Congressional Reliance Upon Industry Experts

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Congressperson after Congressperson can be heard today on C-Span's coverage of Committee hearings confessing to knowing nothing about managing a 'too big to fail' financial institution, or NASA, or a local health care clinic. So, why are they in charge of spending trillions of our dollars on these and myriad of other activities? Is there not a better way of allocating tax payer dollars than to rely upon the managers of lobbying corporations, whose obvious intent is to dig their fingers ever deeper into the pockets of tax payers?

Giving Congresspersons the responsibility for spending tax payer dollars is a Constitutional thing. To change it, would require a Constitutional amendment, and likely another Civil War. So, the answer to why Congress is in charge of spending our tax dollars is a simple no-brainer.

The question of whether there is a better way than Congress relying upon industry executive experts to advise them, is reportedly a very much more complex and politically charged question. But, the answer need not be. The problem is not that Congress relies on experts. The problem is that Congress relies upon industry executives or management employed by the industry. Therein lies the potential conflicts of interest between the industry corporation and Congress' desire for adequate public policy solutions uncompromised by industry self-interest to the exclusion of public interest. The solution then, is for Congress to rely upon expertise in those fields which is not employed by the industry, wherever possible. Given the aging of the population, this should become increasingly easier as the number of industry expert retirees become available.

But, another non-industry reliance solution addresses multiple problems. Specifically, Congressional reliance upon experts who are multi-disciplinary in their expertise, and employed by one industry of expertise and not by another in which they are also expert in. To the extent that America will promote multi-disciplinary degree programs and vocational management, America can solve multiple problems simultaneously, reduce communication breakdowns across disciplines (a constant problem), and synthesizing solutions from multiple disciplines, expanding creativity and innovation as a result. And Congress then can draw upon a pool of experts who are not paid representatives of their industry for objective analysis and advice.

Congress should NOT be in charge of managing private specialized industries precisely because voters don't elect trained experts in those industries to be their representatives. Conversely, private industry management and lobbyists should NOT be in charge of influencing direction of public policy in the halls of government. Government, after all, is meant to serve the interests of public at large, not special minority interests, especially when those minority interests conflict with broad public interests, like fiscal management, transparency and accountability of both politicians and government actions.

If the government finds it must get in the temporary business of managing private concerns requiring public investment to remain solvent, conservatorship is the avenue Congress should follow if it is retain efficacy and ethics in so doing. By conservatorship, I mean Congress, the Courts, or the Executive establishing a competent management group outside the private corporation to be managed under government auspices, who will take their objectives from the government that hires them, and their successful strategy and tactics from the industry in which the corporation does business.

Surely, at any given time, there are a number of unemployed persons trained and experienced in that corporation's industry either seeking employment or retired but, whom can be enticed for a temporary period of 1 to 3 years, to serve as conservator management of a private company or corporation taken over by government auspices to prevent default on their debts, or mass unemployment, or loss of a vital supplier of goods or services essential to national well being or security.

To date, Congressional reliance upon industry executives has proven to be contrary to public interests again and again. Such reliance is now costing tax payers, trillions in losses over generations. The solution requires first identifying the root cause of the problem and then solving it. In this article, the root cause of 'too big to fail' and leveraging by private corporations to the extent of creating massive unsustainable economic bubbles in which a few walk away massively wealthy as their corporations and industries fall into bankrupt circumstances leaving tax payer's on the hook for restoring balance, has been caused by a lack of responsible government oversight and accountability. The source of that lack of oversight and accountability has been the industry experts and executives called upon by Congress and the White House to advise on public policy directed toward those industries. The solution then, is for Government to solicit its expert counsel from outside the employ of those industries over which has a responsibility to the public to oversee and hold accountable.

In part, that solution can be immediately implemented by government calling upon experts who are currently unemployed, or who are working in industries other than that which they are expert in or, who are recently retired and available to offer expert advise to government officials regarding those industries and corporate entities under review or affected by public policy making. In the long run however, to be fully implemented, this solution relies upon our educational systems producing vastly more multi-disciplinary degree and study programs and demonstrating the value of this multi-disciplinary education not only for government oversight and counsel, but, for private for profit, and non-profit, industry management and executive level positions, as well. Any 8th grader can make money on Wall Street or as head of a giant financial institution if they ignore all the common sense and ethical rules and regulations. But, it takes a generalist in law, a business management specialty, and either history or philosophy to become a top notch financial corporation executive capable of managing both for the short term gain and long term sustainability of the corporate business, each acting as a balancing constraint upon the other. That one doesn't learn in high school. Regrettably, too many MBA programs produce specialists in finance, production, or service fields as if that is all that is required. It isn't.

In addition to our need for more multi-disciplinary generalist leaders in our industry, government, and non-profit sectors of our economy, media and the internet are, in a very real sense, blurring the line between informed or researched public in a democracy and the so called experts. As Lawrence Grossman says in a discussion of this very topic:

The separation between the expert and the ordinary citizen is no longer a separation that anybody can count on. Anybody has access to all kinds of information through the Internet, which is eroding the institutions that we used to revere, whether it's government, medicine, law or even religion. One of the real changes that's going on is a merging of expertise and ordinariness, with a lack of a demarcation which we used to take for granted. Certainly, the rise of the Internet has made that possible.

As American tax payers and Wall St. exec's are now learning, it is a complex interdependent financial and economic system upon which we all rest our futures. Demanding the very best in education, experience, objectivity, and commitment to the efficacy of the system that supports one's corporation or business is imperative, whether we be 401K investors, shareholders, employees, educators, or human resource specialists in charge of hiring. The days of hiring a successful reputation without demanding the rest as well, has proven foolish in the extreme for our business world, our economy, our financial institutions, and our own job security. We must demand more and better of our leaders and of ourselves, as leaders.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on February 17, 2009 7:56 PM.

401K'ers, Time to Buy Stocks Again! was the previous entry in this blog.

The Miracle Of Democracy, Again. is the next entry in this blog.

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