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Updated: 09/13/2012 08:00:24AM

How many years does it take?

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S.L. Frisbie

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One of the oldest and lamest excuses for failure uttered by politicians and bureaucrats is, “It took my predecessor years to get us into this mess; it will take me years to fix it.”

In the private sector, when a new president, general manager, head coach, or other chief honcho is brought in, he (or she) is expected to bring about improvements promptly, not years down the road.

Even a football coach can get by for only one season with the excuse: “This is a building year because my predecessor did such a poor job of recruitment.”

The incumbent president of the United States is neither the first nor the last to complain for an entire term that all the problems he has been unable to solve are the fault of his predecessor.

Governors and mayors are fond of the same excuse.

“A mere four years is not enough. Give me four more years and I will do what I promised to do when you elected me four years ago.”


And here is a prediction: if Obama is re-elected and remains unable to fix the economy in another four years, his party will declare that eight years is not enough, “but elect Hillary (or whomever) and we’ll for sure get it fixed in the next four years.”

Or maybe eight.

Another prediction: If Romney is elected, and the economy is still in a shambles in 2016, his excuse will be that it was unreasonable to expect him to fix the mess he inherited in a mere four years, “but give me four more, and I promise to get it right.”

Appointed governmental managers take the same approach, though not all can survive four years on the job without fixing the problems they were hired to fix.


I am not a fan of Keynesian economics, which I understand only in the broadest sense: that government needs to be in charge of the economy to make it work.

Government’s biggest help should be to stay out of the way.

When it comes to national economic policy, I tend to place more trust in the private sector to muddle through and rebuild the economy than in politicians and bureaucrats, who are generally lacking in the character-building experience of having to meet a payroll.

Neither group has pure motives or final wisdom. Each is interested in pushing its own agenda. We live in an imperfect world.

I tend to believe that the government — in particular, the federal government — should get its own house in order, and allow the private sector to do the same.

The private sector cannot borrow itself out of debt, or spend its way to thriftiness.

It appears that government can’t either.


(S. L. Frisbie is retired. One of his all-time most admired city commissioners of yesteryear proposed that the Legislature be required to rescind two laws for every new law it passed.)