Winning Political Battles and Losing the Economic War

Abe Lincoln's Hand

Marketers can learn from the horrible debt debate and the resulting downgrade of U.S. credit. The pursuit of personal and partisan agendas by all parties — but most notably Tea Party extremists and to a lesser extent liberal Democrats — cost the nation and to some extent global investors alike. All parties came out looking worse for the wear. While posturing to be idealogically right, the utter loss of respect in the eyes of their customers — the American citizen local and national, as well as global investors– cannot justify hardline stances.

As a result of this gamesmanship, Congress now enjoys record low disapproval ratings. While making “We passed our bill, they won’t compromise” statements, Congress failed to enact the deep cuts envisioned by the likes of the Gang of Six or President Obama’s Grand Bargain.

And now rather than buckle down and resolve the crisis, both political parties increased the rhetoric this weekend blaming each other for the lowered credit rating. So what is the price of continuing to be right?

At risk is more than the country’s Standard & Poor rating. Moody’s and Fitch — the remaining two primary credit firms — stand ready to downgrade U.S. credit, too. A combination of all three firms downgrading U.S. credit could create shockwaves throughout the economy. Further, global investors are now putting pressure on Washington to clean up its debt.

Tarnishing your country in the name of partisanship and reelections is not an act of leadership. It is likely that 2012 will be the fourth straight Congressional election with major volatility and turnover. This time it may have little to do with platform, and everything to do with an incumbent status. The American customer is very, very unhappy.

Marketers can see short term wins at the expense of long term customer satisfaction yields poor results. It never pays to cut off your nose to spite your face.

What do you think of the PR blame game in Washington right now?


  • The PR blame game is worse than it seems.  Both sides are determined to cast blame on the other side while refusing to look at the overall picture.  Yes, the Tea Party was intransigent, but the Republicans overall control only 1/3 of our government.  And Obama didn’t lead and come up with a plan until the very end.  Yes, the Democrats all too often look to raise taxes and talk about jet owners, but the Republicans have publicly declared that their goals is to make Obama a failed president.

    We’ve got pundits on both sides blurting out pre-conceived party lines.  Very little original thought.

    The roots of this have been going on for years – no, decades.  The growing debt was always “something that we’re soon going to deal with”.  We never did.  It’s a boring subject that doesn’t offer many benefits when it is addressed. 

    The only thing that fills the gap is the PR blame game.

    • Yeah, you bring up good points about Obama.  Ariana Huffington commented on his inability to lead. He is not a great president. Far from it.  His only saving grace is that he followed one of the all time worst presidents in our country’s history.

  • Geoff, Thanks for saying what we are all thinking. Ideology should NOT get in the way of doing the nation’s business. Personally, I sick of the PR blame game, and I would prefer they just do their jobs!

  • I really have to disagree with you that the tea party was extreme on this one. What’s extreme about wanting to balance the budget and actually make changes that will help the problem?

    The problem with the bill that was passed is it doesn’t have enough REAL changes to convince the credit agencies that we can get our spending under control.

    Plus, I can appreciate any congressmen that are voted into office because they make a promise to their constituents to do something, and they stick with their guns.

    While many people will disagree, or even be angry, at the tea party-ers for acting the way they are…that’s the platform they ran on and got elected for, isn’t it? Nice to see a little honesty in politics every once in a while.

    • Hey, we’re all entitled to disagree. Standard & Poor certainly disagreed with the Tea Party when it said new revenues were needed.  I am more inclined to see the middle of the road.  In fact, more than 80% of Americans disagree with the Tea Party now, which enjoys an even lower favorability rate than the general Congress.

      As to your comment, I never see an attitude of my way or the highway as refreshing , “nice,” or healthy in governing our country.  This approach brings to mind words like McCarthyism, childish and reminds me of a celebratory of movie fantasy like John Wayne.

      • I can’t disagree with you that there needs to be room for discussion and compromise. That’s all part of governing. I just feel like they compromised away any real changes that could effect our economy and government spending in a significant way.

        The amount of government spending starting with the Bush administration, and exacerbated by this one, is just ludicrous.

        I’m not sure if we need more revenues or not. The government should be able to operate on a surplus with the amount of money they take in now.

        Unfortunately it may have gotten to the point where the debt is so high that just cutting back may not be an option any more. Especially with a government that seems allergic to spending costs and employs scare tactics to convince the elderly that they won’t be receiving their social security checks. I think it’s unacceptable for the leader of a country to try and scare people in a time of uncertainty instead of trying to instill some confidence.

        I think I align more with the tea party on this just out of anger that the the government was so inept at it’s job that it let things get to this point. But again, that may be a reaction out of anger. And the situation still needs to be resolved.

        I’m still trying to figure out why the Democrats would be against a balanced budget amendment.

        • I’d have to agree with the latter. There is much to be angry about, and both parties have a lot of weight on their shoulders.  Many states have a balanced budget and serves them well. The reality is a balanced budget would prevent a lot of unnecessary expenditures that the people don’t want, like fruitless wars and pork barrel allocations.

          Obama is no saint, and his inability to make smart decisions with defense spending is unacceptable. Not saying defense is the only major cut, but the length of these wars is just wrong. Entering into the Libyan conflict on top of the Afghan and Iraqi wars was just stupid. I don’t even want to talk about Pelosi. As a blue dog Democrat and a former registered Republican she just drives me nuts.

  • This is so much more than the PR blame game. You and I are both business owners. We both hire and fire employees. We both have to be leaders, even when it doesn’t suit our personal needs. What is going on with our country is a really awful depiction of leadership. Can you imagine asking your employees to do what Congress has asked Americans to do…and get away with it? It’s hard for me to put all of this in a PR lesson because I really believe it’s more than that. The credit was downgraded because Congress couldn’t get their heads out of their rear ends. Plain and simple. At some point do they need to stop worrying about reelection and begin worrying about what they’re doing to their families, their friend’s families, and all of America?

    • I think we would get sued if tried to pull this off.  This does make me wish their were term limits, ending the career politician approach to Washington.  It’s definitely a contact sport and big business here in DC. Politics attract a strange person, and usually not of the leadership variety.

      • Mr. D used to be in politics. I always said a politician isn’t smart enough to run their own business and have egos too big to work for someone. He’d be really mad at me for putting it in writing, but I think it’s true.

    • @ginidietrich:disqus I really wish the penalty for this Super Committee not coming up with a solution that can be passed had involved suspending pay and benefits for the real culprits instead of arbitrary cuts on the rest of us. That might have given me some hope that both the Executive and Legislative branches would feel a need to do their jobs.

      • You know what really bothers me from a PR perspective? We know perception is reality. As a human being, I understand that Obama turned 50 last week and wanted to be in Chicago to celebrate. I also understand that $35,800 is the max you can donate to the party (which is how much a plate cost to his birthday party dinner). But from a communication professional’s perspective, the perception it left Americans with is shallow and above what’s happening with our economy. How much would it have hurt him to postpone the party and raise the money later? 

        • It certainly sends a very bad message about his priorities. Sure, business must continue during a crisis, but some personal activities are expendable as the BP CEO taught us…

        • He is out of touch with reality is my sense of it.  It’s been a long time since he made college loan payments.

  • The blame game is a futile, and juvenile, waste of energy in dealing with a crisis. History, not histrionics, will decided who, if anyone, is more at fault for this. Spinning things and blaming others instead of accepting there is a problem just means that nothing constructive is being done. No lessons have been learned. 

    I completely agree with @ginidietrich:disqus that they need to start worrying about more than getting reelected. 

    All the various ‘sides’ in this problem are going to have to compromise to reach a real solution instead of another cosmetic patch. They all have to realize that and start working toward a solution instead of an ideology soon or the situation is going to get worse. It was pretty disgusting watching the finger pointing and name calling on the today’s news shows. 

    We really need some leadership…

    • I really see this continuing to devolve until the 2012 election ends.  I hate saying it, but this sparked probably what will go down in history as one of the most despicable election cycles ever.  I hope I am wring about that.

      • Well, we might get lucky and when they see you applying for work in the next couple of weeks someone will actually hire you to do something that might work.

        Short of that, I’m afraid that you are probably correct. I’m not holding my breath that they will actually appoint reasonable people to this Super Commission. Those appointments will be the next big telling point.

  • Sorry, but we’re in for more of this until a real crisis occurs.  (my take)

    The only way forward is a viable third party that creates a middle way and plays both extremes off each other. Where we are at today is decades in the making, and the natural result of a two party, winner take all system.

    Don’t hate the players, hate the game.

    • I totally agree.  I wish we had some leadership on both the left and the middle to take these positions and provide a little more sense to this economic debate. Eric Cantor alone is a frightening proposition.

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