Another jobs report, another week of conflicting information, and the bloviating “expert” prognostications from the cable news talking-head class…
I claim no expertise, but I am a student of American History and a person that understands what the surrogates are trying to do.
So let’s start from the beginning:
The unemployment rate is an “important” indicator of economic health. It has at least in recent history, served as a statistic that all incumbent US Presidents have been measured against during reelection campaigns. In general, less than 8% suggests reelection; more than 8% suggests early retirement.
The jobs report is another “important” indicator of economic health. Latest figures tell us that 165,000 jobs were added to the workforce: but these particular numbers include seasonal hires, and despite all the chatter surrounding release, tell us far less about the job-creation environment than we want to admit.
The actions (or in this case inaction) of the Federal Reserve is also an “indicator” of economic health. This week all “sides” got a win, a loss, and a tie. But like good messengers, the punditocracy shall not let circumstances get in the way of the approved narrative.
It is the job of the allied armies of pollsters, pundits, and technical experts for hire to make statistics appear conclusive – especially when they aren’t.
For the challengers, the available data is a treasure to use against the incumbent. And use these numbers Romney will.
In the end, Barack Obama will not be reelected to office because of the unemployment figure, the latest jobs report, or any other data point that so many rely upon to justify their opinions.
Barack Obama will be reelected President because Americans are not ready to “fire” him. Americans believe he is learning and getting better at his job. And that is a far more troubling piece of information for Romney than anything else.
Americans want our heroes humbled; we want our leaders to think big, act big, and after a loss or two – to dust off and begin swinging at the fences again.
This campaign season historians are better off looking to the example of FDR than Reagan or Bush (the dad) or even Clinton. The swagger is now gone, and Americans are looking for big solutions for our big problems. And even though we don’t like it, we know it takes a little time for a battleship to adjust course.
Americans want an experienced captain at the helm: a seasoned “survivor” – someone that has overcome odds (in some way) – someone that has a few flaws (Kennedy went up in popularity after the Bay of Pigs) someone that has proven him (or her) self but still worries about our lives, and the future of our children.
Truth be told, the US Congress and the Oregon Legislature may well become far more “Blue” this November – because of a singular truth: We are not ready to quit, not yet – not with so much at stake. Churchill was right about us. Americans will do the right thing, after exhausting every other possible alternative. It takes us a while to understand danger – and we often make things worse before we make them better.
Not surprisingly, we have dug ourselves a giant hole – far bigger than many know (or want to know) about.
$16 Trillion in debt, a global financial malaise, overextended in military operations across the globe, a Cold War between Wall Street and Main Street, and a nation of people scared about tomorrow: it’s a tough time to be sure.
Not so long ago after a recession we could send unemployed workers back into the factories to make goods demanded of an accelerating economy. Those capacities have been stolen from us.
Over the past thirty years Wall Street emasculated our industrial base. We not only sent jobs overseas (bad), but we sent the equipment and the factories overseas (worse). Through tax policies passed into law (and then sustained through successive actions) we incentivized the disassembly of the most powerful industrial base in human history.
We leveraged an expanding standard of expectations upon a shrinking capacity to afford those expanded standards. In other words, at the very time we were selling off our production capabilities – we ran up the credit cards for things that could have done without.
Here in Oregon we had a few malcontents cut the capacities of government (through cutting local government revenues) in order to blame government for doing and caring less.
Irony is not just a word here in Eden – it’s evolved into a tactic for those seeking to further insulate the wealthy. This process is maddening for those of us that grew up in a very different Oregon.
The end result is that we have a smaller foundation of pre-existing industrial power to throw workers into – even when times are getting better. Note: the rise of “temp hire” companies is precisely because of this: more work, but scattered across the pre-existing industrial base (a base of employers too worried to recapitalize facilities).
In the end, innovation can – and hopefully will – ignite a new era of industrial capabilities. It will not come fast, it will not come easy. But it will come if Americans want it bad enough.
Romney and the modern Republican Party are trying to sell us a poorly repackaged agenda that offers little more than continued stagnation and economic decline.
We may be slow, but we are not stupid. We realize who the candidate of Wall Street is in this race - and we know that Wall Street cares more about the profits than people. And for some reason, Romney and his Republican Party believe appealing to his past successes as a champion of Wall Street is a path to victory.
Nothing offered (nothing that can be offered by the Republican Establishment) will convince enough Americans that Barack Obama cares less about us, and our future, than Mitt Romney.
In many ways it is the inevitable conclusion of a chapter. George W was a Reagan Coalition candidate Wall Street thinking (Harvard MBA) and Main Street values. And that coalition was powerful as long as the faithful believed the folks at the top cared - at least a little.
The Great Recession - and Wall Street's tone-deaf reaction to it - shattered the Reagan Coalition. There wouldn't be a Tea Party otherwise.
Since 2009 the modern Republican Party has used all available means to thwart change – and it is now becoming obvious. Congress could not have done more to hurt our country over the past four years if they had tried: the division and undeniable callousness has shown through at every step.
Tax cuts for the wealthy are neither a stimulus for growth, nor a moral choice for a nation seeking to recover from catastrophe. Soon, possibly very soon, the true character of the Christian Ethic will begin to shine through: faith, hope, and love are incompatible with the undeniable tyranny of a rigged economy.
The narrative of redemption and generosity are always more powerful – in the long-term – than the cautionary tale of greed. It is critical to recognize that the most recent games played by Speaker Boehner and McConnell are so obviously hypocritical and morally bankrupt that some of the most faithful among the Tea Party have become uncomfortable.
Never doubt the sincerity of the Tea Party. It was a powerful force for the Republican Party for a generation. And these true-believers are now at war with their own elders.
In contrast, the modern Democratic Party stands battered but largely united. Though it has its own unique failings (Will Rogers was right, the Democrats are not an organized political party), there is something reassuring about a place where most voices are heard, where most interests are included.
It is the party of FDR, Truman, and Kennedy that defeated global tyranny and then rebuilt the battlefields; the party of idealists, of second-chances, and of redemption.
Over the next four months we will be bombarded with hundreds if not thousands of political messages stocked full of data points, statistics, and historic comparisons. But the invisible truth remains: the narrative is far more potent than the individual measurements.
Americans want a recovery, and after doing everything else under the sun, we will make it happen because we believe we can.
In a matter of heart versus head, Americans usually choose heart. This November we’ll see which candidate has miles and miles (and miles) of it.