Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Bloodbath Aftermath

I have not mentioned anything in this blog yet about politics, which is sorta weird because I have pretty strong feelings about politics, I follow that arena probably too closely, and of course, ‘tis the season.  But like a lot of people, I was kinda overdosing on it, partly due to the sheer volume but also because it was depressing.  And I figured anything I wrote would be simply adding to the hyperbole and what other people were already saying. But when my good friends Chris and Rebecca from SoCal pointed out that Utah shared the ignominious badge (along with Oklahoma and W. Virginia) of having no counties vote for Obama and that Salt Lake County was the largest urban area in the country to vote  wholeheartedly for Mittens (as Geoff Lane likes to call him) I was moved to say something. 

Over the last few years I have become more and more interested in economics, probably due to the reason that it affects all of us, and it also is very much affected by all of us when we go to the polls.  Many – if not most – of the major life decisions we make are fundamentally rooted around economics, and as we have seen over the last few months, economics also is inextricably tied to politics, which in turn enacts public policy, which in turn affects us.  And as we kept hearing over and over, this election cycle - from the president to our county mayor and city council – was dominated by economics. 

Which is why I was dismayed by the widespread support of Romney and the rest of the Republican party, because their economic policy/theories are at best hypocritical and insincere and at worst devastating.  Ash and I have been big fans of Paul Krugman; I’ve read a few of his books and read his columns at least once a week, and while his mantra of “more government spending” gets a little old, he always seems to be the only guy who can back up his theories with historical evidence.  I have endeavored to find economists – not polititicians – who can effectively refute the theories proposed by he and other  (Nobel prize-winning) economists, and not only are there few/none, their arguments are weak.  The evidence has proven over time that the fable of Adam Smith’s invisible hand and the resultant supply-side economics popularized by Reagan (though actually started by Carter with his S&L deregulation) and since treated as conservative fiscal doctrine is simply wrong.  When Romney said that he would create 8 million jobs because “he knew how” he implied that he would be putting more money into the hands of either a) the wealthy  - who don’t necessarily invest in jobs, they invest in making more money, or b) entrepeneurship, which is ironic because something like 80-90 percent of new businesses fail within 5 years.  And yet, the conservative base population – currently with a lot of strength in the less-affluent South and, of course, Utah – consistently votes for people who have a proven record of enacting policies that will harm them.   Krugman addressed this paradox directly in his great book “Conscience of a Liberal” (woefully misnamed; it should be “An economic history of the United States”; as it is with that title he’ll never reach the people who should read it) by pointing out that the Republicans strategically adopted emotional values that were important to conservatives (God, guns, babies) and then learned to exploit those emotions, tell their constituents what they wanted to hear, and then quietly enact legislation that would protect their financial suitors and increase the insidious and ever-increasing national wealth discrepancy which would/will ultimately endanger their constituencies’ personal economic conditions. 

Yet ironically, the nation essentially re-elected a moderate Republican, according to this guy’s pretty compelling argument:

And not really the “socialist” demagogue, at least according to this guy:

Which brings me back to Utah.  I rode with Mike Hales the other day, and Mike’s a very good thinker.  And a Mormon.  And based on his knowledge of the Mormon scripture he feels that the LDS churchgoers are practically abandoning their faith by supporting the Republican party.  I don’t know all the details because it’s a complex religion, but fundamentally it’s a faith rooted around keeping good track of everyone in your community and making sure that people don’t slip through the cracks.  But supply-side economics is not about that:  it’s about everyone making money on their own and theoretically everyone will prosper as a result. But here in Utah  - and everywhere else – the leaders tell their consituents what to believe and they use incorrect – but appealing – analogies to shore up their arguments.  And the communities keep whipping themselves into frenzies by repeating/inflating the tales, small minds get influenced by big dollars in this post-Citizen’s United world, and eventually bad policy somehow gets warped into “good” in the minds of the people. 

That said, for all you out-of-staters who only see the big red blotch between Colorado and California and hear the stats of our overwhelming support for Romney, as Ash pointed out, this election went as well as we  Utardian lib’rals could have hoped for.  Yes, our standing ultra-conservative governor crushed a smart retired general who is a solid Mormon himself, and The Most Righteous Man on Earth - Orrin Hatch - won, along with our other Tea Partyin’ representatives (who don’t even drink tea, fer chrissakes!) but we did manage to keep our lone Dem in office.   Jim Matheson, who is arguably the lamest Dem in all of Congress, and even in winning he was more dickhead than gracious (despite the fact that he won by less than 0.5% - and mathematically could still lose after the absentee counting -  he smugly announced that “this went just as I predicted”) but he did introduce the Wasatch Wilderness Bill and is at least as easily influenced by progressive business leaders like Black Diamond’s Peter Metcalf as he is by the wackjob coal mine guy.  And Ben McAdams is another progressive Mormon Dem whom we all like a lot and is the new county mayor.  So all is not lost here in the Beehive State. 

There is no doubt that economics, sociology, psychology, and politics are individually super-complex fields, and when thrown together as they’ve been for the past few months they create a byzantine mess that our proletariat simple minds have a hard time following.  And while it’s hard to fully underestimate our fellow Americans, it is true that not only did half of them reject Mittens’ theories w But as Mike Hales said (or maybe insinuated, and I’m paraphrasing!) about his fellow Mormons, if people were willing to do even a modicum of research into virtually any politically-charged issue (perhaps save abortion; I don’t think that can really be addressed with statistics, and is the ultimate emotional issue) there would be a lot less of the well-advertised rancor that seems to literally divide the country.  We can all just get along, if we all do just a little thinking.


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  2. Thanks for your post, T-dawg! The post election analysis has almost been more interesting than the campaign. Perhaps with Romney safely in the rearview mirror, that allows us a secure seat from which to examine the events of the past few months - history now. We appreciate your willingness to "go there" in working to construct an understanding of events - especially from the view of the beehive.

    As for your last paragraph, I have given up on the view that all that is needed is a little more education/"thinking". It makes me think of a panel discussion I heard this year with Terry Root, a Stanford climate scientist. She was talking about her view that there are basically three groups on the issue: the ones who acknowledge the science and accept that climate change exists, the ones who are unsure, and the "climate skeptics". She stated her opinion (I'm paraphrasing) that we should basically ignore the climate skeptics and refuse to debate them or direct energy/information their way, but should instead only focus on the middle group. Seems to me that in politics, as in global warming, there are those who will stand by their opinions no matter what evidence to the contrary is presented to them.

    A wise old spokesman from our home-state said recently: "You just have to accept the fact that nice people, intelligent people can believe preposterous things." (Garrison Keillor)

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