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A Preemptive Election Response

The Who's classic song about political "change," found on my favorite Who album.

I am going to take a risk and start writing this before the election results are in. Based on all of the polling data, along with the simple fact that the President’s party usually does poorly in mid-term elections, I am assuming that the Democrats had their asses handed to them today. The Democratic wave of 2008, an event that some saw as a sign of a long-term political shift in our country, has been short-lived. It seems to be 1994 all over again.

Personally, I believed from the moment of Obama’s election that reports regarding the death of the Republican Party were widely exaggerated. When Obama defeated McCain, and Democrats achieved huge victories in Congress, it was not a sign that the nation had gone liberal. Instead, it was a response to circumstances. Due to events such as Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing Iraq War, George Bush’s approval ratings had been plummeting for some time. Then, when the financial system imploded, public anger was focused even more intensely on him. Republicans, the perceived party of big business, took more heat for the crisis than Democrats, and Obama was swept to the presidency. After all, before the full scale of the financial meltdown was clear, McCain and Obama were running pretty closely. But after the cataclysmic events of September 2008, it was pretty much all over.

The irony, however, is that the same circumstances that brought Obama and the Democrats to power have seemingly done them in. The economy has stabilized, but growth is very slow, and the unemployment rate seems stuck at just below 10%. My sense is that a more significant reduction in unemployment would have made big policies such as the financial stimulus, bank bailouts, and health care reform easier for the public to swallow. Also, more significant economic growth would have made the costs of these programs and the current deficit somewhat less daunting.

So has Obama been done in by circumstances largely beyond his control, the same circumstances that got him the job in the first place? Or would different policies have had a more positive result, and is he deservedly being blamed for failing to stimulate growth and for overstepping his mandate? We will never know for sure. Either way, politicians tend to bear the brunt of the public’s anger. Anyone not in a coma knows that our current mess was largely the result of foolish decisions made by the financial sector and the general public. Of course, you can’t vote out the real estate brokers, financiers, and foolish borrowers who largely caused the mess. So we vent our anger at the ballot box, hoping that throwing the bums out (again) will have some positive effect.

In my mind, however, our problems are largely systemic. We still have an overgrown financial sector consisting of banks that are sometimes even bigger than when they were “too big to fail” a couple of years ago. (At least their enormous recent profits can give us some comfort.) We have campaigns that are even more heavily funded by big corporations and other special interests, due partly to the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision. And we have politicians on both sides of the aisle who seem unwilling to ask the public to make significant sacrifices in terms of tax policies or government spending. Replacing the current “bums” with the previous “bums” is not, in itself, going to do much about these issues. For today, however, voting is all that we can do. So I better stop writing now, eat a quick lunch, and get to the polling place before work. If I am going to write commentaries on our political system, I better participate in whatever little way that I can. If nothing else, it can be a way to vent.


  1. I remember you mentioned this in your history class at Golden West College. I thought it was hilarious and very creative. So much so, that I decided to make a blog, and sign up and go through all this BUREAUCRACY just so I could follow your blog and what-not.

    Thanks for the inspiration! And yes, I subscribed as a follower.


  2. Always good to hear from a student. Let me know when you write something.

  3. "And we have politicians on both sides of the aisle who seem unwilling to ask the public to make significant sacrifices in terms of tax policies or government spending."

    The problem is, Paul, the belief that somehow 'significant sacrifices' are going to fix anything. It won't. As you say, the problems are systemic and won't be fixed by increasing taxes by 10% or reducing spending by 10%. Fortunately, the problem will solve itself.

    We are about to experience an income explosion that is both more dramatic and more rapid than anything in history. A general indication is a 10 to 15 fold increase in household incomes over the next 30 years. With the economy growing at an annual rate of 8% to 10% per year, plus inflation, our economic wounds will heal themselves.

    The solutions are not political, they are economic. So, let's ask ourselves this. When, in 2007, DARPA challenged the scientific community to build them a car that could drive itself through an urban environment, they delivered. That is a breeze compared to, say, a robot that lays ceramic and stone tile.

    Those same scientists who got a computer to read traffic signs, recognize pedestrians and other cars, properly assess their likely motion and act accordingly, could build a tile laying robot without breaking a sweat. So,why haven't they? Because nobody has asked them to.

    Soon that will change and all that capability that is sitting in the labs will hit the shelves at you local retailer. And the world changes. Of course, technological unemployment accompanies the income explosion. But that is a different discussion.

  4. I hope that you are right. I also hope that they do not invent a robot history teacher too soon. Maybe I can learn how to help program the thing.


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