Wake up America. Wake up. Tomorrow you are given the choice of two men to make CEO of the most powerful country in the world. It will be time to cast your ballot.
Many are saying this is the most important leadership decision we will make in our lifetimes. We know that things are bad because we read the headlines and in fact, we live the headlines. The financial and economic meltdown has touched everyone. The effects are everywhere and many feel we are just scratching the surface. All the talk of the new Great Depression has freaked us out, and we need the guy, "The One," who can lead us out. But is "The One" all that we need?
Last night I had an uncontrollable urge to watch The Matrix. For those of you, who have not seen it, the premise is that we are all slaves, held captive by a system called The Matrix. Most people just go on living their lives, but a few know in their gut that something is not right. A guy named NEO (aka "ONE") is one of them. Morpheus is the leader of the free world whose job it is to liberate "The One" so that he can destroy the Matrix and liberate everyone else.
I wanted to fast forward to the point in the movie where Morpheus offered Neo the Blue Pill or the Red Pill. One pill would leave Neo where he was, in a dream world. The other would "show him how deep the Rabbit Hole goes." One pill was about truth, the other was about continued delusion. All Morpheus offered Neo was "The truth and that is all." I could not help but connect those pills to our choice on Tuesday to choose a new President of the United States. We have one vote, two choices. Forget, for a moment, who is red and who is blue.
Sadly, over this whole election cycle I have felt that neither candidate has really offered us the truth. They have been afraid to give us the cold hard facts because they are worried that if they did, they would have to offer us solutions that were tough, too hard to swallow. If they told us the truth, we would not choose them. Notice that in the movie, Morpheus does not tell Neo anything about what it will feel like if he chooses truth, what pain he will have to have to face. He was afraid that if he did, he would choose delusion.
With the campaigning now over, we will vote (well I won't because I am Canadian). We--you--will choose, and we all can only hope that whomever wins will cast aside the rhetoric and get down to business. The truth business.
America, before you cast your vote tomorrow let me offer you what I believe to be the truth. Economically this country is in deep, deep trouble. We are buried in debt and are close to a breaking point. If the world perceives that we are extending ourselves too far, we run the risk of them asking to be repaid, sooner versus later. The whole system is based on confidence as we have witnessed so dramatically this year.
We are in this situation for the following reasons:
2. Interest rates were kept too low for too long.
3. We extended credit to people and corporations that should never have gotten it in the first place and we let credit go nuclear. People have been afraid of nuclear war and that is in fact the equivalent of we have had. Leverage combined with bad credit was a financial nuclear weapon.
4. There was a complete lack of regulatory oversight.
5. We allowed financial institutions to get too large - AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac ... the list goes on. No institution should be too big to fail.
6. We allowed a shadow-banking system to develop that dwarfed the normal banking system.
7. We failed to see the interconnectedness of it all.
8. Many did not take the personal responsibility to live within their means.
9. We were sold on the idea that spending money and buying stuff makes us happy.
The powers that be know this but they are afraid to tell you. I am not afraid to tell you because I can tell you with hope. This hope comes from believing that we are the solution. That Government is a tool, a structure for governance. You must however, be willing to hear the truth. You must be willing to choose the truth pill.
In order to get out of these problems, reverse everything above. Let me start from the bottom:
- We have to stop overspending at all levels. We cannot spend out of a problem created by too much spending. Fiscal restraint is a must or we risk the world calling in our debt because they are worried that we will not pay them back.
- We have to come to know that stuff does not make us happy.
- We have to take personal responsibility to live within our means.
- We have to see that it is all interconnected.
- We have to dismantle the shadow banking system, thoughtfully.
- We have to make institutions smaller so they are not too big to fail.
- We have to not think that going to the government for a handout is the solution to our problems. They do not have a big enough check book.
- We have to deleverage the system. Work out the bad debt that has been created because of it.
- We have to, in time, raise interest rates to support our currency, which will fall because of too much debt.
- We have to show a tremendous amount of common sense at all levels and all step in to ensure that our leadership does not repeat the past mistakes
I sat there wondering last night if we have already lived in a time where it was as good as it gets. The Matrix set its clock on 1999. The creators could have chosen earlier but they chose that time, likely because America, at that moment, was at the top of her game. It was before 9/11, Bill Clinton was in his second term and leading the country on its way to the biggest budget surplus and longest peace time economic expansion in American history. The unemployment rate was low, people had money to spend, we did not have CLOs/CDOs/SIVs, and leverage was in control. We need to get back to a place where it all feels somewhat in control.
So as you go to the polls tomorrow, think about the truth and whom you think is offering it. Think about which candidate tried to tell it like it is, given the confines of the political process. Think of the candidate who is not going to keep you in the dream state whispering that everything is going to be ok.
But also, don't expect him to be "The One."
In the past, we have handed over leadership to too few men, and look what happened. Don't turn the leadership of this country over to yet another group of Them. Be a leader yourself. We must see ourselves as part of the solution and engage.
This process does not end with an election; it should begin again with one. Let's put our hope in the new President but then work with him, alongside him, for positive change. For me, this means working to ensure that women and women's range of perspectives are included from top to bottom in the new Administration. In this moment, in particular, I am calling the next President to expand his view and look to women's leadership as he assembles his new team. In this country we do not know what women's leadership looks like, and it is time we did.
Let's turn to our 26th President Theodore Roosevelt for advice and "do what we can with what we have where we are" because this country, this world, this moment is calling to us. We are in trouble and we need everyone to take a helping role. You are "The One." Wake up, America. Wake up.