Get Rid of the 100-Day Presidential Litmus Test

one-hundred-imageIn the spring of 1933 FDR announced major initiatives to lessen the impact of the Great Depression. The nation was a disaster. Things were so bad that  historian Arthur Schlesinger made the following statement at Roosevelt’s inauguration:  “It was now a matter of seeing whether a representative democracy could conquer economic collapse. It was a matter of staving off violence — even, some though — revolution.” 

Between March 9th and June 16th, 1933, Roosevelt proposed an unprecedented number of new bills that were quickly passed by both houses of congress. Roosevelt’s legislative orgy set off a presidential practice of evaluating the first 100 days of every new presidential administration

It is worth noting that when Roosevelt took over in March of 1933 the unemployment rate was an eye-popping 25% and all banks were closed and no checks could be written or cashed (can you imagine if that happened today?).  Even though many a pundit have thrown around the “D” word (Depression) in recent days and weeks, we are nowhere near where we were in 1933. That’s one of the two key reasons we should get rid of the 100-day litmus test. The other reason is even more pertinent.

In the course of a presidential administration, 100 days is nothing. It is very much a short-term phenomenon.  And therein lies the rub. There should never be an incentive for a leader to favor the short-term over the long-term. This is not to deify the present administration. They just went along with the hype by discussing it and hosting a press conference and a giant town-hall meeting.  Former GE chairman Jack Welch was adament about this, as was Peter Drucker before him. Said Drucker:  “There is one more major factor in every management problem…an additional dimension: time. Management always has to consider both the present and the long-range future.”

As long as a commander-in-chief has one eye on the 100-day calendar there is always the incentive to favor the short term over the long term health of the nation.  And that is never a good thing.

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