Time to reach for a big stick | VailDaily.com

Time to reach for a big stick

Don Rogers

As the experts in such things will tell you, the Vail Valley economy is tied much closer to the stock market and national economy than most communities in America.

Second or third home to well over a couple of hundred CEOs and playground for the wealthy, particularly the Wall Street wealthy, Vail has a large stake in the current spate of revelations about corporate misdeeds.

Never mind the outbreak of wildfires in Colorado and across the West. It’s the recessionary trends of the national economy that pack the greater threat to bottom lines throughout the valley.

Some stock markets indexes fell to five-year lows following the president’s address, and the venerable Dow Jones industrials sunk below 9000 – lower than any other closing after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

As with the scandal fanned to flames over priests’ sexual sins, a miniscule number of corporations and their leaders are truly guilty of crimes. And, of course, that’s beside the point of questions about the system that perhaps has provided rogues and crooks too much room to maneuver in despicable ways.

One reason Democratic strategists think they have an opportunity to exploit in the coming elections is that public anger at CEO salaries and insider advantages has simmered for quite some time now. Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski allegedly trying to dodge sales taxes with multimillion dollar art purchases, Enron accused of rigging California’s energy shortage for profit among its long list of misdeeds, and Arthur Andersen’s extremely creative accounting methods and advice unfortunately come against a background of incipient suspicion among the public.

The Republican partisans will rail at this observation, but the big business-friendly approach of the party makes it more vulnerable to voter backlash than the Democrats, even though members of both parties have dirty or allegedly dirty hands.

For this reason, the president needs to match stronger measures with his tough talk.

As Alan Hunt put it in his column for the not-exactly-liberal opinion section of The Wall Street Journal, Bush thus far has turned Teddy Roosevelt’s famous credo “speak softly and carry a big stick” on its head.

Hunt and other observers have a few commonsense suggestions, such as correctly counting stock options as expenses and replacing the docile SEC chairman, Harvey Pitt, with a more aggressive leader more fitting for these new times and challenges they present for big business – and places like the Vail Valley.

Fortunately for the first MBA president and his party, he has the bully pulpit and the continuing opportunity to lead the country through this ordeal.

He just needs to pick up a bigger stick and not settle for bluster or, like his father before him, wonder aloud what all the fuss is about.

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