The ship of state
Eleven years ago, when Obama became captain of the ship of state, a storm of horrific proportions — the worst since the 1930s — tore the ship's sails, snapped its masts and damaged its hull. Experienced mariners feared the ship would founder. Some committed suicide. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, that had reached its highest mark ever in October 2007 (14,200), had fallen steadily for over a year. It bottomed in March 2009, at 6500, two months after Obama took the helm.
The first months of his presidency were a tense scramble to save the ship of state. Obama borrowed money, and with the hard work of savvy hands, repaired the rigging, stepped new masts and slowly but surely navigated the ship into better seas. It took years. But when Obama gave up command, the Dow had nearly tripled, peaking at 17,200.
In January 2017, when Trump took the helm, the winds were good and the seas were calm. Every experienced mariner assumed repairs to the ship's infrastructure would begin immediately. But the new captain had no experience at sea, and didn't understand why he should waste resources working on the hull when winds and waves were favorable. He wanted to see how fast the ship could fly.
So he ordered all hands aloft: "Pack on the sails, me lads. Let's show the world how great this ship really is."
In order to enliven everyone aboard, he opened the ship's larder. Officers could have all they wanted; sailors received an extra ration of grog. It was a risky move since no one could predict when stocks would be replenished, but with respect to the speed of the ship, his generosity paid off. The ship raced. The Dow nearly doubled in just over three years, from a low of 15,500 to a high of 29,550.
Contributing to the ship's speed were innumerable executive orders intended to eliminate all encumbrances. He ordered all engineers and scientists to abandon their work of maintaining the integrity of the ship. He fired anyone who would not follow his orders, such as, in 2018, the pandemic response team. He scrapped any and all environmental hazards that might protect, say, a school of dolphins in the ship's course.
Convinced that global warming was a hoax, he turned the ship toward the hottest part of the ocean and commanded, "full speed ahead."
And did that baby go! Everyone was busy. It was party time. Living had never been better.
Then came the storm no one expected: COVID-19.
Economically besotted partygoers were totally unprepared. The host of the party implied that COVID-19 was a "new hoax," and that no one should be spooked.
But investors were spooked. They started to abandon ship. The Dow, having reached a high on February 12 of 19,560, began to slide as investors jumped overboard. The ship took on water. On March 12, it had lost 28% of its buoyancy. It was an unmitigated disaster. Resources that anyone with even a modicum of foresight would have directed toward bolstering the integrity of the ship had been squandered. Engineers and scientists had been fired. The navigators (the press) had been called "the enemy of the people" for telling the truth about the ship's condition, and especially for saying that its course toward hottest part of the ocean was idiotic.
What did the captain do? He blamed Europeans and the Democrats. And he worried about being reelected.
Peter Wright is a Lake Oswego resident.
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