A prominent businessman, Mort Zuckerman, recently said that Barack Obama’s administration was…”the most hostile administration to business…in decades.”  I’ve known this man for quite a few years as a serious and thoughtful person.  Why would he say something that is demonstrably false?  He must have been trying to ingratiate himself with others in the business community.  But, even so, it is a ridiculous statement.

After one of the most disastrous performances by the business community in decades, what did its members expect from the government?  A tap on the wrist?  A mild “don’t do it again” lecture?  Some kind of presidential “you’re doing a heckofa job” compliment?

Extemely highly paid executives on Wall Street, in major investment banks, in peak financial circles did stupid and vastly greedy things.  They did so under circumstances of relaxed government regulation.  They weren’t interested in their shareholders and certainly not the health of the national economy.  They were only interested in spectacularly bloated incomes and short term rewards.  Somewhere along the way, when they were picking up their MBAs at Harvard, Yale, or Columbia, no one told them what the role of the US government was.  Among many other things, under our Constitution it is to “regulate Commerce…among the several States.”

So accustomed to benign neglect under Reagan and the Bushes, suddenly these financial stars are confronted with a president who takes his oath of office seriously.  The laws of the United States state that business people are not to cheat consumers, short-change their shareholders, falsify their tax returns, mislead investors, and a host of other fair play rules that help keep the marketplace fair and honest.  The vast majority of business people, especially the small ones, are scrupulously honest.  They are not the problem.  But everytime the US government “deregulates”, that is relax its duties to protect the public, the high-rollers move in and take the rest of us to the cleaners.

What a travesty for someone who wishes to be taken seriously to say an administration is hostile to business when it is simply carrying out its statutory responsibilities to do its duty and protect the public interest.

18 Responses to “Why Do Serious People Say Crazy Things?”

  1. Pat Boice Says:

    Education and intelligence don’t seem to matter when it comes to “saying crazy things” – particularly when it is about money and/or politics! I say this from personal experience of hearing blatantly idiotic and false statements from some highly educated members of my own family group.

  2. Lou Says:

    I have only one quibble with Mr. Hart’s analysis: considering the state in which the economy has been left, the neglect of fiduciary and regulatory responsibility by Reagan and the Bushes was most certainly NOT benign.

  3. Robert Crump Says:

    Mr Hart:
    The real question is whether someone should even be considered serious when they utter such crazy things.
    PS Why no mention of the eight year deregulation feast under the Clinton administration? Last time I checked financial and telecom deregulation occurred on his watch. I would argue both have done more harm than
    anything Reagan did.

  4. Gary Hart: Why Do Serious People Say Crazy Things? | GoodPorkBadPork.com Says:

    [...] To comment, please visit Senator Hart's blog site at: http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=535 [...]

  5. Jeff Simpson Says:

    Finance constitutes a greater fraction of our economy today making the stakes big enough that well-applied lobbying money can translate into larger returns, giving us legislative and regulatory capture.

    Those making a tremendous amount in the short term from the magical workings of compound interest and leverage wish to preserve, at nearly any cost, the status quo. They just don’t want the game to end just yet. They say, “Give us another cycle or two, that’s all we want. You can regulate us tomorrow.”

    But tomorrow never comes, or so the hope goes.

    Greed trumps reason, providing the splint that blinds the eye of reason.

  6. Nancy Lee Says:

    You are too kind to Mr. Zuckerman and all the rest of the pro-business, anti-government people who didn’t learn anything from our financial crisis. These same people are fawning over the likes of Congressman Paul Ryan whose only strategy is to privatize everything, including the most successful government programs, Medicare and Social Security.
    They run around screaming that the “sky is falling” and that both of these programs will be completely bankrupt if we don’t take drastic measures to move our money into the stock market or private insurance markets. Now there’s a real winning solution!
    I wish opinions like Gary Hart’s were more prevelent in the media instead of the air heads that are spilling out their bilge 24/7.

  7. Garrett Mitchell Says:

    Amen. I attribute Zuckerman’s rhetorical excesses to the fever of becoming an insider on “Morning Joe,” a program that gets far more serious consideration than it ought to, and none moreso than by Joe himself, and his poodles — Mika, Mike Barnicle, Danny Deutsch, and the likable, pre-pubescent Willie Geist. It’s the kind of program that encourages excess and bloviation, which an aging Mort Zuckerman seems eager to participate in. Mort is getting older, his magazine is becoming increasingly irrelevant and unnoticed, so he’s hanging on to the apron strings @ MSNBC. In that context, it makes some sense that he’d be willing to say dumb things. And then there’s the fact that he’s not on the “A List” at this White House, whereas friends of his are, and that makes him a very unhappy camper.

  8. Jack E Lohman Says:

    We’ll see how serious he is when he selects someone to head the new consumer protection office. The last person in the world they want at the helm is Elizabeth Whelan, which means she will be the best for the job. So we’ll see.

  9. Disalllusioned Says:

    They want no government intervention at all, except for unlimited bailouts forever.

  10. Forest Book Says:

    I have seen Mr. Zuckerman at various open panel discussions in both domestic, and international forums: he has been expressing is displeasure with Mr. Obama for some time now. Each time he speaks negatively, or rolls his eyes when someone on the panel speaks positively about President Obama, a question comes to mind: “Is Mr. Zuckerman upset at the Obama Administration for not being able, or willing to recover monies Mr. Zuckerman lost to Bernie Madoff? An amount in the 10′s of millions.

    Its difficult to bear how TARP or its anagram: PART TRAP, is living proof that the game of capitalism is skewed to the advantage of a few. Capitalism and free market economics holds universal advantages; unless its a game complete with the mentality of a few winners, and the rest losers.

  11. Audrey Jackson Says:

    Mr. Hart. Thank you! Thank you sincerely! What a wonderful and much needed statement! How can it be that with the election of an American president all sanity is lost (paradise unknown)? Can a win by one side and a loss by the other yield our current circumstance: the loss of humanity and governance and America herself? Senseless has become common sense, truth has given way dare (dare to call me a liar, a hypocrite, a thief), and “we the people” are now no nation, utterly divided, without liberty or justice for any!

  12. Tom J. Flaherty Says:

    Sen. Hart, August 31, 2010

    Thank You, again for saying it in the right way.

    In times when with less work and dignity and yet even less time to think creatively because of the rat race placed upon us in this war against labor and when natural souls not into corporate citizenship and so on are targeted, we need that Constitution view that presents for the general welfare of the country. A stronger whole so to speak and not for Supreme Court Justices declaring under oath the respect for incremental change only to be confirmed into activism on the highest seat of out highest court as demonstrated in Citizens United.

    It seems now that I’m tilting a bit to wind-mills that there must be some kind of law broken when only a couple of weeks after the ruling another supreme court justices wife opens a new entity to funnel these great domestic and foreign funds from known and unknown entities into the many conservative corporate minded chamber of congress lobby groups.

    All the best Senator Hart and the longer I watch the more I believe that there was indeed a conscious effort to target this country it’s tax structure in particular to benefit the libertarian elite and de-ball not only our government, the prime prize but also any others that challenge. Certainly the Cayman Island design was and attempt to subvert rather than produce.

    Sincerely,

    Tom

  13. James D. Starkey Says:

    Senator Hart,
    I rarely comment on anything, but I have to tell you that during those (increasingly frequent) moments when I find the level of vitriol in our national discourse more than I can stand, I click on this blog (and Andrew Sullivan’s) so I can remend myself that there are reasonable public figures out there. Thank you.

  14. Tom J. Flaherty Says:

    To the Moderator,

    Please if you have a chance re-visit to puzzling questions. There I left a commetn for Mr. Smith and others relative to economics.

    Thank You,

    Tom

  15. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Zuckerman says it because his business is located in Manhattan and Wall Street is most important to the financial well being of New York City and New York State. In other words, he has a conflict of interest, and this often leads serious people into serious error.

  16. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Zuckerman says it because his business (The Daily News) is located in Manhattan and Wall Street is the biggest business in that city and state. In other words, he has a conflict of interest, which often leads serious people into serious error.

  17. Gary Hart Says:

    To Mr. Starkey, many thanks to you for your very kind comment. It is greatly appreciated. After many years in and out of public life, I now find it difficult to understand American politics. That does not eliminate the duty we all have as citizens to try to find some productive role to play, while waiting for some stability and sanity to return. This is, indeed, one of the strangest periods in our nation’s long history. Thanks to all who comment here for trying to help make it more cogent, understandable, and civil.

  18. Mike Morton Says:

    Senator Hart- I recently discovered your site and I must say it is a breath of fresh air. I agree that the idea that the government should step back and let industry run itself is ridiculous. The Gulf of Mexico will suffer for decades due to the actions of BP, Transocean and Haliburton, who were left alone to do their thing by the Bush Administration. Efforts by the fossil fuel industry to weaken the EPA is another example of a disaster waiting to happen.

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