Perhaps I was a bit harsh a few weeks back when I was critical of the Ivy Leaguers running just about every aspect of the global economy into the ground, but I am beginning to think that it is possible for people to get so educated, so intelligent and and to have their noses ground so deep into theories so complicated as to be out of reach to the rest of us mortals that they lose track of common sense.
The big 5 running the economy these days – the new gang in charge of General Motors - is a very well educated crowd: Tim Geither is the Treasury Secretary and a Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins man; Larry Summers is the Director of the White House's National Economic Council and a Harvard man through and through; Peter Orszag is the Director of Management and Budget and a summa cum laude Princeton guy; Jared Bernstein is the Veep's Economic Adviser and a Columbia grad; and finally Austan Dean Goolsbee who is the chief economist of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board and a Yale and MIT guy – an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, for that matter.
Now when these boys get together, perhaps they are making the whole thing way too complicated. Perhaps they should start scheduling the meetings in the White House parking lot and maybe, just maybe, a light bulb might click on over one of their egg-heads. It might occur to them to set all of their brilliant theories of the nuances of post-Keynsian flat earth yada yada yada aside for a few minutes and think about how to straighten out the auto business by starting with their own cars.
If they still cannot connect the dots - if it is just too elusive and complicated for them to grasp the logic - they could reconvene in the parking lot of of the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley just seven blocks east of the White House at the corner of 7th and G. Sooner or later one of the good ol' boys there will ask, "Hey – how come you guys are all drivin' them Japanese cars instead of American?" That might just spur the common sense juices in their thick Ivy League skulls.
You see, Mr Geithner drives to work in a 2008 Acura. Summers rolls in behind the wheel of an old Mazda Protege. Orzag tools around D.C in a 2008 Honda Odyssey. Bernstein also drives a Honda Odyssey. And Mr. Goolsbee motors to work in a Toyota Highlander. 5 economic policy wizards - 5 Japanese car owners. Think they would notice a common thread?
It might just cause them to wonder why, in fact, all of them are driving Japanese cars, which might lead them to agree that they are better values than the GM products they have put themselves in charge of.
That might just cause them to wonder what the Japanese car companies are doing differently.
In turn, that might just lead them to want to read a book or two on the subject, which would lead them to the idea of lean manufacturing. My book would not be appropriate for them because it is written in Manufacturing. But they might be able to handle The Machine That Changed The World, if they take it slowly. After all, Jim Womack is a bi-lingual MIT guy who speaks both Manufacturing and Academia
Which might get them to tell all of their Ivy League buddies to quit trying to reinvent the wheel – literally. The answer to American manufacturing competitiveness, in general, and GM in particular, has already been invented.
And then they might get to thinking about what the government can start doing to encourage lean manufacturing instead of being its greatest obstacle.
Seems simple enough to me. Think the brain trust in Washington can figure it out?