The financial collapse and its aftermath involved decades of market distorting government incentives, short sighted reforms and laws, moral hazards created by clear and direct government guarantees such as FDIC and less than clear but the assumed backstops of Fannie Mae and the eventual bailouts.  Those who simply blame this on George Bush and the Republicans clearly prefer demons to facts and partisan talking points to any true understanding.

Nor can the opposition hold the current administration totally liable for the economy he inherited.  Radical legislation that proposes to increase taxes, dramatically increase regulations, and creates a level of uncertainty that can only come from ridiculously long and poorly written bills, is precisely the wrong approach to this market. What is missing is any clarity or understanding from our leader to address exactly what happened and explain what is needed to correct it.

I would like to hear (from either party):

Our problems are the result of many decisions made over many decades that seemed like a good idea at the time, yet created systemic risks that we are only now coming to understand.  This is not a failure of capitalism and free markets, it is a failure of understanding and hubris.

We as a nation believed we could have it all with little cost.  We thought we had found a painless way to assure home ownership for all, healthcare for all, education for all, and unlimited benefits for a portion of the population that grew every year.  Our unlimited quest for justice, equality, and fairness ran into the very real limit of our ability to generate the wealth needed to bring the American Dream to everyone. Using sophisticated tools, which were usually just new and unfamiliar forms of debt that few understood, we fooled ourselves into thinking we were wealthier than we were.

We in elected office have a history of promising benefits to get elected and then trying to find a way to provide those benefits without having to pay for it.  We have made promises we cannot keep.

There will be some pain as we adjust to an economy of prudence and common sense. Many who have benefited from the largess of the government will feel pinched as we return to the legitimate duties of government.  We do not know how long it will take, but this crisis has illuminated policies that must clearly end, and such changes do not come without some pain.

You can expect the lobbyists to inundate our elected officials with pressure to alleviate the pain that will affect their constituencies, but if we are to bring sanity back to our economy and our nation we must resist special interests, whether from corporate interests or unions, bankers or borrowers, or lawyers or clients.

Debt, inflation, or higher taxes do not solve this problem; they only push it down the line and make the ultimate cost even less tolerable. We must recognize government may have limits but the ability of individuals to innovate and grow does not.  Our progress must not be measured by how many citizens now rely on the government but on how much we can reduce that number.   We must reduce our debt and unemployment and maintain a stable currency.

Given the magnitude of this adjustment it would foolish to predict when and by how much we will succeed, but we must move in the direction of a sound economy with proven principles.  We will seek real solutions, not quick fixes.

Like the pain one endures in years of training to win the Superbowl, the World Series or an Olympic medal,  the victors realize it was worth it, and even the losers realize that they were all better for the experience.

We need a leader who both understands and who can communicate like a real leader.