Sunday, July 31, 2016

Political Theater

Politics is a matter of theatrics that plays to the heart and not to the mind.  Electing a president is not about thoughtful debate of public policy but of appealing to basic instincts of humans.

We should not be surprised because we, largely as a people, have nary a clue at what government is granted the authority to do, the most basic concept of freedom, and the requirements to be a good citizen.  As such, we listen to what each candidate will “give” us whilst he paints a dire picture of life with his opponent.

Both parties’ conventions touted exaggerated pictures of our current state of affairs and offered slogans – that are not to be confused with plans or policy.  So let us shine a non-partisan light of some key points of where we are:
  • Economy – GDP has grown for 15 of the last 16 quarters but the rate of growth is under 2%, which is less than half of what it has been post-recession in over the last 80 years.
  • Unemployment – the unemployment rate (U-3) widely quoted by politicians and the media is 4.7% but the broader unemployment rate (U-6) is over 9.5%.
  • Workforce Participation – this is the measure of the percent of working age people in the workforce and it is 62.5% the lowest since the 1970’s when Jimmy Carter was president.  This translates to some 94 million Americans that are not in the workforce.
  • Stock Market – is at record highs of over 18,000 and interest rates for home loans are near record lows of under 4%.
  • Safety – global terrorism as well as domestic crime is way up and the number of policemen killed this year is on pace to double from the previous year.
If the economy and safety are the most important items to Americans then the facts above are not encouraging.  Which is why about 70% of Americans surveyed say they believe the country is on the wrong course.  There needs to be deep dialogue in these areas, yet there is not.

Minimum wage, child care, abortion rights are insignificant issues that appeal to interest groups and are insufficient to deal with an underperforming economy.  Wrangling over what to call terrorism, while necessary, is insufficient by itself to wipe-out the radical infestation that is killing innocents.

Unfortunately, political theatrics cross party lines. The dramatic “law and order” speech given by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Republican convention, and bright and cheery “love” speech by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton play to fear and hope.  Politics should be more than a 3-ring-circus but, unless and until we demand better, the conventions will look like the half-time show at the Super Bowl than a forum for responsible citizenship.

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