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It is easier to be a follower than to be a leader. Followers don’t have to guess what the future holds, they just let the leaders take that risk. Leaders must make decisions based on uncertain or unknown future difficulties and benefits, but must act in the present.
Followers can hang back and take potshots at the backs of the leaders for seeming mistakes, confident that no one will remember the potshots at programs that eventually were successful. Followers can also select points to criticize without worrying about the whole picture.
The Monitor opinion page (July 12) had three excellent illustrative examples of follower potshots: opinions on the Trinity Project and the high-speed rail initiative with the political cartoon.
First, the Trinity project has been in the works for several years with decisions having been made long ago. It is experiencing difficulties due, in my opinion, to the combination of starting two wars while cutting taxes, greatly increasing the national debt, and reducing governmental oversight of the investment industry during the eight years of the previous administration.
This irresponsibility has led to the current recession, which led to the cartoon, which criticizes the Obama stimulus package, in effect for a couple of months, for not having already corrected the Bush recession, which took eight years of fiscal mismanagement to create. Perhaps the cartoonist thought we had elected as president a close relative of God. This is like criticizing the physician treating an accident victim for not being able to make the victim completely whole before the next TV program starts.
In his comments on high-speed rail, Ralph Damiani seems to believe that any government project should make a profit. I don’t because I hope for a greater good by getting traffic off the highways, possibly saving fuel and reducing pollution in the process. By his standard, perhaps we should abolish public schools, libraries, road departments, and perhaps the police and fire departments, none of which make a profit.
Damiani apparently isn’t familiar with the concept that, if there is profit to be made with minimum risk, private enterprise will take up the task. Otherwise the project defaults to the government. Damiani would rather take a potshot at the leaders who, hopefully, can understand that sometimes we the taxpayers should pay for the benefits of the greater good and the leaders should try to ignore the follower attacks.
In the meantime, I shall re-consider whether the Monitor Opinion page is worth reading.