I had a friend who got himself into horrible economic trouble. Hell, I’ve been in horrible economic trouble before as well. He was desperate to do something, anything. I told him some advice I’d received when I needed help. Essentially, we should plan for it to take anywhere from fifty percent to one hundred percent as long to get out of a financial crisis as it took to get in it. A decade of overspending, under-earning, and no savings isn’t going to be fixed with a refinance, a month of heavy budgeting work, or anything like that. That makes perfect sense, right? Sure, it may not be that way in every single case, but in general, that’s the way it works. Sometimes a windfall changes everything, but in general, real changes in our lives generally take discipline and time.
So why, when it’s politics, do we throw all logic out the window? For as long as I’ve been politically aware, pundits have thrown blame around for long term problems as though they were short-term problems. In addition, we manufacture crises all the time. I once saw a worker for an NGO speak. He said, “If you have any change in your pocket. Any at all that isn’t already committed to something; you have more economic wealth than the majority of people on the planet.” We complain about urban families not able to afford cable or a laptop for each student in school. The brilliant economist, statistician, and business consultant, who’s generally credited with creating Japan’s wealth, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, advocated a cost of life index rather than a cost of living index. The cost of living judges based on what everyone is spending. The cost of life judges based on what it takes to stay alive and sheltered. Having lived in the seventies when interest rates for homes were equal to what people today call robber baron rates for credit cards, I find it amazing that anyone can call our situation an “economic crisis” in the first place.
That’s the nature of politics, though. It’s not about argumentation and issues. It’s about buzzwords and sound bites. It took twenty years after the end of the Soviet Union, at Ronald Reagan’s funeral, before most media outlets acknowledged the role he played in ending that totalitarian situation. It’s not surprising, really. We can’t really understand the impact of a particular policy until years after it’s been in place. When Southern Democrats predicted the downfall of civilization after the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision, they could hold onto that prediction for a decade or two, I suppose, but I find America to be alive and well right now. When Republican’s predicted an immediate descent into absolute immorality because of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, it was equally ludicrous and certainly not borne out.
That’s the nature of politics, though. Nobody argues ideas and philosophies. We’re so busy attempting to assign blame over a policy or a situation that there’s never a discussion about what government should or shouldn’t be doing and which candidate will best fit with the conclusions. Can I tell you a secret? Are you ready? Jimmy Carter isn’t evil. Ronald Reagan wasn’t evil. George Bush Sr. isn’t evil. Bill Clinton isn’t evil. George Bush Jr. isn’t evil. Obama isn’t evil, and Mitt Romney isn’t evil. We watch our candidates assaulted by ad hominem attacks so often that it seems we can’t disagree with Obama’s policy on medical care without calling him a totalitarian committed to autocratic rule.
We can’t disagree with Romney’s position on abortion without saying he’s a misogynist pig. It’s amazing to me, too. The country is pretty much evenly divided on these issues, but both sides tend to act as though the other side is on the far extreme and radical edge of the issue. The truth is, we haven’t had an extreme right wing or left wing candidate in decades, but each side defines moderate as heavily favoring their position. We call Republicans racists forgetting that it was the party formed to end slavery and problems during the civil rights movement were caused primarily by Democrats. We act as though only Republicans are tax conscious though John F. Kennedy reduced the high end of the tax rate from 91% to 65%.
The bottom line is that most people don’t really have opinions about anything political. Instead, they have repeated slogans. Way back when I was in college, a group campaigned for the ban of Coca Cola on campus as a protest of Coca Cola’s business in South Africa. None of the group bothered to do their research. Coca Cola had already complied with their demanded course of action…nearly two years prior. That’s the nature of politics. We get so used to hating the other side that we’ve stopped actually arguing, if we ever started. I have a lot of respect for Bono in that regard. He fought long and hard for aid to Africa. When President Bush gave it, the very liberal Bono thanked him. When reporters tried to get him to say it was symbolic or something like that, Bono said that it was stupid to make demands and then not give credit.
I wish more people thought things out. I don’t care how you vote, but I hope to hell you vote because you’ve thought and weighed issues.