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Ron Kaye: We need more from our leaders

July 28, 2012

Of all the fallen idols and soiled reputations of yesterday's heroes, none stands out these days quite like Penn State's Joe Paterno, stripped of his achievement as the winningest college football coach in history and relegated to a hall of shame.

Given what so often is passing for leadership these days, they should consider moving that bronze statue of Paterno — arms upraised in a V for victory — out of the damnation of eternal storage in a secret place to a prominent public space in the nation's capital in Washington.

Call it the Failure of Leadership Memorial, or some label that puts those who dare to lead on notice that misdeeds by those in high positions do get punished — at least once in a while.

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Paterno didn't do terrible things to young boys, but he knew what assistant coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly did and he covered it up. He failed in his duty as a leader to stand on the high ground and do what was right, no matter what the consequences.

You can look almost anywhere in our society — from Wall Street to Main Street — and see people in important leadership positions failing in their duties to shareholders and stakeholders as they put the ends before the means, ignore common decency and justify doing what is good for themselves and their friends, no matter who else gets hurt.

Take a look at Gov. Jerry Brown and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, two guys in their 70s who have engaged in politics at high levels most of their lives, who have all the money they need to live like kings of yore for the rest of their lives, who should have nothing to gain by serving any interest — not even their own — other than the public interest.

Yet, Brown is putting a gun to the heads of California voters: “Give me your money or your [quality of] life.”

He has rigged it so his soak-the-rich-and-squeeze-everybody-else income- and sales-tax-hikes measure gets the top spot on the November ballot, a measure that was written to the satisfaction of the California Teachers Assn. and is nothing but a short-term Band-Aid.

He has pushed cities to the brink of bankruptcy and disrupted their long-term economic strategies by killing redevelopment, and he has booked $8 billion in revenue that might be generated by his tax measure in the state budget along with billions in cuts to schools, universities, welfare and healthcare for the poor.

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