Posted by: mutantpoodle | September 22, 2008

Crisis Marketing

Cartoon by Bruce Beattie - Daytone Beach News

Cartoon by Bruce Beattie - Daytone Beach News

Unless you’re a Doctor, or you’re the President and missiles are headed toward the United States, very few complex decisions have to be made RIGHT AWAY.

Now, it seems like there are lots of decisions that are unbelievably time sensitive, but most of that is hype: think car incentives, or, buying a house in a hot market, where you are reminded of all the other people who would jump on this house if you don’t pay asking price and then some. I was once asked to work late on an analysis that had to be done RIGHT AWAY, for a film that was negotiated over a period of 12 months and didn’t get made.

Very few things are truly urgent.

There’s a reason people inject urgency into decision making: urgency crowds out deliberation. There will always be another car, or another house – but the less time you have to remember that, the better for the seller.

Today, as the Bush administration asks for a $700 billion blank check and wants it now, with tales of doom and gloom if there’s the slightest delay (unless, of course, they cause the delay by opposing provisions in the bailout favored by Democrats), I wonder if anyone remembers the last crisis-marketed initiative from this crowd.

That would, of course, be the Iraq war.

Now, had Bush said that Saddam might be trying to acquire Weapons of Mass destruction, and that would be a problem, so we should spend $1 trillion dollars on a war that we might need to fight later anyway, my guess is that the AUMF wouldn’t have passed.

And yet, I’d say my description of the problem with Iraq hews more closely to the reality than Bush’s. So in order to win the vote, Bush & Cheney cherry-picked intelligence,made misleading and downright false statements about the state of Iraq’s weapons programs, and gave us apocalyptic imagery (remember “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud“?), and uttered, all told, 935 lies to get the war they wanted. And, of course, it passed, costing us, at the end of the day, the aforementioned trillion dollars, and Hillary Clinton her presidential aspirations.

Today, with Henry Paulson clamoring for his bailout immediately (one that makes him the God of Wall Street) , it would be good to remember this: the markets are up not because $700 billion has already buttressed failing funds, but because people some form of relief is coming. So slow down. If Congress has to stay in session a few more days, so be it. Better to do it right. Fortunately, it looks like some of the most egregious problems with the original Bush proposal are being addressed, although (and I am not an economist) I wonder if even starting with the Bush-Paulson structure is the wrong way to go.

All that can be divined in time – precisely what crisis marketing convinces us we don’t have.

Even when we do.


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