We should pay attention when people sound alarms at their own peril

It fascinates me when an old post starts getting some attention. Right now, one called “Who is Paul O’Neill and why should his opinions matter?” is getting a few looks (a link is below). In essence, O’Neill was fired as Secretary of the Treasury for voicing an opinion the President did not like.

What did he say, you ask? He said he was concerned about the debt and felt the Bush Tax Cuts were unneeded. This is after Bill Clinton handed a surplus budget to the younger Bush. It should be noted the debt is now 5 times larger.

Recently, the well respected Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats resigned under pressure as he told the inconvenient truth about Russian influence and its continuation. Like O’Neill, this clarion call should be heeded. Like with General James Mattis’ resignation last December, Coats departure is giving GOP Senators pause, yet they refuse to act.

Back in late 2007, a Texas financial analyst noticed that people who could “fog a mirror,” were getting huge mortgage loans on properties that seemed to be over-inflated in value. He did his homework and was able to get a meeting with the CFO of Bear Stearns. He told the CFO he thought Bear Stearns was over-extended with risk and was going to to go under.The CFO thanked him and the guy uttered these parting words – well, I am going to bet against you. Within the year, Bear Stearns was bought for a very discounted price before it went under.

Colin Kaepernick is a good NFL quarterback, but he has been blackballed from the league after calling attention to the unequal rights and treatment of Blacks in America. His civil protest was hyper-politicized by a hyper-political president, so he was blackballed, a term which seems apt. Yet, we have a difference in how Blacks are treated. Even further, our society is more economically unequal than it has ever been, with haves owning much greater shares. A society cannot withstand such differentiation for too long. Kaepernick’s protest should be heeded not condemned. His protest is far more emblematic of American values than a flag or anthem ever could be.

Those who are giving clarion calls should be given due consideration. There are financial analysts who have cautioned against Brexit from the outset. Those concerns have fallen on too many deaf ears. Their corollary message is even more dire – do not leave the EU without a deal. That is beyond poor stewardship. It matters not what the current PM says. Yet, if it does happen, it is only fitting that Mr. Johnson is the one trying to deal with the fallout.

Before I close, let me go back to someone who is similar to the Texas man who tried to forewarn Bear Stearns. The movie “The Big Short” highlighted one person of several who saw the housing recession coming. When his concerns fell on deaf ears, he had them create a product to pay off if he was right.  The industry laughed at him until a couple of years later they realized he was right. His clients made a fortune. The movie ends by telling us what this man is now investing in – water. While it does not get much play here, we have a global water crisis which rivals climate change as a concern. He saw it coming.



12 thoughts on “We should pay attention when people sound alarms at their own peril

  1. I agree. People who sound alarms at their own peril are not always right (nobody is always right), but those who do sound the alarms at their own peril are much more likely to be right than people who are purely self-interested. That’s my two cents.

    • So true. It does not make them right, but they should be heard. I am thinking of the tobacco whistleblower who let people know the tobacco industry knew nicotine was addictive since 1964. Keith

      • They provide a great service at a lot of expense. The whistleblower who broke the Wells Fargo story on setting up new accounts to meet incentive goals lost her job.

  2. I definitely agree that more should have been done when Mattis and Coates spoke out and then resigned or were forced out. Unfortunately, we have congressional oversight only from Republican partisan pettifoggers and determined Democratic hand-sitters.

      • It is a good word to describe Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Lindsey Graham, and Trump himself. They blow smoke out of their… let’s say “ears” to obscure the truth about what is being discussed.

      • Mickey, I wish John McCain were alive, as he would take both Trump and his friend Graham to the woodshed. I called Meadows last year and spoke to a less than diplomatic staff member. I had shared my concern that the new tax law would increase the debt and it was hypocritical that Meadows voted for it. He ripped me a new one saying those were only estimates. I said yes, but the CBO and other nonpartisan groups do their best to get it right (it should be noted their predictions are proving sound). When he kept it up, I said it has been my experience that politicians acclaim the CBO when it agrees with their position and condemns when they don’t.


    • Hugh, good analogy. The corollary is shooting the messenger defeats the issue, be it Al Gore on climate change (Gore lives in a big house so climate change is not real went the argument) or Michael Cohen calling Trump a con artist, racist and cheat under oath (Cohen lied for Trump, so he must be lying now went the argument). Keith

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