Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Is A Citizen To Do When Given So Little Power?


It is a good thing that there is more to life than the U.S. economy – or the world economy for that matter. Economies have existed even before Esau traded his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew. They have always been important and have provided the framework within which some become rich and powerful and others beg for food.

But, as I say, it is good that there is more to life than the mere exchange of goods. There are a million human encounters each day that involve kindnesses and inhumanities with little or no connection to economics. For most people, most of the time, those are the meaningful events of their lives and, to the degree that they are agreeable human exchanges, they become the stuff of which “happiness” is made. Happy is the woman, happy the man whose life consists mostly of those non-fiduciary associations.

All that being said, it is nonetheless true, as stated earlier, that finances and economics provide a framework within which all of our non-economic activity occurs. So it is important to all of us that the economy of our community and world thrive. And that is why, ultimately, most elections in the U.S. and elsewhere are decided by the candidates’ actual or perceived ability to create a thriving economic community.

It seems to me that we are in a particular bind as our November elections approach; particularly because neither President Obama nor Candidate Romney would appear to have any chance of effecting a positive change in our current economic crisis. It is irrelevant to even consider whether either man has a viable solution to the problems that plague the economy. What they believe would be effective is hedged in so thoroughly by the constraints of politics that they may as well not even discuss it. Thus much of the political “discussion” centers on the trivialities that the media obsesses over in the nightly reports, mis-statements, faux pas of every variety, prognostications by pompous correspondents whose opinions correspond to exactly nothing, and the ever changing “picture” painted by the polling experts.

It is a sad fact that if President Obama is re-elected he will face the same intransigence and obstructionism from the minority party – use of shameful parliamentary procedures to prevent his policies from being enacted – as he has faced in his first term. Meanwhile the economy will continue to drift toward the precipice that European economies seem poised to plunge over soon.

If Mr. Romney is elected he will be tied to a rack that threatens to tear him in two. If he were to chose to govern the nation with the moderately conservative policies he followed as Governor of Massachusetts the Tea Party Republicans would eviscerate both he and his policies. The stalemate would be equal to the one we have seen in the last four years. And, of course, if he were to choose to follow the Paul Ryan Tea Party solutions he would succeed famously in getting his proposals through Congress but the economy would very likely plummet as it has not done since the Great Depression. Rather than following Europe over the precipice the United States would lead it in the plunge.

Is there a solution? Does either party have the solution; either candidate?  One thing seems certain; whichever man is elected he will succeed only to the degree that he receives the support of his own party and the party of opposition. For that to happen there must be a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to compromise; to incorporate the best ideas from all quarters. There are no hopeful signs that those conditions will exist any time soon.

Some people hope for a total collapse. (Remember the declarations of Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell in the days right after President Obama’s election? They wanted him to fail so that he would be a one term President.) They foolishly believe that good will arise from the ashes of our crashed economy. History cries out loudly against that hope. Tyrants arise from the ashes of fallen economies more often than saviors.

In reality it may not matter as much who is elected President as who is elected to the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both of those bodies have shown themselves capable of frustrating the wishes of the Obama administration and would do the same to a Romney administration if they continue to possess the power to do so and are composed of members who are disposed to do so.

Our greatest hope for economic improvement is to elect reasonable men and women, capable of seeing complexity. and able to deal with it; men and women of good character, good will, who make good faith efforts to meet their opponents half-way, understand their positions, and accommodate their needs (and fears) while working to achieve the best economic environment for all of us. Any hint of demagoguery or self-promotion should send us seeking someone else to put our trust in.

Alas, we each have, at most, three votes to cast: one for President, one for Congress, and in some cases one for the Senate. That limits our ability to create a government of reasonable men and women. But we have at least that much power. We can do our part and only hope that others will do theirs.

Meanwhile remember that real happinesses are to be found somewhere other than in the success and failure of economies.

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