By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog
There's a scene in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman that came to mind this week. A successful businessman, Charley, looks back on Willy Loman's career and says: "For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a nut to a bolt, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that's an earthquake."
This week ended with a lot of people not smiling back at the salesmen. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner unveiled the administration's bank bailout plan and the stock market dropped 382 points in response. The markets weren't buying his product. Today, President Obama is searching for a third nominee for secretary of commerce—basically "head of sales" for the administration—in the wake of Judd Gregg's withdrawal. "On issues such as the stimulus package ... there are irresolvable conflicts for me," Senator Gregg said. "The bottom line is, this was just a bridge too far for me." Not only did he not want to be a salesman, he wasn't buying the product either. No sale.
Maybe it's time to forget the government salesmen. Let's hear from the people who have "put a nut to a bolt," as Charley calls them. Maybe they can help explain to the American people what is happening and how we're going to fix it. (This may be a controversial idea now that America's CEOs are considered our newest criminal class.)
Where is the president's friend Warren Buffett, whom he quoted left and right during the campaign? Or Richard Parsons? Paul Volcker? Robert Rubin? Anne Mulcahy? On November 14, President Obama introduced his outside economic advisers:
Wouldn't it be great to hear from some of them? Unlike the president and some of his cabinet members, these are people who have met a payroll and understand the markets. In Death of a Salesman , Willy Loman's obsession with the superficial details of selling blinded him to the big picture, which was the American Dream and how to keep it alive. Hopefully, President Obama won't make the same mistake.
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