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Each moment in history is a fleeting time, precious and unique.

August 16, 2012

With Mitt Romney now having announced a running mate before the official RNC, the campaign has truly begun in earnest. Especially since he has chosen a running mate who frankly, would have probably made a better candidate than himself. Paul Ryan is a smooth politician, he’s younger than Mitt, he has charisma, and he appeals to the Republican base. Oh, and he also scares the ever-loving shit out of the Democratic party.

Yet, a lot of this election really hangs on a very simple phrase: buyer’s remorse.

An appropriate phrase when you consider that a lot of this remorse is centered around the economy. The idea that there was an economic meltdown at the end of the last president’s term, and it was up to Obama, who had been running a campaign based on the sort of big societal steps you take when things are running smoothly, to fix it. I get it, America, I really do.

I was an Obama man through and through. I told my family to vote for him in the primaries, I vehemently opposed Senator Clinton who represented my home state, I disdained the Republican choices for both president and vice president, and I loved the big “east coast elitist,” japes toward the Republican VP candidate. It was a campaign about culture; red state versus blue state, change against tradition, old against young, and bleeding heart liberalism butting heads with firebranded conservatism. Then at the very end, things changed.

Very suddenly, in the last few weeks, it became about the economy. Obama, now President-elect, needed to suddenly fix a problem we hadn’t seen since the Great Depression. He made tough calls, like any president does, and I don’t know if they were the right ones. In fact, I find it hard to tell if they were or not.

Many, some very legitimately having lost their homes, their jobs, their families, might say that Obama failed them. The change that came wasn’t swift and uplifting, but a slow spiral of defeat and mounting mortgage payments. Others, were able to keep their jobs and paychecks due to the bailouts that Obama enacted early in his presidency. Yet, ultimately the economy hasn’t gotten much better.

I knew the economy hadn’t really gotten much better when a year and a half after Obama took office, his chief financial adviser gave the keynote speech at my college graduation. Her tidings were grim. She was an expert on the economics of the Great Depression, what caused it, and how we fixed it. We all sat there, listening to her paint the picture for us; how we let the bubbles build and burst, the current state of jobs and horrors that awaited both the young graduates and their parents when they left the safe confines of the sunny campus, and the hard road that lay ahead for us all as the Recession truly took its toll. We cut off her speech, by clapping and pretending that her words were just words. That’s in fact, the same method that everyone took in response to her dire warnings, and the warnings of many other economists.

Many people have suggested that her advice was heedlessly shouted down because no one wanted to be in a recession anymore. The stock market was ticking up, and there were small bits of growth in some sectors. Therefore, the recession was over. Yet, it was more akin to the eye of a storm. Over the past year, government cut backs have started to hit because of the lack of taxes that occurred due to the recession (less jobs, less income, low stock market, low capital gains, etc etc). Now, more people are losing their jobs, again.

And even though the stock market is ticking up, no one wants to really undergo new ventures. We’re all very scared. Whether you’re a millionaire sitting on buckets of capital gains, or just a working man who got money because a dead relative died or something, when someone comes to you and asks: Hey, why don’t you take that money and invest it in my business? You hesitate. The further down you are on the socio-economic ladder, the more likely you are to say no.

We’ve all been reminded of how fragile things are.

Yet, I think we still forget.

I’m reminded of a question posed by Anne McCaffrey at the start of her Dragonriders of Pern series, “How long does it take for history to become myth? How long until myths are forgotten?”

When generations grow up in times prosperity, and that prosperity grows greater with each successive generation, how long until we start to deride the concept of social welfare? Is it the son, the grandson, or the great-grandson who forgets that their family business was started with a government grant or the first person who went to college went on the GI Bill, or that the job that kept the family fed through the lean times was an FDR beautification job? How many kids might forget that the way their parents paid for food when they were very young, was different from how they paid for it later?

We’ve forgotten how bad things can get, and we refuse to accept that they’ll ever be that way again. Economists who proposed caution were shouted down, and socialism is decried as heinous and dangerous. After all, one might say, look at Europe! Sure the pound is still far stronger than the dollar, but hey, they didn’t anticipate the traffic necessary for the Olympics so poo-poo on them.

I understand things aren’t as good as they can be. I own a small business, one that is affected by how much cash you perceive you can spend. Trust me, this summer people have not been buying the top-shelf. Yet, you have to ask yourself, what is the alternative you’re being offered?

The Republican party is offering you a budget that slashes social welfare, and raises taxes on most people. The idea is that we can’t afford social welfare programs, and more importantly they are also not good for you morally as they will teach you sloth and other sins. The tax increase is two fold, we will have tax monies on which to hopefully drive down our country’s debt, but it also alleviates a burden on the upper parts of the economy. These wealthy folks, will then hopefully invest into the economy; start new businesses, create jobs, forge industry, and lead us into a new golden age.

It’s a great idea, in theory.

I often talk about the greatness of capitalism. The free market is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Yet, I must also point out that I’m a capitalist like many people are Catholics. Yeah, the invisible hand to me is how most people view transubstantiation. It’s a sort of weird and creepy story to tell the kids, and it’s important to talk about it for tradition’s sake, but yeah, it doesn’t really happen. It’s a metaphor. So, I suppose I’m Culturally Capitalist, not really a practicing capitalist. I still go the board meetings on Friday, but it’s mostly for the bagels and lox.

My point here is that, many economic theories are like learning math. It’s all great theory, but then you’re like, “Well what about [something that throws a kink in the idea]?” The response in math is that this isn’t physics, we don’t need to worry about air friction and gravity. In economics, it’s basically that this isn’t some nonsensical social science that worries about feelings and beliefs, this is economics a world where people are rational beings.

Romney and Ryan, despite what you might think, aren’t offering you something new. They’re in fact offering you something very very old. The sort of policies that might honestly create a nice bubble for us all to live in for another few short years but that bubble will burst and be accompanied by another hard fall. In their view, padded by nice homes and shell corporations, this is just the economy going through its natural motions. It’s ok, you just lost your home because the economy is righting itself.

We’re in a hard time right now as a nation, and we can’t go around being pissed off that things aren’t becoming better fast enough. Patience is the key. During the Great Depression, the New Deal took a long time to really affect things, and it can be argued that World War II helped us really fix ourselves because of large government spending, and the control it took of the economy. I don’t think we need to make that hard of a left yet, but if we try to veer off course, we’re going to need to take a hard turn in one direction or another.

I suppose, what I’m trying to say is…

Don’t switch dicks in the middle of a screw.


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