Although it seems like literally everything that can be said about the 2016 presidential election already has been said, our collective infatuation with what seems to be a culturally-defining election means that there’s literally no end to primary/caucus blabbage. And since Ash and I talk about it almost incessantly and she asks practically everyone she interacts with what they think and has therefore generated a lot of opinions, now as the polls close on Super Tuesday IV I thought I’d throw down a quick blawg post with my own thoughts as they’ve come together.
As Bernie Sanders keeps telling me in his daily emails, a year ago when he announced his candidacy he was completely fringe and stood no chance, yet now he is “transforming America”. Ironically, Bernie’s ascendency really mirrors The Donald’s; Trump’s message (though I don’t get emails from him, so I may not be as sure of this) is that he also represents transformation. While both are clearly spewing not a little egotistical/political hyperbole, if it’s not true it’s certainly indicative of the fact that there are aspects of our ‘Merican life that need transformation and there are a lot of folks who are hungry for someone – anyone – who could enable some transformation.
However, let’s take quick stock of society, then (Obama’s inauguration) and now.
· The Dow Jones industrial average has increased from 8000 to 18,0000 today. The NASDAQ has nearly tripled. If you had the good fortune to have had $10,000 in an index fund at that time and reinvested the dividends you would have $15,000 today, adjusted for inflation ($18,000 if not).
· According to this website the Dow has performed much better during Obama's term than during W’s, and was commensurate to the growth during Reagan’s term (and less than during Clinton’s term).
· Unemployment has fallen from over 10% to under 5%, a historical norm that -according to CNN -“many economists consider full employment.“
· After many almost three years of job losses, there have now been 5 years of continuous monthly job gains.
· According to Factcheck.org, “corporate profits have soared under Obama,” (average: 166%), inflation has averaged only 1.9%, (less than half the annual average since WWII), and wages have increased 3.4%, adjusted for inflation.
· The number of people without health insurance has decreased from 44M to 28M.
· US dependence on foreign oil has dropped by half. And of course gas is half price.
· Wind and solar energy production is 274% higher now than it was in 2008.
· Violent crimes have dropped by 16%.
· Auto fuel efficiency has increased 19%
· US exports have gone up 31%
· 30 year fixed mortgage rates have gone from 5.5% to 3.6%
· The number of people filing signing up for unemployment benefits – on a percentage basis - is at it’s lowest point in 40 years
All of this is relevant, that is, if you buy into the concept that the President has anything to do with the economy…..
Some notso good news:
- · Again, according to factcheck.org, the US debt – that the government owes to it’s citizens -has more than doubled (it also doubled during the Bush administration)
- · Federal spending has gone up 11%
- · The Federal deficit is still around $500B (the same as it was in 2008, but to be fair, it was more in the $200-300B range in the years before 2008).
Really? That’s it? That’s why “we” all hate the establishment, feel the government’s run amok, demand a revolution, and need to transform America?
I had the good fortune to attend a luncheon last fall with about 30 other lucky folks to hear the esteemed US Representative Jason Chaffetz speak at a country club (of course; I tried to meet with him in his DC office, but ended up with him at a country club!). In the Q & A session a guy asked a question, that started with this statement: “IF the United States were a company, we all know it would be bankrupt!” It was all I could do to not jump and yell in this guys face: “But it’s NOT a company, it’s a NATION! And companies are not obligated to provide social infrastructure, set fiscal policy, nor print money!” But I think that’s the root of the problem: people try to boil down something as complex as a rich, powerful nation full of innumerable goals, ideals, ethnicities, and global/domestic responsibilities into something digestible and understandable, like the insurance company cubicle-ville where they work or their family's finances, and….the US gubment simply ain’t like that.
But that’s the beauty of Bernie and Donald: they have simple, straightforward messages that resonate with people, and they do it from a position relatively unadulterated authenticity. Authenticity is probably one of the most powerful draws in society; as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out well in The Tipping Point, in an era where so much of what we see and hear is prescribed and carefully fed to us, we yearn for connections to people and entities that are truly authentic. All the way from the growth of farmer’s markets to outdoor companies sponsoring “real” athletes to the popularity of reality shows, and…..to politicians who “tell it like it is.” And for better or worse, The Donald and Da Bern “seem” - an important caveat - to be indeed “telling it like it is”, as opposed to politicians telling us what they think we want to hear in order to get our votes.
Brother Paul had a great line recently: “we all want to live in Bernie’s world, but do we want Bernie to be president?” And I think that there are plenty of Republicans who are saying the same thing about Trump. And it begs an interesting question: has the historical perception of what we perceived to be “presidential” changed? Are we ok with a gruff, antagonistic, rumpled grandfather or a pompous gunslinger being our prime statesman, ready to say and do exactly the right thing in times of crisis?
Now – 4 days later, as I’m re-visiting this, it appears that the Eastern voters of Tuesday have said that their liberal types prefer a more-statesman-like figure in Hillary and the conservatives are indeed ok with a demagogue. And Bernie vows to fight, Cruz is clearly getting desperate by bringing Carly Fiorina on board, he and Kasich are essentially colluding against Trump, and -according to the AP - the GOP is reluctantly realizing that indeed their people have been speaking.
And in the meantime the Republican Senators – led by our own esteemed Orrin Hatch, who’s verbal wriggling surrounding his support for confirming some judges but not others due to “a particularly-nasty” presidential campaign (really? That’s the main reason? As opposed to past, very civil, nice, unadulterated presidential campaigns that had no mudslinging whatsoever?) – further alienates their more-moderate constituents. As Stephen Colbert points out, the Republican National Committee may be getting worried.
I’m glad that Bernie’s been around, because he’s made his handful of major elephants-in-the-room points enough that he’s not only emboldened Hillary to take some more aggressive liberal stances but also galvanized an entire movement – that’s also has appeal to fiscal conservatives - and any future elected officials would ignore that movement at their peril, even if some of his broad strokes – like breaking up the banks, as according to Paul Krugman - may be a bit misguided (though plenty of smart folks sharply criticized Krugman for this).
As for me, Hilary would likely keep the economic progress noted above going and would indeed be more "presidential", though I do like the Bern of general rabble-rousing. And I’d far prefer to have the entertainment of candidate Trump than the smug piousity of Ted Cruz who seems determined to warp his US Constitution into creating a theocracy.
It’ll be fascinating to watch…..