-“Save Your Pennies.” Families save for big purchases or tough times. States similarly create “rainy day funds,” and the federal government spent less in prosperous times and more in difficult ones (per Keynesian theory). The New Deal, with its creation of jobs in the Great Depression to rebuild and restore America’s infrastructure, typified this approach.
President Bush came to D.C. with projections of a federal government surplus but eliminated it by cutting taxes and starting two wars. With 20 percent of citizens un- or underemployed, now would be the perfect time to use savings. Its absence allows Republicans to create an issue of debt reduction rather than recognizing the cyclical nature of our economy.
“Make Good Choices.” Brutal war actions like drone attacks, nighttime raids and random civilian killings led Afghani and Iraqi leaders to ask America to shrink its presence overseas. For Democrats, America’s continued involvement is a regular sucker punch. President Obama’s lack of haste in exiting the wars dampened the enthusiasm of these ardent supporters, whose energetic canvassing led to 2008’s record voter turnout.
“How Did You Do?” Government agencies and businesses have their own report cards, measures and plans. But somehow this seems to break down for our country as a whole.
American’s lives are affected by unemployment, excessive bank fees, growing difficulty in paying mortgages, health care expenses and coverage surprises. These were tackled through major legislative initiatives, though it’s generally agreed all areas need more work.
Many candidates ran on shrinking government and repealing health care. But these steps won’t improve most daily realities. In fact less protection through less regulation, less help to the states, and lower budgets will make things much worse for most middle-class Americans.
“Let’s Ask the …” We seek help for kids from doctors or coaches, and for ourselves from plumbers or attorneys. There is a great deal of expertise and consensus among researchers and economists. As an example: most economists say extending the tax cuts are a relatively ineffective way to create jobs, with tax cuts for the rich being far worse. Experts also recommend short-term government investment to create jobs, and investments in renewable energy and infrastructure. But candidates relied very little on these experts in the past election cycle.
“What’s The Teacher’s Pet Doing?” Imitating and measuring oneself against a good set of peers can make one soar, while a bad peer group can sow the seeds of destruction and failure. Businesses speak regularly of “best practices” or being “world class.” Governments also look for leaders to emulate.
But the election featured surprisingly little discussion of the priorities and programs of growing, successful countries overseas. For example, China and India are investing in high technology, transportation, education, and health care. Yet many successful candidates advocated cutting the same areas that are helping these countries thrive.
“Sticks and Stones …” Actually, names do hurt. Calling health care reform “Obamacare” was critical to turning people against it. People aren’t refusing to put their unemployed child on their insurance, or insisting that their cancer treatment not be covered by their insurance company. “Death panels,” Obama as a Muslim and the demonization of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi galvanized a frustrated base that agreed with the substance of many recent reforms.