Paul Jacob

Question authority. Usually taken as advice to doubt, why not take the slogan literally? Whether you harbor niggly little suspicions or a big fat, full-form dubiety, always ask questions. Probe. And direct those queries to those who say they know something.

That’s how we learn.

These days, accountants and economists should be in high demand, because the most contentious issues seem to be our financial fiascos. It’s becoming an increasingly long list:

  •   Social Security (looming)
  •   The depression (ongoing) following the secondary mortgage market collapse (historical)
  •   Federal government budgeting (historical and ongoing)
  •   Bernie Madoff’s pyramid investment scheme (old news)
  •   The Solyndra/“Solargate” debacle (new news)

Obviously, there’s enough fiascos to go around, these days, in the financial world.

What’s interesting is that in each case some experts bucked a general trend of complacent or even enthusiastic support for these debacles-in-the-making.

According to Fox News’s investigation of the Solyndra subsidy and bankruptcy (two great debacles that often appear together), “emails released from the House Energy and Commerce Committee suggest the Obama administration did later ignore or discount warning signs about the viability” of the solar energy company:

In one Aug. 19, 2009, email obtained by the House panel, it was clear to some administration officials that the solar company had shaky finances.
“While debt coverage is robust under stress conditions, the project cash balance goes to $62,000.00 in September 2011,” said the email, which was prescient since the company did in fact go bankrupt in that very time frame.

But of course the politicians and administration “experts” went on with the project anyway.

This pattern repeats. You see a few Cassandras, but most experts go with the flow of political hope and enthusiasm. That’s why I qualified my allegiance, above, to the leading authorities with the phrase “experts I trust.” The truth is, when it comes to politics, at least, human beings appear prone to herdish behavior.

Or maybe that’s pack behavior. Alpha dogs marshal the betas to bear their teeth at any questioning of alpha dominance, at least until it’s too late.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.