When Will It End?

When will it end? 

That is the existential question as we reach six months into COVID. The IATF assures us we are making progress but people have stopped listening. The President said the vaccine is forth coming and we can expect a virus-free Christmas.

There are three phases to the end of the pandemic. Phase I is the approval by health authorities of an effective, safe, universal and hopefully affordable vaccine.

 Phase II is the production and distribution of the vaccine but only to the highest risk population like the elderly and health workers. This will allow for an easing of restrictions and a gradual return of consumer confidence and the economy.

Phase III is the end of COVID defined by Mckinsey, the international consulting company, as “the epidemiological end point when herd immunity is achieved as proportions of society immune to COVID19 are sufficient to prevent widespread ongoing transmission”. Herd immunity is when some 60-80% of the population – in our case 60-80 million people – are no longer infectable as a result of natural immunization or a vaccine. Like with measles, revaccinations may still be needed but no longer require public health interventions.

Assuming a Phase I vaccine is available by end of this year, Mckinsey predicts Phase II should happen around Q1 2021 for most developed countries and Phase III around Q3 2021. The timing will vary by geography depending on the availability and affordability of the vaccine and the capability to inoculate the population. In short even in the best scenario the Philippines has at least another six months before things start to move and one year before we return to “normal”. The virus-free Christmas our President has promised could happen but a year later. I wonder whether our economy will be around by then.

Businesses are running out of cash quickly. Many are just waiting for the Christmas surge, if there is one, before finally shuttering their doors. Bank loan portfolios are deteriorating with NPLs peaking according to BPI head Bong Consing, by first quarter next year. Social relief under Bayanihan 2 will be exhausted. The 2021 Budget which could have been a stimulus is only 7-8% higher than last year in real terms, 25% of it in long gestating infra spending and few sources of immediate aggregate demand. 

The peso is appreciating which is a sign of economic weakness not of strength. There are 300,000 returning OFWs with no jobs to swell an unemployment of 7.7 million workers, higher if you consider the barely employed. The budget for agriculture which could be a source of an early rebound has been cut even as the military and police budgets have been increased. Tourism which accounts for 10-15% of the economy is dead. Local tourism is being promoted yet a day trip to Tagaytay now requires a special pass and do not even think about travel requiring an airplane. POGOS are leaving which is good but bad for the sinking office market. Workers can still not get to work because of public transportation. Malls are empty because consumers fear for their health. Philhealth is going bankrupt because of corruption. Hospitals are financially bleeding because of loss of elective procedures and unpaid collectibles from Philhealth. Over three million will not attend school and the rest might as well not do so. Tax collections are down from reduced economic activity. In the meantime the IATF continues to find ways to regulate movement of people, goods and services. Did I miss anything?

The one saving grace is our BPO sector but it is now largely working from home which bodes ill for office rentals and restaurants.

So what happens from here?

Only Government has the resources to save the economy. We need to stimulate aggregate demand through outright cash transfers but the DOF is reluctant to do so because of the leakages. The Treasury said it will use the SSS to identify the needy but that does not really  help. It does not identify the poor and those working for SMEs who never registered workers for SSS benefits and who are now in the streets. The Government should be working with the telcos and mobile technology, the banking and remittance system, the Church, responsible NGOs and firms who have laid off workers; as conduits for aid. 

Another thing. Despite the economic hardships, Bayanihan 2 was not classified as urgent which meant it stayed in the legislature two months longer than it needed to. The Anti-Terror bill was certified as priority and signed into law July 3. Bayanihan 2 was only legislated in late August and then languished in Malacanang before being signed Sept. 11. Why the delay? Does anybody care?

 A source of potential stimulus is agriculture which accounts for two thirds of the economy. There have been calls to condone Agrarian Reform loans to help some 3 million subsistence farmers and to allow consolidation of farms for more efficient production; but this is being opposed by decision makers. Agra loans total around around P50 billion of which only some 25-50% are paying with the balance essentially uncollectible. By contrast corporations are being handed a tax cut which will cost the Treasury P 250 billion over 2 1/2 years. Where is the parity? Condoning farmers’ loans would not only be humanitarian, it could jump start rural areas and lead to private investment in a strategically important sector.

The Government could use the time afforded by the pandemic to seriously transform our economy. The Government’s goal is to become an “upper middle income nation” defined by the World Bank as countries like Thailand, Indonesia and China with GNP per capita of PPP dollars 12,500 – 20,000. We are still not there (PPP $ 10,700) but it does not matter. It is just a statistic that does not reflect the reality on the ground. When Bill Gates walks into a room everybody, on average, becomes a billionaire. So with us: We pride ourselves at having grown by 6% per annum but that just means the 10% who own over 70% of the economy got richer while the real wage of workers declined. The income inequality in this country has widened despite our growth. It is a disgrace.

The President is uninterested in economics except when it affects peace and order. In his recent address to the United Nations he called for statesman-like measures to combat climate change, COVID 19, geo-political tension, terrorism, migration, drugs, and to “uphold justice, international law and human rights” (I kid you not)). He did not reference economics or the need to narrow income differentials. So in the worst crisis of our history, we have a vacuum in economic leadership.

The economy has historically been led by the secretaries of finance which is the equivalent of asking your treasurer to run your company. There is a reason that does not happen. A Treasurer’s job is to make sure there is money in the bank. A CEO’s job is to define and execute a vision. That is what we need.

The NEDA is the constitutional body tasked to run the economy. It has the legal mandate and scope to think strategically. NEDA chiefs are selected from the academe for their doctorates and not from any experience in actually running a business.

An economic czar emerges usually by the force of his personality. Bobby Ongpin was the de facto economic head under Marcos while Secretary of Trade. Sonny Dominguez could be that person but he needs to relinquish his finance role. Without the shadow of a credit rating, Sonny could think deeper, wider and wiser.

Government is seemingly unmindful of the humanitarian damage in this country. It is content the official COVID death toll has been kept to 3,000 while ignoring the multiples thereof from starvation, home violence and mental depression. The weekly, nationally televised IATF meetings are an exercise in repetition. There is no urge to do more fiscally. There is no compulsion to review our priorities, transform our vision, correct our processes and build our information systems. We shall have gone through a crisis and not come out better for it.

We have if anything become more small minded. Our national debate is not over agro-industrial policy or the decongestion of cities or the economy we need in the “new normal”; but whether social distancing should be four feet or six feet, whether to a mask we should add a shield, whether motorcyclists need a barrier between riders, whether there are enough control forms. We have become obsessed with the body count of new, old, positive, negative, doubtful, active cases several days out of date. We count our pesos as millions go out the door in corruption. Our biggest challenge is whether Manila Bay needs white sand or not. 

Surely we can do better than that.

Can We Elect The Leaders We Need?

What does it take for people to follow you?

That is the existential question whether you are a parent getting your kids to obey you, a captain rallying teammates to win, a CEO moving employees to embrace a vision, or a general asking his soldiers to die for him. For politicians it is how do you get people to vote for you?

Or, put otherwise, what is leadership, what is charisma, are these ingrained or can they be learnt?

Running for President is easy, it is winning that is hard. It used to be that the three Gs of guns, gold and goons were all it took but things are now more complicated. The Anti-Terrorism bill, the Cyber Crime law and the cowering of media have replaced guns in the formula. Trolls have replaced goons in the lynching and proliferation of fake news. We have lost the arbiters of truth with the demise of traditional media and responsible journalism. Allegations can now be strewn, characters literally and figuratively assassinated without validation. All this as we witness the weakening in the checks and balances of our democracy as the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary coalesce into one.

These forces are leading to the emergence in our country of a state within a state, what I call a Second State, with its own mind control, secret code, governance and funding. This dark side of our democracy is embedded in our bureaucracy, in our “elected representatives” and in our courts but is not accountable to the nation. This Second State exists in other countries notably in China where it is called the Communist Party. There are lesser forms like in Southern Italy where it is called the Mafia. There are attempts to institutionalize it in the Philippines with the calls for a Revolutionary Government.

This is not to say our next President will necessarily come from this Second State. Sometimes a person, an outlier, will emerge, beat the odds and get elected; but he or she must be special. One, people must trust him. Great leaders impart an emotional security, the assurance they understand your issues and will take care of them. Two, people must believe he will die for them. Great leaders always eat last. Three, people must be convinced he will take care of business. They must know he has the passion, the integrity, the competence, and the ruthlessness to meet his promises.

Behavioral studies show that above anything else, voters look for hope and with hope, change. More than the mind or the stomach, voters are driven by the heart. Voter enthusiasm comes not from an economic plan but from the promise of justice, equality and opportunity. The challenge is how to transform these into a cause and a movement. In this sense great leaders are not responsible for outcomes as they are responsible for creating an atmosphere that produces the outcomes.

What can we say to promising leaders to impart this sense of empathy, emotional security and hope in voters? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be authentic – You cannot be the voice of the poor and look like a million bucks. As Woody Allen said you cannot be an atheist and pray to God for a win.
  2. Be brave – When leaders show courage their followers will respond with courage.
  3. Inhabit their existence – Assure voters you understand their plight. Share their journey.
  4. Be passionate – Politics is a performing art. Voters like to see emotion in their leaders. It is cool to lose your cool. Duterte, a master politician, will pretend to be angry even when he is not. The challenge for lady candidates is how to express outrage without losing their manners. Miriam Santiago pulled it off. Sara Duterte punched some guy in public and it was not even her husband. That is the toughness voters are looking for in a female leader.
  5. Speak shortly but effectively- Policies and programs attract the intelligentsia but sound bites stir the masses. “Tama na, sobra na” must rank as one of the great battle cries of our time. In four words it captured the abuse, the frustration, the anger and the limit of the populace. Leni might want to revive the chant – or an iteration thereof – without the color. Duterte has a slogan that works, “F__k you”, but this is not for everybody.
  6. Keep the messaging simple but repeated – Communication experts tell us a message must be repeated at least 7 times before it gains traction. Duterte concentrated on drugs and corruption, Mar on the wonders of GDP growth and low inflation, guess who won?
  7. Personalize your messages – Audiences love a narrative. Have voters share your journey as you do theirs. Recount stories of people in distress or personal experiences which motivated you to run. That is how you bond.
  8. Be feisty – Voters like fighters. If you cannot fight for yourself, you cannot be seen to fight for others. Politics is a blood sport, one has to be a gladiator to overcome. In politics nice people come last. So go for the jugular.
  9. Be competitive – You must really want the Presidency to succeed. One does not walk for President, one runs for President. Some presidentiables failed because they believed they had the legacy or were the brightest or most educated in the room so they were entitled to the prize. The Presidency must be taken, it will not be handed to you. 
  10. Over-promise if you have to – The first rule of politics is you must get elected. You cannot do the good you want watching from the sideline.
  11. Show vulnerability – Acknowledge your deficiencies but affirm you will not be overcome. Duterte admits to his illnesses and to his age. People love underdogs.
  12. Be confident but do not take yourself too seriously – Voters like winners, but even better, they like winners with a sense of humor.

Will these attributes alone get you elected? Of course not, nothing beats money and a machinery; but stranger things have happened. Politics can turn on a dime, momentum and energy can quickly change the landscape. Duterte came from near nowhere in organization, national recognition and funds. He was not even on the ballot by the October 2015 filing deadline – he subsequently replaced Martin “Bobot” Dino who was – and look what happened.

Now for the difficult part: How are voters to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff, between the truths and the lies being marketed to them by the candidates? Filipinos generally choose their leaders badly. This is because of the economics – one cannot be politically free without being economically free; our culture of patronage where one is indebted to one’s master; and the hopelessness of the masses. Filipinos’ lives are so grim they will choose any politician who promises to disrupt the system, crush the oligarchs and the limousine liberals. It is called populism. We see this worldwide in the emergence of strongmen promising People First only to relegate voters to the dustbin once in power. As Michelle Obama said: “ The Presidency does not change who you are, it only reveals who you are.” I go further, the Presidency does not change who you are, it only magnifies who you have always been.

As the elections approach can we elect the leaders we need in our imperfect democracy? The answer I am afraid is it is hard. The combination of institutionalized corruption, a diminished fourth estate, an extraordinary concentration of political power in a Second State; a desperate populace clutching at false aspirations, and a crisis in health and economics; may be a bridge too far. 

Our only hope is for a band of brave and enlightened leaders who believe things can be better; a cultural epiphany and an economic cleansing so deep; and a swell of voters – especially young voters – so angry; to come together in a perfect political storm. That is a big call in a “democracy” that resets only once every six years and that rewards snake oil salesmen with sophisticated marketing techniques, social media falsehoods and the three Gs.

But we must try.


We are some 18 months to the elections and already there is speculation as to possible contenders for the presidency.

The May 2022 landscape will be different than what it is today, how different will depend on, one, COVID and the damage it will have inflicted on the country; two, the president’s health; and, three, how deep the corruption in Government.

Currently the presumption is that a universal, effective and affordable vaccine will be available by end 2021 which means the economy will have recovered and life will be back to “normal” by election time. It assumes the economic and social carnage from COVID will not be so severe its remnants will not linger into 2022. That assumption is not a given.

The Government expects our economy to contract by some 5% this year but will rebound by around 9% next year. International observers believe the damage will be more severe, a contraction rate of 7-9%, and the recovery not as rapid. Looking around, I already see that Q3 numbers will disappoint. Businesses that expected to recover in retail, transportation, tourism and hospitality; are still moribund from social and transportation restrictions and lack of aggregate demand. COVID has yet to be tamed despite assurances from the authorities that it has.

The 2021 Budget of P 4.5 trillion is about 10% higher than last year’s in nominal terms and about 7-8% in real terms. About 25% of the Budget has been allocated to infrastructure which is  not immediately implementable. In the last 4 years – and that was pre-COVID – only a handful out of 75 big ticket projects got off the ground. Many of the projects in the pipeline are months behind schedule while others e.g. M. Manila subway are still in the horizon.

 It is difficult to see how the economy can recover so quickly with few plug-and-play projects. Agriculture which is relatively easy to jump start has seen its budget cut. Meantime the Treasury is still reluctant to boost aggregate demand with social relief measures because of the embedded corruption. This could weigh on the presidential outcome. As Bill Clinton said: “It is about the economy, stupid.”

The second exogenous factor for 2022 is the President’s health. If, God forbid, Duterte shall become ill in the next 18 months, Art. VII Sec. 11 of the Constitution will hand over the presidency to the VP. The matter may be contested but as long as the military stays on side, the succession should be seamless. Rumblings of a Revolutionary Government should be ignored as a bogeyman.

A scary scenario is a zombie Administration where the President is not all there but his handlers claim he is. This would throw the presidential succession into disarray. Let us hope we do not get there.

And then there is the corruption. The Government is working on the cosmetics but there may be too much scarring to help. The DOH which is a nest egg has a bigger budget. The DPWH budget, according to Sen. Lacson, is brimming with “pork-barrel”. Corruption could weigh down this Government. Duterte should know, he ran successfully on a platform of integrity. It could now come to haunt his designated successors.

Who are the possible presidential candidates?

There could be new faces but today the likely names are these, not necessarily by order of merit:

 Sara Duterte, 42 – If Inday decides to run, unlike the competition, she need not hurry. Her table has been set. She has the name, the charisma, the incumbency, the toughness, the youth, the machinery and can raise the money. She has a relatively clean political bill of health. If she does not mind the daily closeness, she could expand her national recognition and experience by taking a position at the side of her father in the Palace, a space now occupied by Sen. Bong Go.

Inday is reportedly allied with Rep. Lord Velasco who, if the power sharing agreement with Speaker Cayatano holds, should make him Speaker and give her the support of Congressmen.

Sara is correct not to surface too early. She has the most to lose from any scars to the economy and voter dissatisfaction with the current Administration. Sara is said to have a mind of her own which may allow her to distance herself from some of the fall out.

Bong Go, 46 – Absent Sara, Bong is the reported heir apparent to the President. He does not have the charisma of Sara but is trying his darnedest. His publicist has been busy as of late. He has better political instincts than he is credited for. His Balik Probinsya could have legs. 

Leni Robredo, 55 – Leni is the VP and all that comes with it. She is the standard bearer of the Liberal Party and therefore the “Opposition”. She is a woman of substance and integrity but needs more edge. Nobody is afraid of her. She lacks the money and the organization since the LP is a shadow of its past. The party also has a seeming image of elitism and entitlement which Leni may want to shed. Her problem is she has nowhere else to go. She needs an infusion of new people, new ideas, and new money and soon.

As the opposition leader Leni will be the attention of the Duterte die-hards. In their over-zealousness the latter could overcook it: Cutting the VP off at the knees could transform her into a widowed martyr which could have unintended consequences.

Grace Poe, 52 – Grace made the mistake of running for President in 2016 when she would have been a slam dunk for VP. Credit this to bad advise from those she believed in. She topped the Senatorial elections which makes her electable even though she has disappointed many who feel she could and should  be doing  more in the Senate. She has kept her peace with Malacanang by staying in her lane under the radar and just doing her job dutifully as Senate Chair of the Committee on Public Service. She has previous financial backing from businessmen. Grace is not a risk taker, so may prefer the haven of the Senate or, with a viable partner, run as VP. Many would like her to coalesce with Leni with whom she shares many attributes but that may be a risk she or her handlers may decide not to take. One must be brave to win the Presidency. Grace would much prefer if it was handed to her rather than she have to take it.

Panfilo Lacson, 72 – Ping is the perennial  dark horse whose time could come. He has always been the political maverick. He ran for President in 2004 and is a 3 term, non-consecutive Senator. He has many qualities that make him electable – he came 4th in the 2016 Senate race – like toughness even ruthlessness, charm, visual attraction, independence, political IQ, and the guts to take on past and present Administrations. He can instill fear. He went into a 15 month self-exile in 2010 following his alleged involvement in the murder of Buddy Dacer. He could occupy the peace and order and anti-corruption space that Duterte ran on. As former head of the PNP he has the attention of the state security apparatus. He was with Sen. President Sotto the first to call out the Philhealth scandal and the pork barrel in the 2021 Budget. The President seemingly respects Lacson, they speak the same language, Malacanang takes his calls. He has good relations with the taipans many of whom he helped when with the PNP so he could attract the big bucks. He stayed out of the pork-barrel scandal of the Aquino Administration and has not been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He remains an enigma to many with a private side that is unknowable. He is transactional, has not articulated a vision for the country, has rarely delved into the economy, so he might want to work on these. He has no machinery but could build one but that has to be soon. If things should get messy he could be the beacon that voters will follow.

The journey to May 2022 will have many twists and turns and possibly some new faces from  the crop of young mayors. The Administration has done an effective job of cowing promising aspirants but it could become over-confident buoyed by the strong ratings of the President.

Contenders will have to pace themselves, not too early lest they become targets, but not too late lest they miss on the necessary preparation. The best they can do for the meantime is remain relevant, make sure the public knows they are around, and stay within sight of Malacanang. There should be more clarity in the new year and on October 2021 when candidacies have to be filed.

If the elections were held today, my money would be on Sara. The Presidency is currently hers to lose.

Have We Learnt Anything From COVID?

Why do I feel our ship of state is, for lack of a better term, dead in the water?

There is this sense of a tiredness in Government, an Administration on a rear guard surrender to COVID, an investment grade economy with starving millions, a nation literally bleeding to death from corruption. 

Each weekly taped presidential IATF nationally televised press con feels like a repeat of the previous weekly taped presidential IATF nationally televised press con and maybe they are one and the same, a video loop with differing zoom backgrounds.

We are told there is no money but there is. We have investors begging us to take four times what we need. As we are repeatedly reminded, our deficit and debt to GDP is among the lowest in the region if not the world as is our  stimulus; but the Treasury does not want to release it because it will be devoured the moment it leaves the door. Seventy million Filipinos are near famine, 30 million are out of real work and all because we are held hostage by the lying and cheating Government officials sitting in air-conditioned rooms sucking up to the President. 

Corruption and COVID are the same. Both are not living organisms. Both come alive only when in contact with human cells. Both are infectious. If left unchecked – and both are unchecked – they transmit to others until the body and the body politic become so swollen with the disease they cannot breathe. Government officials steal because they can and because the worse that can happen is a slap on the wrist, a wink and a nod, millions in their pockets and a job reference.

And we can only sit and watch as these vultures go through our national belongings with impunity. Where is the call to arms we were promised on inaugural day?

What has COVID taught us?

We have learnt Philhealth is a criminal enterprise posing as universal health care. The con has been around for years so it is not uniquely a Duterte government thing. FPJ supporters believe the release of 5 million free Philhealth cards cheated him of the election in 2004. That was under Sec. Duque’s watch which explains why Sen. Grace Poe is so livid. In the 17 years that the man has been with Philhealth, I estimate the agency has received over P 1.7 trillion in contributions. Now THAT is what I call a goose. Sadly for all, COVID and corruption are expected to bankrupt the agency by 2022 and with it all the hard earned contributions Filipinos have made to the fund. As President Duterte said in the SONA: “Customs and BIR, wala yan.” Expect your Philhealth premiums to rise.

The DOH has a budget separate from Philhealth. That has just been increased to P 182 billion in 2021. Some things just get better and better.

COVID has revealed our agrarian reform program has no clothes. CARP was a political exercise, not an economic one. It gave beneficiaries the meager semblance of wealth without the necessary support, think an electronic device without the batteries; and so it failed.

COVID has exposed the inadequacies of our management information system and our economic model, long touted as an example of growth. It laid bare the inequality in wealth, education and health.

The absence of an MIS means we cannot test, trace and treat. It means we cannot identify the needy. It means we must impose medieval-style measures to contain the virus because we do not know its genesis, its location and its path. Other nations are on their second wave, we still have to finish our first.

The over-concentration of our economy in urban centers has resulted in a population density that makes viral transmission inevitable and recovery difficult. COVID has taught us that it is the quality of growth that matters, not the quantity.

The inequality in wealth means millions will go from unemployed to unemployable. The inequality in education will result in 4 million kids not making it to school and some 20 million receiving a dismal version of a system that ranks us last and second to last worldwide in comprehension, reading and math.

So we struggle against a tide that is bringing us further out to sea. 

And we still do not learn.

Our economy over the last two decades was built largely on overseas remittances and BPO outsourcing which in turn was channeled to urban real estate, consumption and financial services, the low lying fruit, the businesses of the wealthy. Very little was devoted to infrastructure, communications, agriculture, regional hospitals, export efficiencies, education and a robust management information system, the pillars of a sustainable future. Fiscal spending was guided by an Imperial Manila that starved the provinces while splashing on non-essential spending. 

Even today our Government is offering tax cuts to wealthy corporations that will deplete the Treasury of an estimated P250 billion over the next 2 1/2 years yet we cannot afford P5,000 per month to the poor.

Even today we have a surging currency that is left unchecked because that is deemed the politically correct thing to do; even as it diminishes the meager peso savings of our OFWs and confronts our farmers with cheapened imported commodities that are below their cost of production. Rustans is offering imported chicken that is cheaper than the locally sourced.

Even today, despite the yeoman’s job of CA Sec. William Dar, the 2021 budget of the Dept. of Agriculture is being cut when agriculture is the backbone of our food security supporting the majority of the population and is the foundation of a return to the countryside.

Our unbalanced economic model resulted in a massive migration from the rural areas to the cities with the accompanying congestion, urban poverty, drugs, crime and now COVID. Our economy grew steadily at 6% p.a. but that was all urban centric and the net worth of the rich. And the party was too good to last. At some point the urban bubble would burst and that is what COVID did. Seventy percent of our economy is in the NCR/Calabarzon zone so when COVID hit that area – which it was bound to do – we were crippled. We did not have a redundancy plan, an option B, an economic spread that would allow us to carry on as we recovered from the devastation in our capital.

We have not learnt we must re-invent our economy if we are to survive in the new-normal.

We must understand income inequality is not a moral tenet, it is a necessary condition for sustainable growth. Only by distributing wealth across classes and geography can we have the spread of economic demand that will not leave us vulnerable to the next pandemic that experts tell us is inevitable. In investments it is called portfolio diversification, not having all eggs in one basket. It is our insurance against social unrest.

We must release our agrarian reform beneficiaries from the bondage of debt so they can consolidate their farms to reap the economies of scale needed for efficient farming. As of 2015 only 51% have been able to keep up payments to the Land bank on loans initially of P14.3 billion. It will be the nation’s way of making up for their years of subsistence living. It will jump start the rural communities. Look at Thailand and Vietnam who have become the breadbaskets of Asia. The condonation of loans to CARP beneficiaries is, incidentally, the easiest political battle cry, the cheapest ticket to the 2022 Presidency. There is some 3 million of them, multiplied by 5 families, relatives and friends, gives you 15 million votes. One only needs some 20 million votes to slam dunk the presidency (Duterte won with 16 million) so one is practically there.

We must recognize big businesses are not always our friends as they flex their financial muscle and political connections to erect protective tariffs and keep constitutional restrictions to disguise their inefficiencies, their slow speeds and service, and their pricing power.

We must know that improving education among the poor is our sole guarantee of competitiveness in knowledge industries that will dominate the world.

We must appreciate that devolving the economy from cities to the countryside is the only way to ease the congestion that is paralyzing our communities and fostering the environment of drugs, poverty, crime and disease.

We must change because change is the only constant. To paraphrase George Santayana, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past will be doomed to repeat them.”

And this time we may not make it.