Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Depressing presidential election campaign coming up

David Brooks wrote an article that expresses my sense of disappointment, maybe even despair, regarding the upcoming presidential contest.  The problems of the country are almost overwhelmingly important and challenging, and our candidates in both parties seem to be remarkably unable to deal with them.

I wish I could be happier with President Obama, but I’m not.  The structural problems of the economy, deficit spending and joblessness, just don’t seem to have captured his attention, or at least they haven't inspired his creativity and leadership.  His deficit solution seems to be to “tax the rich”.  This is a theme for Democrats since FDR, and it is woefully inadequate now.  Taxing the rich makes only a small dent in the deficit.  He seems to think his health care overhaul is going to bring down medical costs, but that won’t even come close to closing the deficit enough without serious entitlement cutting.

The Republicans are even more hopeless.  Their solution seems to be to “lower taxes".  This is a theme for Republicans since Reagan, and it is woefully inadequate now.  Lower taxes are supposed to stimulate the economy and thus raise government revenues and lower deficit spending, but those increases, if they work at all, will be far too small to handle the looming deficit and potential loss of U.S. credit ratings without revenue increases.

As the problems get bigger, the politicians get more entrenched in obsolete ideologies that might have been reasonable approaches to the problems of decades ago, but don’t look to me to address today’s problems, shoot, they don’t even seem to notice today’s problems.

Brooks’ solution is to address four areas:  entitlement reform, working class empowerment, political corruption, and pro-business environment. 

He proposes what he calls a “Hamiltonian agenda” which would be pro-market where appropriate and pro-government where appropriate.  But the parties are stuck in either pro-government (Democrats) or pro-market (Republicans).  Neither is sufficient. 

I think that the party that produces a leader that is both/and rather than either/or will lead his party into the future, and the other party may well die.  I had hoped Obama was that man three years ago, but I’m not seeing it now when it is needed so desperately.  It’s going to take some magic for that to happen.  He talks both/and, but leads either/or.

Maybe Romney or Huntsman can con their base into voting for them, and then become a pragmatic both/and leader in the end.  It’s going to take some magic for that to happen too.