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Rubin Should Simply Say He's Sorry and Then LeaveExcerpt from The Wall Street Journal - 2008-12-06; Page A10
Please let me understand Robert Rubin clearly ("Rubin, Under Fire, Defends His Role at Citi," page one, Nov. 29). After having a direct role in the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression and after witnessing the near collapse of Citigroup Inc., Mr. Rubin has the audacity to say, "Nobody was prepared for this." Thank goodness he wasn't a director at Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or J.P. Morgan. They seemed prepared for this.
As a senior counselor, one of Citigroup's highest-profile directors and one of its highest-paid officials, he participated in decisions that allowed Citigroup to ramp up its risk-taking and transfer billions of dollars off its balance sheet. I believe history will find him in the financial scrap heap, along with his colleagues Alan Greenspan and Barney Frank, who coincidentally also had nothing to do with the financial crisis.
Warren B. Meretsky Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Mr. Rubin's too little, too late defense of his tenure at Citigroup is lacking in all respects. Hiding behind the banner of not being responsible for line operations doesn't exonerate him from much of the blame of Citigroup's demise. Just what did he do other than pontificate at global meetings and greet and meet? It's time for him to go. As a shareholder, I won't vote for him.
Steven Kaufman New York
There isn't any justification for "$115 million in pay since 1999" for doing next to nothing but helping run the truck over the cliff.
James Macek Lakeland, Fla.
Mr. Rubin is uncharacteristically defensive of his time at Citigroup. His use of B-School mumbo-jumbo -- "risk book," "granular knowledge," "inflection point" -- is telling.
His blaming the bank's problems on a consultant's report, operating management, or anybody else except himself, is pathetic.
And his response to his compensation at Citigroup is condescending in the extreme:
"I bet there's not a single year where I couldn't have gone somewhere else and made more."
We're still waiting for a Wall Street executive to simply admit that his or her extremely poor judgment has resulted in significant losses for millions of investors.
Gibbs LaMotte Devon, Pa.
A Code Green EconomyExcerpt from The Oregonian - 2008-12-06; Page B4
Former Homeland Security Tom Ridge was widely ridiculed for color-coding the nation's terror-alert status. The Obama administraiton wants to color-code the economy.
Barack Obama promised during the campaign to create 5 million green jobs in a decade, and they will constitute at least $15 billion a year of his stimulus package. Putting people to work weatherizing homes, building wind farms and constructing a new electrical grid will supposedly save the planet and revive the economy all at once, in a lavish, politically correct free lunch.
Michigan Gov. Jenniffer Granholm explained on PBS's "NewsHour" the economic elixer of wind farms: "You need people to know how to build the turbines. You have to have people install the turbines. And turbines have to be connected to the grids. Those are all jobs that can be created if we make a smart investment right now."
To this point, construction jobs have not been widely viewed sa the future of our economy. They once were dismissed as jobs "Americans won't do." Never mind. The fundamental problem is that biofuels and wind energy are less efficient and more expensive than coal (which provides more than half the nation's electricity) and oil (which powers essentially all of its cars).
Currently, 1.8 millino jobs in the economy relate to oil and gas (half of them at gas stations). Why layer more than double – if the Obama goal can be taken seriously – that number of green jobs on top of already existing jobs dissapear, we will have succeeded only in employing more people in energy than otherwise necessary.
The green jobs enthusiasts are making a classic error illustrated by the 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat. When a railroad was under construction from France to Spain, someone in Bordeaux suggested that there be a break in the tracks to boost the town's economy with all the extra work for porters to cart luggage between train, etc. Bastiat pointed out that if breaks in the tracks were such an economic benefit, every town should have one and France should build a "negative railroad" consisting entirely of interruptoins.
Of course, the French economy, benefited much more from a real railroad delivering the efficient and cheap transport of goods. The push for green jobs is about creating a "negative" energy sector.
To make people buy biofuels or wind power, either these energy sources have to be subsidized (draining resources away from more productive uses) or traditoinal sources of energy have to be taxed or regulated, which is what Obama proposes with his cap-and-trade plan on carbon emissions. The latter policy will cost jobs in the traditional energy sector and leave consumers with less to save and spend elsewhere. As Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprice Institute points out, advocates of green jobs always emphasize the gross rather than the net jobs figures because a more complete picture shows they are ultimately subtracting, not adding.
Creating green jobs ins't a new policy. The government basically invented the American ethonal industry, with subsidies, tax credits and a tariff to protect it from foreign competition. Ethanol still is only two thirds as efficient as gasonline and requires about as much energy to produce as it provides. The government has invested billions of dollars in its own "flex fuel" fleet of cars, but 92 percent of the fuel for the cars is standard gasoline.
Jimmy Carter launched a knid of green jobs program a full three decades ago. He poured $3 billion into Synthetic Fuels Corp. that was an embarrassing bust.
It's always a mistake to believe that government can "create" jobs. It only creats jobs by taking resources from the economy, and therefore destroying jobs out of sight. It should attempt to create a favorable business climate and leave the rest, including the color-coding, to the market.
By RICH LOWRY
Too Smart for Your Own Profit?Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal - 2008-12-05
In "Marketing in the World of the Web" (op-ed, Nov. 29), Tom Hayes and Michael Malone warn of dire implications for marketers that fail to adapt to new realities they call Marketing 3.0. They suggest five calls to action: pay distracted consumers for their attention, listen to feedback from (mostly unhappy) customers, target smaller niches, pay consumers' trusted friends to evangelize for you, and use brick and mortar as showrooms for online inventory. Their evangelism goes on to assert that "there isn't a smart company today that isn't implementing some kind of online community, wiki or blog strategy."
But the authors raise and fail to answer the important strategic question: "how to leverage this phenomenon into actual profits?" Whether their advice describes a two-generation leap forward from "classical marketing" or not, it certainly drives home the real challenge facing marketers today: consumer inertia. After years of myopic focus on efficiency and low price, most U.S. retailing -- offline or online -- today is simply boring and uninspired.
With the dot-com bubble of 2000 still fresh, however, truly smart and strategic marketers are being extremely careful to sort out the wheat from the chaff in the ever-expanding glossary of Internet lingo. Nimble and relevant are indeed important business goals. So is the classical one of profit.
Richard E. Wilson Northwestern University Evanston, Ill.