The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Presidential Protection ?

05/26/2020

In early 1992, I was appointed by the governor to the Texas State Depository Board.  It was a four-member board composed of the State Treasurer, State Controller, State Banking Commissioner, and myself.  As it was during the Texas Savings and Loan (S&L) scandal, when taxpayer losses would exceed $300 billion, I met a great many executives from those failed and failing institutions.  Without exception, I found good & decent workers who had worried aloud about the many commercial loans going bad.  They knew any loan losses subtracted from earnings, before eating into equity.  They voiced their concerns but were predictably over-ridden by senior management.

Fareed Zakaria is arguably the best journalist at CNN.  I watched his latest documentary about the Chinese cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic and remembered the good & decent workers in Texas.  Zakaria identified some of the Chinese whistle-blowers who had worried aloud about the easy human transmission of the deadly virus.  They knew the death toll would quickly and easily increase.  They voiced their concerns but were predictably over-ridden by senior officials.

Not surprisingly, that leads to comparison with the American experience during the pandemic.  We also had good & decent workers who worried aloud about an invasion of the highly-contagious virus into America.  They knew the death toll would quickly increase.  They too voiced their concerns but were predictably over-ridden by senior officials.

While I do not believe Donald J. Trump is a good & decent human-being, it does seem to be normal human behavior to cover-up and minimize bad news.  Maybe, we expect too much?  Or too little?

That makes it more important that we protect leaders from their own worst instincts.  The media has been our traditional whistle-blower but can no longer function effectively in such a politicized environment.  That makes the job of inspector general (IG) for every organization, government or commercial, even more important.  They need to be encouraged by and insulated from political leaders.  How about requiring a bipartisan cabinet?  How about the CDC reporting directly to the Senate instead of the President?  (Outside of government, this increased need for protection also makes the job of independent corporate board members more important.)

People do dumb things.  They eat too much.  They drink and smoke too much.  They lie, cheat & steal.  They even minimize or cover-up bad news.

We normally expect more from our President . . . but not always.  As a result, some Presidents will need more protection from themselves than others.

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