In response to the On Leadership question: Can Americans handle the painful truth about government budget deficits -- that getting them under control will require both tax increases and cuts in government services -- or will they reject any leader who dares to deliver it? What's a leader to do?
The leader is a truth teller.
Americans are just beginning to hear the truth about the budget deficit- its history, content, and its complexity. If we assume the responsibility required of every citizen in a democracy--to be educated and well-informed--we will be in a better position to respond responsibly to reality.
The leader manages anxiety.
There are no easy answers, no quick solutions and there will be consequences we will endure from past and present decisions. We are going to suffer a bit longer, but if we can trust that our leaders are moving in the right direction, and if we have hope that the present conditions will eventually be much improved, we won't succumb to cynicism or despair. Both of these states are the enemies of reason and good judgment. Progress results from trust and hope.
The leader must do what is right not what is popular.
The President is in the precarious position of having to respond to multiple competing and conflicting claims. There are those who think spending more money in the short term is a necessary evil; others think that cutting costs is our only option. A few believe that both of these choices need to be implemented. It will be his well reasoned judgment, thoughtful reflection and deliberation, not the desire to please everyone, that will differentiate as a leader.
The leader communicates meaning.
What will enable Americans to delay a sense of entitlement or to quell the desire for immediate gratification or quick fixes is the belief that we are acting prudently and that we can trust that we are being told the facts and what they mean. Influencing our opinions is within the power of the President. What is within the power of the American people is to listen and understand all of the facts and the impact they will have on all of us. We are not going to reduce the deficit in one year, especially a year like the previous one. What we can reasonably expect are markers of progress toward reducing the deficit. Anything else is perpetuating a delusion.
We must be reminded that true change is not an event; it is a process, and the process is one that demands that all of us act responsibly.
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