology tour that was at the top of President Obama's agenda in the first term. In life mistakes are made that result in unintended consequences. When these happen we often say "sorry," but that's different than saying an apology that typically comes on the heels of mean-spirited intended consequences.
I think Tim Cook made a mistake, but it underscores his approach to managing Apple versus Steve Jobs who I don't remember ever apologizing for anything. On that note, this does underscore how important China has become following the desperate moves by YUM Brands, parent of KFC, and Taco Bell, after a chicken scandal left their restaurants out of favor. Yum has come right out to say this is life or death for the company and feeding people food pumped with stuff not labeled is a more egregious transgression.
Coming from strength seems not to be an option anymore for far too many American businesses. The tone has been set, but let's hope execution is the focus instead of bowing for each mistake.