The Campaign Spot

Who Is Doing His Job as Well as Captain Sullenberger?

The crew of the USAir flight that miraculously made a successful water landing in the Hudson River last week are scheduled to be guests at today’s inauguration ceremony.
Campaign Spot reader Melvin had a few thoughts in response to Obama’s comments on Monday:

President-elect Barack Obama said Monday he had spoken with Sullenberger, who told him, “Me and my crew, we were just doing our job.”
“And it made me think, if everybody did their job — whatever that job was — as well as that pilot did his job, we’d be in pretty good shape,” Obama said. 

First, that statement, combined with the constant assertion from Obama since the election that we are in very bad shape and the fixes will take years to work, he must think that most people are not doing their jobs – whatever those jobs are – as well as Sullenberger. Or maybe he thinks that only elected politicians are not doing so?

Actually, I find both angles pretty compelling arguments. The SEC did not do its job particularly well in ignoring the warning signs about Bernie Madoff. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along many other lenders, didn’t do their jobs particularly well in checking out who was getting their loans, and Congress did an abysmal job of oversight. But looking to the private sector, large swaths of Wall Street certainly weren’t heroic in doing due diligence and assessing the risk of derivatives stemming from the subprime housing market. The leadership of the auto industry hasn’t been doing a good job of responding to changing tastes of car buyers. And I think very few folks would argue that Henry Paulson’s decision-making since the financial crisis hit is on par with Captain Sullenberger’s.

Second, I agree with him on the principle, but I think that a great many people (not all of course) are in fact doing their jobs as well as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. I encounter such people all the time. In fact this statement seems to lead naturally to the idea that the government should pursue policy that leave people free to do their jobs. If this were to happen, then we’d be in pretty good shape.

True enough. But I’m not expecting it from this administration, or this Congress.

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