Collaboration proves to be successful

The strident bent of a small group in Congress that is holding that body and our Country back from governance is at odds with what has been most successful over time. Governing in a democracy is hinged on the art and execution of compromise and collaboration. Neither political party has all of the answers and some within those parties are not even asking the right questions. So, if you are unwilling to collaborate, you will not know where your opinions may be off base. In short, if you are not there to govern, then why are you there?

There are two recent examples of very successful presidencies that are due to collaboration and compromise, one a Democrat and one a Republican. Both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan have been deemed by their parties and others to have had good presidencies. Yes, they had their faults and made mistakes, but they also had some similarities. The Bureau of Labor statistics show under Clinton’s tutelage, more jobs were created than under any other president, even more than under FDR. The BLS statistics show that under Reagan, more jobs were created than under any other Republican president and he ranks in the top three behind the two men noted above.

It does not stop there. Clinton left the White House with a balanced budget which he worked with Congress to achieve over the last few years of his presidency. Reagan also was tireless in his efforts to have a balanced budget, actually raising taxes a number of times after his too deep tax cut early in his presidency. It should be noted that per an economic advisor to both, David Smick, who wrote “The World is Curved,” both presidents were very big on free trade and trade agreements.

Yet, both men were huge collaborators with Congress. In fact, Reagan was best friends with Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill as put forth in the book “Tip and the Gipper,” by Chris Matthews, who was on O’Neill’s staff. Reagan and O’Neill disagreed a lot, but both loved their country, so they found common ground and passed legislation. Clinton was not best friends with the two speakers from the opposing party, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, but he worked with them and fellow Democrat speaker Tom Foley to get things done, including the efforts to get us out of a deficit position and sign key trade agreements.

Recognizing that presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, they do provide tailwinds or headwinds. So, it should not be ironic that two presidencies where the first and third most jobs were created were under collaborative presidents. Moving forward to today’s time, our current president has also seen success on these fronts with 67 consecutive months of job growth and halving the unemployment rate which is now at 5.1%. When done, his job numbers will rank pretty good among all presidents.

Yet, so much more could have been done if he and Congress worked together more. The opposing party has set out not to collaborate with the president and is on record as such. This president could have done a much better job of reaching out to this Congress, in spite of the negative partisanship. A good example is we have let an ideal time pass (with low interest rates) for investing more in improving and shoring up our outdated infrastructure. Outside of the Stimulus Act which provided funds to infrastructure projects, we have kicked the can down the road. And, these investments are known job creators.

So, as we see the machinations of a small number of folks who want the gears to come to a grinding halt, we need to remember how we got here. Government, of course, could be more efficient, yet it does play a huge role in our economy, safety and well-being. Collaboration and compromise are the keys. Let’s focus on getting things done.



12 thoughts on “Collaboration proves to be successful

  1. You’ve done a great job comparing and contrasting these two past presidents. Unfortunately, Reagan would be perceived as WAY too liberal for today’s Republican party. It’s confounding how he is still put on such a pedestal by the same people who would – today – call him not conservative enough to elect.

    • Janis, you are entirely correct. I have been a Democrat, Republican and now Independent, and the GOP I left in 2006, even then was moving further right and denying truths. Today, it is far worse with the gerrymandering as people are getting elected with very extreme views are getting more credit than they deserve. Thanks for commenting, Keith

  2. When Boehner left office a friend of mine said, there goes one of the few remaining old guard who knows the art of compromise. I think he was right. The man couldn’t work with the younger generation of zealots in Congress, each of whom is convinced he as the TRUTH. Compromise requires that we admit we may not know everything and that there is a middle ground between what we think is correct and what the other person thinks. But for those who KNOW there is no middle ground. The machine is broken, my friend. And these clowns are in no position to fix it.

    • I would like to disagree with you, but cannot. One thing is for certain, placing someone in Boehner’s position that kowtows too much to the feral cats in the herd, will not be a good thing and harm more than just that party – it will harm our country.

    • Although I don’t always agree with Hugh, I do enjoy his trains of thought.

      Of course I disagree about Boehner and the art of compromise. From the day he took the gavel from Pelosi, he has made it a point to fight Obama on every issue, and even to the point of refusing to meet with him. If he respected the process and the office, he never would have done this. The same goes for McConnell and his “one term” remarks.

      But I agree with the statement about the young guns thinking they have all the answers. For those of us who just left industry, it was so true that many of the people fresh out of school believed they had all the answers, when quite often they didnt even understand the question. There would be rampant disappointment on their part when they weren’t promoted to management within a year or so. I think the same goes for these fools elected as tea baggers, who were going to take on government.

      Finally an off the wall thought. I am coming around to the position that perhaps ending “Earmarks” was a bad idea.

      • Barney, I agree that Boehner was no day at the beach, as he could have been more collaborative with the president. Yet, I did feel sorry for him in trying to herd cats, including the feral ones. But, look back at major legislation on his watch. With only a few exceptions, major pieces required Democrats to vote with more moderate GOP folks to pass the bill. This ticked off the feral cats to no end. The next few weeks will be interesting and frustrating. It may end up with Boehner being asked to stay on for longer.

        I am not sure about the earmarks, but understand where you are coming from. Good comments, Keith

  3. I cannot speak for or against any president since I simply don’t have the necessary knowledge (OK I could speak at least against two… but I better leave that). But Reagan and most of all Clinton to me were fantastic from what we heard and learn in Europe! Clinton was my favorite and he was in the White house while we lived in the States. When we did a trip along the east coast we encountered the Clinton’s on the highway. A huge caravan of black cars. We knew it was Hillary’s campaign for the New York governor.

    • Erika, many thanks for your comments. My guess is with both interested in free trade, that would play well with other countries. While Reagan did some things that could have been done better, he is remembered as a pretty good to good president. Yet, his ad lib line in a speech to tear down the wall in Berlin may have been a nice way to remember him. Clinton, also could have done some things better, but he is remembered as a good president, even by many Republicans. Some highlight too much on his peccadillos, which are not his finest moments, but he did a number of things well. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: While I focused on governmental collaboration, my experience in business witnessed that most tasks and projects were achieved through successful interaction of team members. People brought different skill sets and played certain roles on the team. Some were team leaders, some were project managers, some were legal or financial resources, some were communication specialists and some were production people or analysts. They all collaborated to get the job done.

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