Credit and blame

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down today. This imperfect person has received a huge amount of blame for the failure to deliver a Brexit deal. Yet, I believe she had an unenviable task of herding the many and varied egos in Parliament who did not focus on getting the job done.

Living in America, we see this first hand, as posturing is more important than doing. Even before the fear-mongering and storytelling that has replaced civil debate, I have been disappointed in the demise in bipartisanship behavior.

Ironically, the last period of significant legislation occurred when GOP Speaker John Boehner ignored the Freedom Caucus and worked with moderate House Democrats to pass bills the Democrat led Senate would pass into law. He did this enough, that he retired before the Freedom Caucus rebellion ousted him.

Now, only handfuls of significant laws are passed as neither major party wants the other side to get a political win. Actually helping people is secondary to the perception of looking good. We have a president who does the same focusing too much on perception. He even controls his messaging taking credit for things he has little to do with and laying off blame on others when he the finger could be pointed at his efforts.

Blowing a problem out of proportion, making it worse by not addressing the real issues, threatening an action that gets push back from all sides and then coming to agreement on efforts that are already underway, is all a show that is harmful to relationships and commerce. People and companies need more stability in their lives, not less. When applecarts are upset, they have to look at other options.

This month, the US economy will be celebrating ten years (120 months) of economic growth. The president has been sure to pat himself on the back for this and he did provide some short term tailwinds with the tax cut and regulations cuts. Yet, he has only been president for going on 29 months. That means, 91 months of this growth were under Obama and the stock market more than doubled under his watch.

To be frank, presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, providing at best headwinds and tailwinds. The headwinds this president has caused are more long term – debt, tariffs, immigration focus, pulling out of trade deals, etc. The economy is slowing its growth and more slowing is expected to occur. But, a given is this president will lay blame on others as it slows – he started last fall making the nonpartisan Federal Reserve the bogeyman.

Credit and blame. I have often quoted a leadership consultant I know, who said a great leader deflects credit to others; a bad leader accepts credit even when not due. Think about that as you hear or read tweets from leaders.

10 thoughts on “Credit and blame

  1. Thank you for stating this, Keith. That a leader can influence the economy is so short-sighted. It is contingent on global economics, social trends, and so many factors that precede or lie outside of presidential control. I wish everyone would stop pretending and wake up.

    • VJ, the best way to counter an argument that the president has more influence than he does is to tell someone that if that is your reason to applaud the president, then you should also applaud Obama. The current president has convinced his followers the economy was horrible before he came on board (remember him touting the unenployment rate at 35 to 40%? The numbers were in the 4% + range when he took office. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: My favorite story about a politician being untruthful actually does not involve the current president. After being caught in a lie, Senator John Kyl said to the reporter, “The problem is your confusing what U said with the truth.” In other words, it is your fault that I am lying.

    Out of the 10,000 plus Trump lies in office, my favorite Trump lie occurred when he was finally going to take responsibility for something bad. At a press conference where he stated the Obama birther issue that he perpetuated for several years was untrue. Obama was born in the US. Rather than leaving it at that, he then blamed Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the story. Someone brought them the story and they passed on it. Trump ran with it for several years, but he was blaming her.

    These stories speak for themselves. Keith

    • I think Ms. May was in a no-win situation that she ultimately could not resolve. I actually feel rather empathetic toward her, and I have grave concerns about where Brexit goes from here. I do wish “the Donald” had kept his nose out of that which he does not understand.

      Meanwhile, back here at the ranch … of course Trump is claiming credit for the economy, though he did little enough to help it along, and blaming ____________________ (fill in the blank) for all that is wrong. The economy is not his to own, and even his tax cuts are almost certain to backfire, as they were tax cuts for the wealthy, and what little benefit the middle class saw is already being offset by the damage of his tariffs on most of our trading partners. However, when the economy slides, as it is certain to do before the end of 2019, that slide will be his to own.

      Of greater concern, though, is the damage he has done in two areas: 1) the morale of this nation, and 2) the environment. Therein will lie his legacy, if in fact he is to have a legacy.

      • Well said. The jobs created in May fell to 75,000 (much less than predicted) and the previous two months were reduced by a combined 75,000. Several econometric groups predict a 1.5% per annum growth the remainder of the year.

  3. Theresa May was not my favourite politician and yet she showed more backbone and resolve than any of the spineless, populists opportunists who have the gall to think they could guide this country through and out of this crisis

      • The worst, in living memory, are probably yet to come. If this keeps on I’ll be thinking nostalgically about Thatcher (and believe you me that will be something!)

      • Roger, if the UK does a hard Brexit, the person at the reins is in a heap of trouble. It would be poetic justice for the “Brexit numbet fudging” Boris Johnson to be the one at the rudder.

        But, I would not wish either on you and your country. I hope for a new, fact-filled Brexit vote. And, if Brexit does occur, it needs to be well-negotiated and agreed upon. The fact the US president, who is not known for due diligence or patience, favors a hard Brexit should speak volumes. We should not forget his six corporate bankruptcies or that this real estate “expert” set up a mortgage company during a housing recession – of course, it failed. I say these things to emphasize due diligence matters. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: Last month, Bart Starr passed away. If you don’t know, Starr was quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and led them to five NFL championships. He had a pertinent quote to the theme of this post. He told a reporter “if we win, it is a team victory; if we lose it is the quarterback’s fault.” That is the polar opposite of the modus operandi of the current president.

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