There is a time-honored tradition, in the sports and entertainment fields especially, of leaving at the top of your game. One thinks of Michael Jordans (first) retirement or of Jerry Seinfelds too soon departure from the airwaves.
More recently, weve seen Carrie Bradshaw and the rest of the ladies from “Sex and the City” say good-bye at the top of their game. And although there is a feeling of having lost something dear, theres also a realization deep in the gut that the right decision was made in checking out.
Leaving at the top of ones game almost never happens in politics. Here the rule is to do all you can to stay long after the party is over. Most politicians have to be wheeled out or shown the door by voters who see about them what the politicians dont see about themselves.
What brings this to mind is Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board chairman, and politician par excellence. After his recent testimony on taxes and Social Security, I knew in my gut it was time for Mr. Greenspan to go.
I know he wont go voluntarilythat much goes without saying. Few humans could voluntarily give up as much influence as the Fed chief wields. But if he has any concern for his legacy and what posterity will make of him, he should quit now, while hes still near the top of his game.
Mr. Greenspan spoke before the House Committee on the Budget late last month. Against a backdrop of likely continuing federal budget deficits, the Fed chief was once again hailed as a visionary man of courage for bringing up the hottest potatoes of allSocial Security and Medicare. “The degree of uncertainty about whether future resources will be adequate to meet our current statutory obligations to the coming generations of retirees is daunting,” he said.
The part of his testimony that got the most press was his belief that a thorough review of spending commitments and “at least some adjustment in those commitments” are necessary.