Archived Story

It wasn’t Nostradamus who saw our situation so clearly

Published 1:54am Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It has been 25 Columbus Days since I went off and discovered the new world of marriage.

My wife and I have an understanding. She shops ’til she drops. And I dropped shopping.

ebyFurther, I bite my tongue when she frequents yard sales and Goodwill because she brings me books. Who said buying my silence would break the bank? I’m a cheap date.

Anyway, that’s how I came to be reading the political paperback I just finished — the 25th book I’ve read this year, I’m proud to report.

You’d think between my shopping silence and that, I’d get a little less grief about watching too much TV. It’s for my job, after all.

I concluded our speaker is an astute observer of the American scene. Can you guess who made the following remarks?

•••

“When I go to Asia or Europe, I feel like I’m looking at tomorrow. When I go to many U.S. cities, I see decay and neglect and I feel like I’m looking at yesterday.”

•••

“We can be the leaders in the game again. But we can’t do it if we just sit around and whine.”

•••

“There’s an adversarial relationship in our country between government and business. Our best and brightest go to Wall Street and become junk bond dealers.”

•••

“The people I call the corporate gypsies I have no use for at all because they float from company to company, taking and not giving much. Their vision of the future is 90 days. In Pontiac, GM executive parking garages are heated while the poor guys who work in the plant freeze their tails off walking to work through the snow. It costs $140,000 a year to heat one parking garage. I’d shut that thing down; it has nothing to do with making cars.”

•••

“I make no distinction between the MBA white collar criminal and the kid who is a high school dropout who robs a 7-Eleven store, in terms of basic character. You can’t expect the average people to support our system of justice unless it is fair … The guy who does a multimillion rip-off of some institution, or other investors, will probably wiggle his way out of it. I personally don’t buy the theory that the ego hit and the character deterioration and all that a white-collar person takes is comparable to a jail sentence. You know the New York street saying: ‘If you can’t do the time, don’t commit the crime.’ ”

•••

“Who are all these consultants, lawyers and accountants going to sell their services to? This is the goofiest idea in the world. The service economy is a mirage.”

•••

“When you find a place like Wall Street, where you’re paying 28-year-old boys a half-million a year, you know something is off track. It has nothing to do with reality. There’s only two places in the world a 28-year-old can make half a million a year. That’s selling dope and dealing in junk bonds. They’re both destroying our country.”

•••

“We Americans have evolved from a tough, resilient people, willing to sacrifice for future generations, into a people who want to feel good now — at any price — and let the future take care of itself. Put more directly, we have become credit junkies, shooting up huge sums of borrowed money on a government and personal level — looking for another high.”

•••

“The rules for success in these big corporations are not the rules of the marketplace. You don’t get to be chairman of the board by building the best car, the best television set or the best stereo. You get to be chairman of the board by being good at running overhead projectors and making staff reports and not knowing what’s going on on the factory floor. And only the dummies with dirt under their fingernails are in engineering.”

•••

“Top management focused on golden parachutes, poison pills, financial tricks and leveraged buyouts — things that had nothing to do with getting competitive. We have really trashed our big companies. We will pay for the excesses. Not only that, we’ll have to do it when we’re hopelessly leveraged — like a punch-drunk fighter.”

•••

“If you want to make that kind of money, be a rock star. Play baseball. But if you want to run a company, you cannot have that kind of gap between the people who do the work and the people who run the company.”

•••

“I watch CEOs wandering around with their blow-dried hair, their $3,000 suits, their 23-year-old trophy wives and I think, ‘These are the stewards of millions of jobs.’ ”

•••

“The chief financial officer of a publicly owned corporation would be sent to prison if he kept books like our government. We cannot continue to tolerate this. The average citizen works five months a year just to pay his taxes.”

•••

“We have the most expensive health care system in the world. and yet we are behind 15 other nations in life expectancy and behind 22 other nations in infant mortality. So we don’t have the finest health care system in the world for our money.”

•••

“Our country, effectively, does not have a national budget. We avoid facing the budget issue by passing continuing resolutions that put us deeper into debt each year.”

•••

“There is no correlation between taxes paid by the people and money spent by the government.”

•••

“The average citizen can’t relate to a billion or a trillion. A million dollars in thousand-dollar bills is a stack of thousand-dollar bills four inches high.

“A billion dollars in thousand-dollar bills is 300 feet high.

“A trillion dollars in thousand-dollar bills extends from the top of (this) table to 63 miles out in space.”

•••

“We now expect life to be so extraordinarily good to us that we must be paid $20 an hour for a job that you could train a monkey to do — or we think the world is being unfair.”

•••

“Let’s just hunker down and (win) on blocking and tackling. That is how they beat us. Our solution is to go out and buy new uniforms. The team looks good, but it still can’t play.”

•••

“If we did not have such a thing as an airplane today, we would probably create something the size of NASA to make one. It’s a good thing the Wright Brothers didn’t know any better when they made the machine fly.”

•••

“The greatest danger we have is the ‘maybe it’ll go away’ syndrome. (International trade competition) ain’t going away, it’s going to get worse.”

•••

“Titles cost nothing. Titles mean nothing. That’s one of the problems in our country. We assign too much emphasis to titles and not enough emphasis to what you are doing.”

•••

“Maybe the dinosaur, for the average fellow like me, is the best example. He got so big he couldn’t function. Big is not beautiful. We in America like to think big is beautiful. Big is inefficient.”

•••

“I’m not even sure the Republicans have a platform. If there’s anything out there except dirty tricks and character assassination, I never heard of it.”

•••

Have you guessed the identity of our guest commentator yet?

I’ll give you a clue.

That last zinger is one of his most recent pithy observations.

He said it a generation ago in 1992 when he ran for president.

That’s right, Rosstradamus!

Ross Perot is 80 this year.

When someone pointed out his house to me in Texas in 1984, I didn’t really know who he was yet.

I covered him in Lansing from a platform where I was lumped in with the national media and felt the hatred directed at USA Today and the networks.

Somewhere I have an autographed copy of a Daily News he signed in Fred Upton’s office.

Most of these quotes are from the mid-1980s.

Some go as far back as the 1970s, proving again that famous quote about those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

John Eby is Daily News managing editor. E-mail him at john.eby@leaderpub.com.

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