Thursday, January 30, 2014

State of the Union 2

I finished yesterday's post on a significantly negative note; that the SOTU is all about money with people a distant second.

I also mentioned in yesterday's post how confusing it seems that despite the incredible gains made in our economy since the desperate days of October 2008, most people are dissatisfied with the economy and the direction of the country.

It dawned on me last night at work that perhaps I am forgetting a critical aspect of the interpretation of such data.  For me personally, like a slight majority of Americans, I generally approve of the job that President Obama has done.  Whether you want to play the "it-would-have-happened-anyway" card, or the even more tenuous, "a different president would have made a bigger difference", the facts are that life has improved for many Americans, and that there is cause for congratulations.  For instance;

we have far less soldiers in harm's way overseas

we have ended the odious don't-ask, don't-tell philosophy for gays in the military

more gay Americans can legally marry the person they love

our retirement fund accounts have recovered much of their 2008-2009 losses

if you are sick, really sick, there are no longer caps on the benefits we will receive to battle your illness

if you lose your job, you have a much better chance of affordable health coverage compared to your previous options of COBRA, or being rated individually with the chance of denial or very high premiums if there are any pre-existing conditions

That being said, and while you know I remain an optimist, there are signs of major issues facing America that are not being addressed, or actively being ignored.  So, perhaps, a certain percentage of those saying we are heading in the wrong direction, are not blaming President Obama and his policies for this state, but all the players who govern America, and who run its businesses.  This might explain the difference between those 70+% who are dissatisfied with our direction, and the 50+% who approve of Obama's efforts.  In other words, like my wife who supports Obama but is terrified at the way of the world, there may be 20% of the population who believe he has not done enough, has not addressed the biggest issues, perhaps even, has not been liberal enough. 

I know the Republican party steadfastly believes that all 70% of those dissatisfied with the direction of the country think that we need to turn to the right but I don't agree.   As proof, I would offer the 2012 elections in which a middle right GOP candidate lost decisively to a middle left candidate.  In which the GOP lost two Senate seats (from 47 to 45) and 8 House seats (from 242 to 234).  Also the fact that Congress, both houses, have a dismal approval rating tells me there is no conclusive data to suggest that all the blame is placed at Obama's feet.  Additionally, and most damning, those same polls that detail the lament for the wrong direction, give the GOP very low marks in terms of trust to make things right.  And while Obama receives poor marks for flexibility to work with Congress, Congress receives even lower marks.  Finally, if you check the history of these moving in the wrong direction polls, you will find that Americans have been saying it for about 10 years now. 

So, perhaps we need to rethink our conclusions.

Perhaps, what these polls indicate is that America is unsure what direction to go.  On one hand, we know what worked in the 50's and 60's, how post war America led the world to recovery.  But competition was slight then.  Europe and Japan were devastated and China was still living in the dark ages.  Once the world gained its foothold, once China began to harness its resources, once the advances in communication and transportation burst on the scene, the labor market changed drastically.  Suddenly, goods could be manufactured anywhere (lower labor costs), and moved anywhere (lower transportation costs), and America's advantages dried up.  At this point, our choices were to lower our own wages (demonizing unions was a big part of that ploy), or create economic bubbles that would spur growth but not be sustainable, hence the frequent ups and downs. 

Hard work, individualism, entrepreneurship, invention, forward thinking, all characters that made America dominant are now shared by those in many other countries.  While our recipe for success may still be similar, we are not the only cooks in the kitchen.  We require some out of the box thinking, some challenges to the "it-worked-before" mentality.  We need to change yet, as is natural, we are hesitant.  Half of us clings to the old tried and true ways, while half discards the old to seek the new.  Unfortunately, in seeking the new, mistakes are made.  There are no guarantees.  Sometimes things need to be tweaked a bit before working fully but we seem impatient for the quick fix.  I've heard more than one pundit claim the Obama experiment had run its course, even back in 2010 when the GOP took back the House, as if two years could fix 30 years of problems.   The Affordable Care Act is a failure, I hear so many of the GOP claim yet it hasn't fully been implemented yet.  If we were to judge all long term solutions on its first few years, we may have discarded many great changes in their infancy, and lost out on those positive effects. 

And, as you know I join my fellow Americans in blaming our elected officials, yet if we don't know what we want, where we want to go, how we should get there, how can our leaders take us.  We seem bent on electing two drivers with opposite senses of direction for our national ship of state and then wonder why we are treading water.

America is in transition.  I would like to think that in 20 years we will have maneuvered our way into a position to determine our new direction, will have made a choice as to where we wanted to go and then elected people to take us there.  But as long as we have a significant population who want to go backwards to a time in their minds when America was always right, choices were black and white, good and evil, we will continue to struggle and continue to be dissatisfied with our country's direction. 


No comments:

Post a Comment