Shouldn’t We Drug Test CEOs of Banks Receiving Federal Aid?

Conservative politicians, including Mitt Romneyduring his presidential campaign, supported legislation mandating drug testing for recipients of federal aid, such as: the unemployed, families in assistance programs — in general, citizens down on their luck or in trouble. Interestingly, none of these politicians has suggested drug tests for executives whose banks benefit from billions in federal aid and bailouts.

Since 2011 (generally, at Republican insistence): 

"Seven states have passed laws mandating drug tests for [welfare] recipients, and in 2012 at least twenty-five other states considered proposals to tie welfare cash assistance, and in some cases also food stamps, to drug tests." (Source: The Nation.)


For example, in 2011, GOP Governor Scott of Florida signed a law requiring all applicants for that state’s welfare program to take a drug test. And in 2012: 

"Congress passed a law paving the way for states to urine-test the recipients of unemployment benefits … Since then, sixteen states have considered laws tying unemployment insurance benefits to drug tests." (Source: The Nation.)


And, in 2013, in response to various court decisions concerned that mandatory drug testing violated welfare recipients’ constitutional rights: 

"Rep. Fincher (R-TN) introduced a bill … that would require states that want to receive full funding for welfare assistance to force its citizens to waive their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to random drug testing." (Source: ThinkProgress.)


One touted justification for drug-testing assistance applicants is that people who’ve fallen on hard times because of drug problems shouldn’t get a taxpayer bailout. In short, if people can’t run their lives, or businesses, because of drug use, they shouldn’t be subsidized with government money. And, speaking of people who can’t run their businesses without a government subsidy, that does brings us back to our largest banks.

Bloomberg News recently reported that America’s largest banks receive a federal subsidy of about $80 billion per year, and that, without this subsidy, they would not be able stay in business. To put the bank subsidy in perspective, federal payments under the welfare programs and food stamps combined are about $70 billion per year.

Looking at the actions of our financial services sector, at least one plausible explanation may be that some bank executives were stoned out of their minds. Consider a few examples:

  • The 2008 financial crisis, when, in addition to their annual $80 billion subsidy, our banks needed a $400 billion bailout.
  • The collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG.
  • Five banks (Ally Bank, Bank of America, Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo) paid $25 billion to settle claims that they “routinely signed foreclosure related documents … without actually knowing whether the facts contained in those documents were correct.” Seriously, you’d have to be high as a kite, incredibly arrogant, or amazingly incompetent to think you could get away with this behavior.
  • Money Laundering — “Credit Suisse, Lloyds Bank, ABN Amro, ING Bank and now HSBC — have reached settlements in the past couple of years with the U.S. government for billions of dollars in tainted transactions.” For example, “between 2006 and 2010, the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia and other drug traffickers laundered at least $881 million in illegal narcotics trafficking proceeds through HSBC”. Since these banks were doing business, on a large-scale, with drug traffickers, did some bank executives perhaps try samples?

The actions of the financial services industry can only be explained by some combination of bad luck, innocent incompetence, criminal intent, or significant drug use. Unless we ask our bank CEOs (and other senior executives) to “pee in the cup,” how will we know whether they “deserve” taxpayer assistance? If this seems far-fetched, it’s been widely reported that James Cayne, the CEO of Bear Stearns as it lurched into insolvency: 

"Sometimes smoked marijuana at the end of the day … He also has used pot in more private settings, according to people who say they witnessed him doing so or participated with him." (Source: WSJ, Bear CEO’s Handling Of Crisis Raises Issues.)


The banking industry has demonstrated an ongoing pattern of law-breaking behavior, wouldn’t be profitable without a massive government subsidy, and is filled with credible rumors that senior bank personnel use illegal drugs. Further, a senior bank executive with a drug problem is in a position to do real damage to our economy, unlike the average person on unemployment insurance. If bank executives don’t want to submit to drug testing in exchange for federal aid for their bank, they could always resign.

So why aren’t our political leaders demanding that these corporate welfare recipients join other welfare recipients in mandatory drug testing programs? Let me offer a few thoughts:

  • Political Donations: No one on food stamps makes substantial political contributions. However, America’s financial services industry (broadly defined) donated $650 million to political campaigns in 2012.
  • Future High-Paying Jobs: Many of our current political leaders, and their staffs, are tomorrow’s highly-paid lobbyists for banks. They might not want to annoy potential future employers.
  • Class Bias: Our Congress knows and socializes with bank executives. But how many congressional leaders have shared a meal with a family on food stamps? Or lunched with someone who worked hard for 20 years, lost his/her job in the financial crisis, and now must “pee in a cup” to satisfy the whims of hypocritical politicians?

For a variety of reasons, I believe drug testing of aid recipients is bad policy; the tests are often inaccurate, several courts believe these laws violate our constitutional rights, and so on. But if we’re going to require it, let’s test our corporate welfare recipients as well as ordinary Americans. 

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build a new engineering and innovation center in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss 


Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on April 07th, 2013 as Shouldn’t We Drug Test CEOs of Banks Receiving Federal Aid?

Nine Trust-Based Problems With Bitcoin

Bitcoin seeks to be an electronic cash (currency) system that doesn’t rely on trust. Paradoxically, Bitcoin requires a trust-based ecosystem.

As a brief summary: The Bitcoin system was developed as an electronic currency by Satoshi Nakamoto (apparently, a pseudonym). Bitcoins exist only in the online world (they have no physical form). Each Bitcoin is uniquely identified, and is part of a limited edition (only a pre-set number will be issued). And, if properly executed, Bitcoin transactions are anonymous and non-reversible. For a more detailed explanation of Bitcoin’s architecture, see Benjamin Wallace (Wired) or The Economist.

Bitcoin is intended to be digital cash/currency, based on cryptography and peer-to-peer networks, rather than trust. As Nakamoto explains:

The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve. We have to trust them with our privacy, trust them not to let identity thieves drain our accounts.

Nakomoto cites as conventional currency’s root problem: “all the trust that’s required to make it work.” But Bitcoin requires us to replace trust in legal systems, institutions and procedures, with a system where we must:

  1. Trust the willingness of counterparties to accept Bitcoin as currency for payment — a huge leap of faith. Purchasing Bitcoins means participation in a 100 percent trust-based system, without any legal mechanism to compel their acceptance. Conventional currencies rely not just on trust, but also on the force of law. For example, in America the “Legal Tender Statute” (31 USC Sec. 5103) specifies that: “United States coins and currency … are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.” No country issues Bitcoins, and no government legally compels anyone to accept them as payment.
  2. Trust unregulated institutions with your personal bank information just to purchase Bitcoins. As described in Mother Jones:

… if you … have qualms about handing over all of your bank information to an anonymous internet stranger, then you might want to just give up now. The major Bitcoin exchanges don’t accept credit cards …

     3. Trust a cryptographic, peer-to-peer network computer technology most Bitcoin users don’t understand.

     4. Trust that Bitcoin (really, a beta) won’t be replaced by a superior digital currency system, rendering original Bitcoins obsolete and worthless.

     5. Trust that the Bitcoin Foundation/other participants won’t create additional Bitcoin series, thereby diluting the value of the original Bitcoins.

     6. Trust that governments won’t intervene to render Bitcoins worthless (e.g., if Bitcoins facilitate too much drug-dealing or money laundering, the U.S. government could make their possession illegal).

     7. Trust an anonymous creator (Nakamoto) who’s mysteriously “moved on to other projects” and disappeared.

     8. Trust that Bitcoin markets will be available to provide prices in real currencies — as recent events demonstrate, also a leap of faith.

     9. Trust that your Bitcoins are stored in a secure location. Precisely because Bitcoin transactions are anonymous and non-reversible, they’re highly vulnerable to theft. If your Bitcoins are stolen, they’re pretty much untraceable. For a non-exhaustive list of major Bitcoin theft incidents, click here.

Rather than as currency, perhaps we should evaluate Bitcoin as the first example of Dadaist Digital art. An art work exists as part of some limited edition and has no intrinsic use. If you purchase art (for financial reasons), you must believe/trust that members of the art ecosystem will value/be willing to purchase that work at a future time. 

Dadaism was: 

an … international movement … repudiating and mocking artistic and social conventions and emphasizing the illogical and absurd.

One of Dadaism’s first major works was Duchamp’s Fountain (created under the pseudonym R. Mutt). As shown below, Fountain is an off-the-shelf, mass-produced urinal.

2013-04-14-Duchamp_Fountaine.jpg
Source: Wikipedia; Marcel Duchamp, Fountain 1917. Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz

The urinal designated as Fountain, however, had considerable value. Replicas, authorized by Duchamp, have sold for over $1 million each.

Duchamp made an important artistic statement with Fountain; but on another level, he created an intellectual joke about the nature of art.

Nakamoto, in “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" and other writings, makes important observations about cryptography, currency and the nature of trust.

Bitcoin’s design is highly significant and will likely influence payment systems for years to come. However, Bitcoin’s implementation feels like an elaborate intellectual joke. Under the guise of eliminating the need for trust, Nakamoto demonstrates that trust is an inescapable part of payment systems.

Is Satoshi Nakamoto the Duchamp of our Digital generation? Bitcoin’s inventor seems sophisticated enough to understand that, as currency, Bitcoin’s long term value might be zero. But analogous to Duchamp’s Fountain, Bitcoin might be intellectually priceless — for the issues it highlights (or as the first example of Dadaistic Digital Art).

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build a new engineering and innovation center in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on April 14th, 2013 as Nine Trust-Based Problems With Bitcoin

Profiles in Political Hypocrisy: The U.S. Congress

Only hypocrisy and demagoguery can explain Republican opposition to gun regulation, alleging potential infringement of constitutional freedoms — alongside Republican support for monitoring American citizens based solely on religion and empowering the government to deprive citizens of their rights, by deeming them enemy combatants.

The Congress won’t restrict sales of automatic weapons and high capacity magazine ammunition, or enact universal background checks on gun purchases, claiming these measures: Restrict Americans’ freedoms, inexorably lead to additional restrictions on constitutional rights, and increase the power of a government which can’t be trusted. However, following the Boston Marathon bombing, these same politicians now demand suspensions of significant American rights — without any concern for legality, the slippery path to additional restrictions on constitutional rights, whether the government will use its new powers wisely, or how religious prejudices will be inflamed.

According to Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and his primarily Republican allies in Congress, the government can’t be trusted on gun control because it’s the first step in a conspiracy to confiscate all guns by erasing “the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution.” Americans, according to the NRA, need their guns to protect themselves from threats (such as Latin American drug gangs) that: “have invaded every city of significant size in the United States.”

Senator Graham (Republican, SC) proudly tells us he voted against legislation that would have required universal background checks for gun purchasers, limited magazine size, and banned the sale of assault weapons — because these limitations would allow a government which can’t be trusted to restrict Americans’ freedoms. And, thanks to Senator Graham and the GOP, none of these proposals became law.

We don’t even know how many Americans own firearms because Congress prevented collection of this information — since the government can’t be trusted with a national firearms database.

Surprisingly, these same politicians now demand that Americans trust the government to conduct surveillance of citizens based on their religion and to decide when citizens can be detained indefinitely as enemy combatants without a right to counsel. These rights (according to the GOP) are privileges, allowed at the government’s discretion. By contrast, the right to buy a private arsenal of automatic weapons without submitting to a background check is sacrosanct — even for paranoid, out-of-touch-with-reality gun owners who (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) believe the U.N. is about to take over America, and President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim.

If this sounds harsh, let’s review what’s these defenders of gun rights are proposing. Senator Graham (and other GOP members of Congress), referring to the Boston Marathon bombing, insist the government can classify American citizens as "enemy combatants", thereby depriving them of their constitutional rights and allowing the military to hold them indefinitely. I have no sympathy for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. But, as far as I can tell, the GOP’s only criterion for when the right to counsel can be suspended, and citizens be held by the military is whenever enough Republicans demand it.

Senator Graham claims:

"Radical jihadists are trying to attack us here at home… Every day we face threats from radical Islamists and they are coming through our back yard and trying to radicalize American citizens."

Representative King (Republican, NY) demands:

"Police … have to realize that the threat is coming from the Muslim community and increase surveillance there … We can’t be bound by political correctness. I think we need more police and more surveillance in the communities where the threat is coming from."

Since 2002, about 19 Americans have died in domestic terrorism-related incidents (this includes the three people killed in the recent Boston Marathon bombing). Over the same period, about 300,000 Americans have died from gun violence — and overwhelmingly at the hands of Christian Americans. The death of any individual is a tragedy, but the risk from firearms vastly exceeds the risk from terrorism.

Representative King demands that police realize where the threat is coming from. Well, in any given year, about one out of 1000 1 gun-owning households will be involved in incidents of gun violence — while only about one out of one million American Muslims 2will be involved in a terrorist incident. Given these facts, and Republican logic, it’s obvious who the police should be monitoring. But if our police ever stepped up monitoring of gun owners (anywhere near the level proposed for America’s Muslims), imagine the screams from the NRA and its toadies in Congress.

Republican concerns about keeping us safe from radical jihadists are hypocritical twaddle, intended to divide Americans along religious/racial lines and distract attention from the GOP’s complete lack of proposals to address a major source of death and injury in the U.S. — gun violence. We don’t have a domestic Muslim terrorism problem in the U.S. — we do have a gun violence problem.

Notes:
(1) The United States has an estimated 50 million gun-owning households with 30,000 deaths and about 50,000 non-lethal assaults from firearms each year.

(2) The Muslim population of the United States is estimated at 2.6 million, and since 2002 the U.S. has had about two terrorist deaths per year with an Islamic connection.


Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps, and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on May 05th, 2013 as Profiles in Political Hypocrisy: The U.S. Congress

Preparing to Live in That Unknown Country: The Future

New York Ideas 2013 — Some Reflections

The recent New York Ideas 2013 conference, sponsored by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic Magazine, brought together about 600 New York and national thought leaders.

Among the many participants were people such as: Robert K. Steel (NYC Deputy Mayor for Economic Development), John Borthwick (Founder and CEO, Betaworks), Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman, Google), Alexa Von Tobel (Founder and CEO, Learnvest), and Katherine Oliver (Commissioner NYC Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting). The discussions were excellent, but mainly around technologies, policies and business innovations that shaped the past five years, and might shape the next three to five years.

In the 1950s, Detroit’s population peaked at around two million; by 2010, its population had declined to 700,000. Detroit became a byword for urban collapse, because it failed to respond to the latter 20th century’s changes (primarily the long-term implosion of America’s auto industry). Its citizens paid a heavy price. With Detroit’s example in mind, it’s worth asking what changes the 21st Century might bring, and how they might impact the global, U.S. and NYC economies.

Below are some themes that I believe might shape the next 50 years, and need to be addressed. With each, consider what new product opportunities (if any) might be created, the challenges and opportunities for the global and U.S. economies/political systems, and the implications for entrepreneurs.

"We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters." Peter Thiel . Zipcar, Warby Parker, and other recent successful start-ups are great companies, and will earn well-deserved fortunes for their founders. But none of these companies, singly or collectively, will have as much impact on civilization as the invention of penicillin. Have we entered a period of reduced productivity growth, as Robert Gordon (“Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?”, NBER 2012) and others suggest?

Are Google’s driverless car and Siri just the beginning for applied machine intelligence/Big Data? Automated trucks, for example, could eliminate millions of jobs. Will this type of automation be good or bad — economically and socially? How will it transform society?

Many projections have China’s GDP surpassing the U.S. in the 21st century. New York City became the world’s business center because, in the early 20th century, America became the world’s largest economy. As the U.S. becomes the world’s largest regional market, and China becomes the world’s largest market, how will America and NYC adapt?

The U.S. population is aging. Between now and the mid-21st Century, the number of Americans over 65 will double; by 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65. Is mid-late 60s retirement really appropriate anymore? What kinds of new non-medical products and services will be developed to serve an aging boomer population? Given America’s current health care system (which costs 18 percent of GDP), how can it afford this demographic transition?

When the media industry stabilizes, what will it look like? Will feature films, news and music be crowd-sourced? Will all the global/national brands (e.g., New York Times) be gone, and the survivors be smaller, nimbler participants with extensive use of User Generated Content? Or will the future have a few giant global participants (e.g., Google, Facebook, Amazon), the collapse of the middle, and a forest of small niche players?

If anthropogenic climate change is real and nothing is done, disastrous occurrences like Hurricane Sandy will become commonplace. Will America’s coastal cities start to shrink, in population and importance? 

Over the last two generations, the gap between the top 1/3rd (particularly the 1 percent) and the bottom 1/3rd of America’s population has widened to a chasm.For example: In April 2013, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 4 percent, but exceeded 11 percent for those with less than a high school education. Can America survive as two countries — one affluent and the other marginalized? 

Is the rejection of secular humanism merely a short-term bubble or a long-term trend? Francis Fukuyama famously declared "The End of History", and that Western liberal democracy had triumphed. Well, history’s returned with a vengeance. In parts of the developed world (and even more strikingly in emerging markets), we see sharp, sustained rejections of liberal democracy, market economics and secular humanism. What do these developments mean when world views, values and goals diverge so radically?

We may be on the threshold of a scientific revolution in human genomics, giving us (for better or worse) an incredible ability to shape our genetic inheritance. In what ways should we utilize these abilities? Who will decide how these capabilities will be developed? Will we use these new powers wisely? For more on this important topic, see the recently published book Regenesis.

Emergence of global ‘superbugs.’ Will decision-makers respond rapidly, and wisely, to potential pandemics? How will such events (and their aftermath) affect commerce, travel, individual rights, and other features of our economy and society, particularly in global cities, such as NYC?

What will be the next 9/11 event? Will it come from the Middle East, North Korea or a failed state? Will it be cyber warfare, nuclear, chemical, biological, or something else? Are we preparing sufficiently for the next generation of risk?

The list above is far from exhaustive, and some items are contradictory or ambiguous. I don’t claim to have answers (and, I’m not even sure these are the right topics). But discussing and debating topics of this type is the best way I know to prepare to live in the unknown country that is our future.

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on May 12th, 2013 as Preparing to Live in That Unknown Country: The Future

Managing Innovation

Begin by Defining Outcomes, Outputs and Inputs

Innovation is the buzz word du jour. Each year, vast piles of PowerPoint handouts are distributed to cultivate and fertilize innovation — many containing concepts (figuratively speaking) with the aroma of manure. Innovation is difficult, but presenting it as an obscure unmeasurable esoteric art does not make it easier. Definition and measurement matter, as Peter Drucker observed: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

An Internet search for “innovation” yields over 200 million results, including listings for Chief Innovation Officers of companies (such as AMD, Citigroup, Coca Cola, DuPont, and Humana) and cities. Venture capitalists speak at conferences on innovation, and all startup presentations boast of the founder’s innovative strategy. BCG, McKinsey and other management consultants have entire practice groups dedicated to innovation.

On the political front, innovation (as a goal) receives bipartisan political support, a rarity in these partisan times. The White House website has an entire section on innovation, where President Obama tells us:

"The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation."

So what do we mean by innovation, and how should we measure it? At the NYC Economic Development Corporation, we used the following definition of innovation:

"The design, invention, development, and/or implementation of new or altered products, services, processes, systems, organizational structures, or business models for the purpose of creating new value for customers and financial returns for the firm." (Source: NYCEDC Innovation Index and U.S. Department of Commerce)

Innovation is about creating value, and doesn’t necessarily require a new invention, technology or product. No particular part of the original iPhone was a radically new invention. But in the context of the ecosystem created around the product - it was truly revolutionary. Apple and its success with the iPhone/iPad ecosystem have been as much (or even more) about innovating the customer experience (e.g., visiting an Apple store Genius Bar vs. calling Dell customer support) as about technology. Innovation can also be a new business model/approach (e.g., Walmart’s leadership in supply chain management).

Given a working definition of innovation, three categories of metrics have proven useful:

Outcomes - This metric is about defining a vision for the future - the end state you’re seeking: such as a radically new approach to the customer’s user experience. As Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Leaders know where they want to go.

Outputs - Outcomes are the end-state sought, but they can (sometimes) take years to materialize, and are often dependent on many factors - not just the quality of the innovation. Consequently, it’s important to have measurable output goals, related to the outcomes you’re seeking. For a company, outputs might be pilot projects, prototypes, experiments, or patents issued. One of Swedish social entrepreneur Billy Olsson’s output metrics was that he wanted everyone in his organization to break one rule each day. He wanted people to experiment, and passionately believed that rules, if followed too religiously, would stifle innovation and creativity.

Inputs - Innovation isn’t simply about throwing resources at a problem:

"When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it." — Steve Jobs


Resources do matter — but more for their quality than their quantity. Extraordinary people such as: Alan Turing, John Von Neumann, and Claude Shannon were priceless resources.

For a fashion business, key inputs might be the number and quality of fashion designers employed or hired. For a technology firm, it might be the number and quality of computer science Ph.D.s hired. Keep in mind that inputs aren’t just tangible things. Culture, for example, is an intangible, but very significant input. An organization’s culture should align with its innovation goals.

Innovation is an iterative process — each of these metrics must be updated and re-evaluated as new information and results become available. And innovation requires focus - you need to be willing to say “no”:

"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things." — Steve Jobs

In summary, successful innovation means: Having a vision of the future (e.g., for Mayor Bloomberg, an economic development vision of NYC as the preeminent global center for entrepreneurship and venture capital); Establishing measurable output goals closely connected to outcomes (for NYC, this was more startups, venture funding, employment in the targeted sector, and local engineering talent); and Having measurable input milestones (e.g., construction and expansion of NYC’s engineering schools as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative). It also means knowing when to say “no,” and re-evaluating and updating goals on a regular basis to reflect changed circumstances.

As a final bit of advice from one of America’s greatest innovators, Thomas Edison, invention and genius are: “one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss

This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on June 02nd, 2013 as Managing Innovation

Why Let a Bank Write U.S. Financial Reform Legislation?

Particularly when that bank has a history of involvement with fraud and mismanagement.

The proper level of financial regulation is a complex topic, about which people can have honest differences. But, reasonable people would agree that a bank having a history of involvement with fraud and mismanagement (and a recipient of one of the largest bank bailouts) shouldn’t be writing bank legislation. Unless, of course, you are the U.S. Congress doing business as usual.

According to The New York Times, a financial services reform bill with bipartisan support:

"sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — [and] was essentially Citigroup’s…The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades [including Citigroup’s] from new regulation…Citigroup’s recommendations were reflected in more than 70 lines of the House committee’s 85-line bill. Two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup…were copied nearly word for word. (Lawmakers changed two words to make them plural.)" - Source: Lipton, E. and Protess, B. (2013, May 24). "Banks’ Lobbyists Help in Drafting Financial Bills.” New York Times

Recall that, Citigroup has been involved in most of the major financial frauds (e.g., Enron, Worldcom, the foreclosure scandal) and crises of the last 30 years. And in the 2008 financial crisis, it received one of the largest bailout packages. In 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2008 alone, Citigroup entered into agreements with the SEC promising not to break the law in future. Even more unsettling, the agreements with the SEC weren’t effective — Citigroup continued to get in trouble. See the Appendix below for details.

I don’t find it reassuring that Citigroup believes it should be subject to less regulation, or that Congress adopted Citigroup’s proposed language nearly verbatim — with a mere change of “two words to make them plural.”

One possible explanation for having Citigroup write financial services legislation is its significant knowledge (based upon experience) of fraudulent and bad management practices. But with this line of reasoning, Bernie Madoff should’ve headed Congress’ efforts for financial services reform.

Yes, Citigroup replaced several top managers since the last financial crisis. However, the current CEO began with Citigroup out of college in 1983, and has been a senior leader at Citigroup for at least the past 10 years. Citigroup (again) promised to reform itself (although it’s made and broken that promise before). And maybe Citigroup won’t be ground zero for the next crisis. But, it still seems odd to trust Citigroup to draft the very legislation determining how much regulation Citigroup will be subject to.

Why would Congress turn over to Citigroup its responsibility for writing this legislation? Does Congress honestly believe Citigroup has America’s best interests at heart, and/or that Citigroup’s interests align with those of the American taxpayer? Or could it be the over $100 million Citigroup’s spent on lobbying and campaign contributions since 1998? Perhaps some members of Congress or their staff hope to obtain lucrative post-political careers with Citigroup (not a bad bet, given that 90 percent of Citigroup’s lobbyists have previously worked in government). Or, is it more simply that, as Mark Twain observed:

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Appendix: Examples of Citigroup’s Involvement with Fraud and Mismanagement (Limited to the 21st Century)
Adapted from: Chittum, R. (2012, March 9). “200 Years of Citi”. Columbia Journalism Review.

2001: Citigroup paid investors and bondholders $3.7 billion for its role in the Enron fraud (and promised the SEC not to break the law in future).

2002: Citigroup paid the second-largest securities settlement in history - $2.7 billion to WorldCom investors and bondholders for its role in the Worldcom fraud. In a separate matter, Citigroup paid a record $215 million fine to settle a complaint about predatory lending.

2004: Citigroup paid a record $400 million — twice as much as any other firm — to settle charges about (i) flawed, conflicted stock research inflating the tech bubble and (ii) for giving CEOs it did business with preferential access to hot IPOs. Additionally, Citigroup reached a $70 million settlement for predatory subprime lending. And Japan closed Citigroup’s private bank there for improper activities.

2005: Citigroup paid $208 million after the SEC accused it of defrauding mutual fund customers. Citigroup (again) promised the SEC not to break the law.

2006: Citigroup settled with the SEC after being accused of manipulating bond markets. The SEC again made Citigroup promise to not break the law (which Citigroup had already promised in 2001 and 2005).

2008: Citigroup agreed to pay $18 million after it (according to the California Attorney General ) “knowingly stole from its customers, mostly poor people and the recently deceased” and fired a whistleblower who complained about these practices. At the SEC’s insistence, Citigroup agreed to repurchase $7 billion in auction-rate securities it sold to investors, when it knew the securities financial outlook was deteriorating. But don’t worry - the SEC again made Citigroup promise to not break the law (we know how effective this strategy was in 2001, 2005, and 2006).

2008-2009: Financial Crisis - The U.S. government (a.ka. “we the people of the United States”) had to invest $45 billion and purchase 36 percent of Citigroup just to stabilize it.

2010: Citigroup agreed to pay $75 million to settle SEC charges about misleading its investors at the start of the financial crisis concerning its subprime exposure, which it understated by $43 billion.

2011: Citigroup paid $285 million for misleading investors on a CDO (collateralized debt obligation) deal - which one of its traders called “dogshit” and “possibly the best SHORT ever”.

2012: Citigroup agreed to pay $2.2 billion as its portion of the settlement relating to the mortgage foreclosure/robo signing scandal.

Note: Dates listed above are either year of incident, or year of settlement (when the incidents were spread over multiple years).

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss

This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on June 16th, 2013 as Why Let a Bank Write U.S. Financial Reform Legislation?

Why Not Drug Test U.S. Farmers Who Receive Federal Aid?

If not, then why impose drug tests on food stamp recipients?

H.L. Mencken observed “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.” Mencken’s spirit, in the Valhalla of political commentators, must be grinning ear to ear.

America’s farm districts are among the most reliably Republican in the country. Of the 10 counties receiving the most Federal farm aid, 9 voted Republican in the last election. And as a further demonstration of appreciation, the farm and agricultural lobbies invested $59 million in political donations during the 2012 election cycle — mainly to the GOP.

Politicians reciprocate the generosity of America’s farmers, by giving them other Americans’ tax dollars — a lot of our dollars, in fact — with as few constraints as possible.

The Republicans’ Farm Bill, for example, doesn’t require drug testing as a condition for receiving any Federal farm aid, but does require it for receiving food stamps. In case you hadn’t guessed, food stamp(1) recipients aren’t major campaign donors.

The GOP presents itself as: The great bastion of support for unfettered free enterprise, the party of small government, patriotism and rugged individualism that believes we should fend for ourselves. Contrary to this rhetoric, the overwhelming majority of GOP Congressmen voted for massive Federal subsidies to cushion America’s farmers from market and natural forces, but fought to prevent health benefits for real patriots and individualists — 9/11 first responders.

Let’s look at those GOP-supported farm subsidies (all amounts are for 10-year periods ): $40 billion to protect farmers against significant price changes; $93 billion to subsidize the Federal crop insurance program which protects farmers against crop failures or price declines; and $57 billion to help farmers protect against soil erosion and to pay farmers to leave certain lands fallow.

On the other hand, the Republican Party spent nine-years blocking about $4 billion in health assistance for ailing 9/11 first responders. Even on the final vote, most Republicans in Congress still refused to vote to support the first responders’ health assistance bill. The first responders’ crime — they lived in a part of the country that doesn’t vote Republican.

Returning to the proposed Farm Bill, the overwhelming majority of Republican Congressmen support spending about $190 billion over the next 10 years on approximately 2 million farmers (about $10,000/farmer per year). By contrast, the average food stamp recipient receives Federal assistance of $1,500/person per year. The average household on food stamps has a family income of about $9,000/year, while the average farm household has an income of about $80,000.

Food stamps help many families who’ve temporarily fallen on hard times, and about 60 percent of its recipients are in the program for only a year or less. Farmers, however, are multi-generation Federal subsidy junkies. Any request to give up their ‘fix’ is met with the classic addict’s reaction — anger and denial that there’s any dependence problem whatsoever.

The Republicans support massive Federal programs that protect farmers from price fluctuations, and subsidize their insurance and maintenance of their land — without any requirement for drug testing. But if you’re a laid-off factory worker, needing food stamps to feed your family for a few months while you find another job — you need to “pee in a cup” to satisfy a coven of Republican Congressmen.

Now for the really funny part: The GOP couldn’t even pass the final version of its own Farm Bill legislation because too many Republican Congressmen felt it was still too generous to food stamp recipients.

Drug testing Federal aid recipients, in my view, is bad policy. Among many reasons: Its constitutional legality is dubious, we’ve no reason to believe Federal aid recipients are prone to drug problems, and it humiliates fellow citizens when they’ve fallen on hard times. However, if we’re going to start drug testing as a condition for Federal aid, then all recipients should be tested, including Federally subsidized farmers (as well as banking and corporate Federal welfare recipients, a point I’ve made previously here).

More generally, the current Republican Party isn’t the party of small government and free enterprise, at least not for its own supporters. It’s the party of regional, crony capitalism politics at its hypocritical worst - where subsidies to GOP constituents are sacrosanct, and aid to other parties’ constituents (no matter how deserving) are condemned as wasteful, and subject to demeaning requirements.

To paraphrase George Will, the GOP Congress’ real mission is to loot the public treasury for its own constituents.

(1) The formal name is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially referred to as “food stamps.”

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss

This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on June 30th, 2013 as Why Not Drug Test U.S. Farmers Who Receive Federal Aid?

Is Support for the Norquist Pledge Bad for Your Health?

If you live in a state with high support for the Norquist Pledge, you have (on average) a lower life expectancy.

Residents of the 10 American states with highest support for the Norquist Pledge have shorter life expectancies than those in the 10 states with least support for the Pledge. So it seems appropriate to ask — is the Norquist small government philosophy bad for your health? This seems particularly pertinent, since the GOP (in obeisance to Norquist and the Tea Party) shut down our Federal government, and threatens to cause the United States to default on its debt — unless we all agree to smaller, more restricted government.

For those of you not familiar with Grover Norquist, he’s a prominent proponent of smaller government, whose goal is:


"… To cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." -Grover Norquist

Norquist has never seen: A government program he likes, a government employee who deserves a job, or a government labor union that does anything useful. Further, he’s not a proponent of bipartisanship, compromise or negotiation, for example commenting that, “Rather than negotiate with the teachers’ unions … we intend to break them.”

A proxy for Norquist’s influence is his eponymous Pledge — which politicians must sign, or face focused opposition from Norquist (and his allies). The Pledge requires the signing politician to: 


ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and

TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates. (Source: Americans for Tax Reform

The influence of the Norquist worldview varies widely among the 50 American states. As a proxy for its influence on state policies, I’ve used the percentage of each state’s congressional delegation who’ve signed the Norquist Pledge. This influence ranges from Idaho and Nebraska (where 100 percent of their congressional delegations signed the Pledge), to Massachusetts (where only 9 percent of the congressional delegation signed).

In the 10 states where the Norquist ideology has the most influence (by percentage of congressional delegation Pledge signers): Life expectancy is lower, and infant mortality, murder rates and road fatalities are higher — than in the 10 states where Norquist’s ideological influence is lowest. More specifically, in the 10 states with the highest Norquist influence, you will (on average): Die two years sooner (77.2 years vs 79.6 years), have a 41 percent higher chance of being murdered (5.8 vs 4.1 per 100,000 population), a 25 percent higher chance of becoming a highway fatality (1.5 vs 1.2 per 100 million miles traveled), and experience a 33 percent higher chance of losing a newborn child (8.0 vs 5.9 deaths per thousand live births), than in the 10 states where the Norquist ideology has the least influence (see Figure 1 below).

Correlation is not causality, and it’s possible other influences may be at work — but based on these numbers, where would you rather live? In a state where Norquist’s philosophy is dominant, or in a state with a less ideological view of government size?

Let me offer this for your consideration. If you live in a state where politicians drink deeply from the cup of Norquist, and believe that government is always the problem - those politicians might have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If a state’s politicians do nothing but complain about the size of government, complain about government employees, extol the virtues of unregulated, unfettered private sector enterprise; and refuse to consider that government can solve problems — then let me offer the hypothesis that the state’s government will likely function less well, be smaller and its government employees won’t feel motivated.

The public sector isn’t really that different from the private sector. You tend to get what you pay for. Shrinking government is potentially a factor in shorter lives.

Government — whether large or small — has no correct size. Government programs should be evaluated by comparing their benefits with their costs, derived as much as possible from objective evidence. An ideological belief that government is always the problem, is just as foolish/short-sighted as believing the private sector is always a rapacious villain. Ideology is not a good way to decide which government programs should be funded.

As for myself, I choose to live in a state where Norquist has relatively little influence, and look forward to (hopefully) a few extra years with friends and family.

Figure 1 Norquist Pledge (Health) by Steven Strauss

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on October 13th, 2013 as Is Support for the Norquist Pledge Bad for Your Health?

Israel Has Reached Childhood’s End — It’s Time to End U.S. Aid to Israel

"I believe that we can now say that Israel has reached childhood’s end, that it has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self-reliance … We are going to achieve economic independence [from the United States]." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Session of the United States Congress - Washington D.C., July 10, 1996 (Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs )

It’s been over 15 years since PM Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress stating Israel’s goal of economic independence. In 1997, Israel received $3.1 billion in aid from the U.S. In 2012, Israel was still receiving $3.1 billion annually in U.S. aid. We haven’t made much progress towards PM Netanyahu’s goal. For Israel’s sake, as well as for America’s, it’s time to reduce U.S. annual aid to Israel — to 0 — over some reasonable adjustment period (perhaps 5 to 10 years), leaving open the possibility, of course, for emergency aid.

Let me emphasize that this isn’t a call to end America’s close and special relationship with Israel. Israel certainly isn’t a perfect society. But its ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and tolerance are closer to America’s ideals than any other country’s in its region.

Nor is this a call for America to disengage from the vital task of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a common interest of both the U.S. and Israel. Israel — as with our other close allies (such as the UK) — should still have access to American weapons. But it should pay for them on normal commercial terms, rather than receiving them as part of an aid package. The U.S. should move to a more normalized relationship with Israel because:

A) Israel has become an affluent and developed country that can afford to pay for its own defense. Israeli GDP is about $250 billion dollars/year, and its per capita income is about $33,000/year. In other words, replacing all American aid would cost Israelis about 1 percent of their income per year, hardly an outrageous sum. Aside from the financial metrics, Israel has a well developed economy in other ways. For example, on the UN Human Development Index, Israel ranks 16th (between Denmark and Belgium). Israeli life expectancy at birth is 81 years, compared with only 79 years in the United States.

Also, as a general principle, people and institutions make better choices when they have to internalize costs. If the U.S. ends aid to Israel, Israelis may make better choices about their national defense and foreign policy.

B) Other countries/programs could better use this aid money. Although somewhat related to the above point, this matter is worth highlighting separately. To the extent the U.S. is committed to helping other countries, there are many of the world’s nations in far more desperate situations than Israel. More than 20 nations have life expectancies below 60 years, and many also have appallingly high infant mortality rates. All of these countries could benefit from the aid the US directs to Israel.

Even domestically, the aid that goes to Israel could be useful. Detroit is bankrupt, and our Congress is cutting back on food stamps, and making other painful budget cuts.

C) Israel and the United States have increasingly different visions about the future of the Middle East. We shouldn’t subsidize a country (even an ally) that is undermining our policy goals. The U.S. has long-term goals in the Middle East (including avoiding the humanitarian and financial catastrophe of another major war in the region). A major (bipartisan) goal of the United States has been the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has legitimate security concerns, and a just peace will not be easy to achieve.

However, the current Israeli government is clearly not committed to the U.S. vision, and has done everything possible to sabotage American efforts. Israel’s continued building of random settlements — all over what’s supposed to become the State of Palestine — directly conflicts with American policy goals. As Secretary of State Kerry recently commented, the United States believes the Israeli settlements in Palestine:

"are illegitimate. And we believe that the entire peace process would in fact be easier if these settlements were not taking place. … if you say [Israel is] working for peace and [Israel] want[s] peace, and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can [Israel] say we’re planning to build in a place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that perhaps [Israel] is not really serious."

In exchange for $3 billion dollars/year in aid to Israel, the least the U.S. should expect is that the Israeli government be serious about negotiating peace with the Palestinians.

If the Netanyahu government can afford to build additional settlements, it can afford to do without American aid.

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on November 10th, 2013 as Israel Has Reached Childhood’s End — It’s Time to End U.S. Aid to Israel

@JohnBoehner — Why Is a Recently Convicted Cocaine User Serving in the U.S. Congress?

"Our taxpayers don’t want to subsidize somebody’s drug addiction." - Governor Scott (R-Florida). Unless, of course, that somebody is U.S. House of Representatives member Trey Radel (R-Florida) who was recently convicted of cocaine possession and is on one year probation. In his case, the Congressional GOP leadership thinks taxpayers should continue to subsidize him, and likely pay for his rehab as well.

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn’t yet called on Radel to resign. Instead, it’s been reported that Boehner even told Radel not to resign.

The GOP, with Boehner in charge, has demanded mandatory drug testing whenever our fellow citizens apply for public assistance (for example, food stamps, welfare, unemployment insurance). According to the GOP, those testing positive for illegal drugs should be punished (by loss of benefits), with no sympathy, treatment or counseling — all done administratively, without benefit of a court of law.

On the other hand, if you’re a GOP U.S. Congressman convicted of hard drug possession (Rep. Radel was caught by the police — he didn’t voluntarily go public about his addiction), expect an outpouring of sympathy from the GOP Congressional leadership — and to keep all the perks of your taxpayer-paid job.

Instead of demanding Radel’s resignation, and expressing shock that a lawmaker would break the drug laws, the GOP Congressional leadership has focused on the sufferings of Radel and his family, with comments such as:

This matter is up to “Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.” (Speaker John Boehner)

"[glad Radel] is seeking treatment and encourages him in his recovery. This is clearly a difficult time for him and his family." (GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor) and

"This is an unfortunate time for Congressman Radel and his family. He’s admitted he has done wrong and is seeking treatment." (GOP Majority Whip McCarthy)

An unfortunate time for Congressman Radel? Radel committed a crime! Absent from the GOP leadership’s comments is any gratitude to the law enforcement officials, who had the courage and professionalism to treat Radel like any other criminal.

I hope Radel gets the professional assistance he needs. But I’m appalled — at Boehner and the GOP — for their incredibly hypocritical double standard.

The GOP has waged a multi-year war, in all 50 states, to require mandatory drug testing for various forms of public assistance. About 29 states now have legislation requiring such drug testing.

The Republicans have pursued this issue at the Federal level too. Convicted cocaine user Rep. Radel voted for legislation requiring mandatory drug testing of food stamp recipients, with likely denial of benefits for those testing positive.

Personally, I’m against drug testing of applicants or recipients of public aid. The entire process raises significant legal issues, and even if it identifies real addicts, innocent bystanders are punished (for example, depriving children of drug users access to food and shelter).

I respect, although I don’t agree with, citizens who feel public assistance recipients should be drug-tested. But I loathe Washington insiders who have one set of rules for ordinary Americans, and a different set for their friends.

Speaker Boehner urged Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) to resign due to his weird (but not unlawful) habit of sending salacious pictures of himself, which harmed no one (other than himself and his embarrassed family). Rep. Radel purchased seriously nasty hard drugs, supported dealers who destroy our inner cities, and placed himself in a position where he (a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives) was open to blackmail from criminal gangs. But Speaker Boehner has no problem with Rep. Radel continuing to serve in Congress (which is sworn to uphold, and makes, our laws). This reeks of partisan hogwash, rather than compassion.

The U.S. Congress currently has a 9 percent approval rating, and it looks like the GOP Congressional leadership has a goal of reaching 0 percent. Or, perhaps given the endemic corruption of the Congress, Radel just doesn’t look that bad to the GOP leadership.

Boehner’s stance on Radel’s misconduct demonstrates complete contempt for anyone not part of his own insular Washington circle. It’s time for Radel to resign from Congress, and Boehner to resign as Speaker. Aside from anything else, it’s difficult to imagine any replacement for Boehner being as bad of a leader.

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

Follow Steven Strauss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/steven_strauss
This is cross posted from my blog, and originally published on December 01st, 2013 as Israel Has Reached Childhood’s End — It’s Time to End U.S. Aid to Israel