Saturday, January 28, 2012

Impatience and Blame: American Politics

I’m the black sheep in my family when it comes to politics. Although nearly my entire life I was indoctrinated to share their views, when I finally reached voting age, my beliefs had shifted. Because I don’t share the same views as my parents, they routinely send me political email forwards that support their own view point. I can’t blame them for trying, but I never find myself swayed by these attempts.

All family political duress aside, I have a couple points of contention with the political conversation in the United States:

  • The Blame Game: If you review the policies enacted under past cabinets of both political affiliations, no single party eclipses the other in fault for leading to the dismal economic reality we endure today. Both sides like to point the finger and sensationalize the misconduct of the opposing party, but our current economy is the result of a crescendo of misguided foreign relations, irresponsible housing loans, war, growing national debt and a myriad of other variables. Rather than casting blame, I'd rather just hear solutions.
  • Impatience: It feels like the economy crumbled overnight, but it was a long time in the making. As I noted above, a series of events over several years led us to where we are today. If it took arguably at least a decade to make this mess (and making a mess is always the easier half), how could we possibly fix it in just three years? This is complicated. It's going to take some time.
This week, these frustrations surfaced when my parents emailed me this "article" - an email forward circulating the Internet. In the article, the author, Dr. Walter Williams highlights obvious and prevailing economic challenges and attributes them entirely to the Obama administration. However, Williams' continues on to say that Obama will win re-election because “the American people are notoriously ignorant of economics.” 

I don't think the main ignorance here is economics. It's understanding that layers of legislation, policies and foreign relations over time will yield economic repercussions - good or bad. Williams' provides a few shortcomings of the current administration, however these points fall short in both merit and analysis:
  • A Weakening Dollar: While living in Spain in early 2008 (pre-recession), the dollar to Euro exchange rate was around 1.8, and the US dollar was weaker than the Canadian. As I write this, the current dollar to Euro exchange rate is 1.3 and the US dollar has edged out the Canadian.
  • War: The war began in 2003, so why does Williams' regress to an issue that was initiated by his own party to decry the current administration? This just seems hypocritical.
  • Rising Gas Prices: Gas prices has been on the rise for years. Compared to the rest of the world, we have a bargain. (And let me remind Dr. Williams of the basic econ concept called supply and demand. When demand is high, prices go up.) 
What really irks me about commentary like this is that it perpetuates the practice of mudslinging - already pervasive in politics - and doesn't improve "ignorance" in America. The issues he points out have been prevailing for years. But rather than providing context, reviewing our decisions that led us here today, Williams' falls back onto comfortable ground and only reiterates the rumblings he's probably heard around the water cooler.

The United States is a world power, and I'd wager that we didn't arrive here by pointing a finger at our neighbors when things went wrong. So why do we allow campaigns to thrive on that practice, and then further perpetuate it by publishing independent commentary doing the same thing? Williams' article seems like an attempt to naively join in on the picketing, yet without a full understanding of the situation. I dismissed this articles just as another "Brick Tamland" shouting, "LOUD NOISES," in Anchorman. The sad thing is, this is far from an isolated example.

Also, as an aside and unrelated to politics, Williams' further exposes his own ignorance writing that college-education women will vote for Obama solely because "they swoon at his oratory. It's really not more complex than that." He does preface this statement by saying that this statement will offend. This assessment - that his comment would offend - was probably the only sound insight offered in the entire article. 

* *Since publishing this, it's been brought to my attention that this article may be incorrectly attributed to Dr. Walter Williams.

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