Wednesday, January 29, 2014

“The economy, stupid”

You may have noticed yesterday that when I spoke about the State of the Union address I glossed over a huge topic. That was not a mistake, I chose to focus on the other items that came to my attention rather than having economic issues dominating the post. And that is exactly what it would have done. With all that is happening (and, more accurately, not happening) with the economy it would have overwhelmed the post.

If you have never watched the documentary “TheWar Room” I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. If you have seen it but it has been a while I think it is time for you to watch it again. Regardless of your political affiliation, it offers fascinating insight into the daily operations of a presidential campaign and shows just how effective a simplified message can be and how much power can be harnessed by hammering home a single, unified message that resonates with people.

I have written on this topic before but, now, when looking back and applying that messaging to the current political climate it is interesting to see how much things haven’t changed. In 1992, a long shot candidate won the democratic nomination for the Presidency. Facing an incumbent President with an unmatched war chest, Bill Clinton had to find a strategy that would turn the election tables. While Clinton is known for his speaking ability, it was a simple trilogy of tenets that served as the backbone of his campaign.

1. Change vs. more of the same.
2. The economy, stupid.
3. Don’t forget health care.

James Carville scrawled these three principals on a white board in the Little Rock, Arkansas campaign headquarters known as “The War Room.” These points kept the staff and the candidate focused. By hammering these basic points both in supporting Clinton and criticizing Bush, Carville was able to bring the rain that would lead to the electoral landslide in November.

Over two decades have passed since that stunning election and yet the same three points resonate today. However, this time the tables have turned, a Democrat is in the White House (can we still say white house or is that now deemed racist), and the Republican party is in need of a lesson in messaging. So, why don’t we take a page from history, from the radically changed opposition, and use their own three points against them? I find myself asking that very question on a daily basis.

All of the problems that the country is currently facing can be distilled into these three principles. We are facing more of the same policies and tactics that have shut out the press, dictated policies, and questions regarding the Constitutionality of many decisions. All of this while we face an increasing healthcare crisis that is crippling the ability of doctors to offer the service and attention that was once a source of pride in their practice. And questions have come to the surface as to the negligence that may be caused by the forced reporting of certain medical records so as to limit the freedom of people seeking assistance.

Of course, there is the economy. Most of our problems are rooted in the heinous economic policies currently running rampant. The debt ceiling has been treated with such disregard that inflation is becoming more of a probability rather than a farfetched possibility. Unemployment and underemployment has become a matter of false facts with fewer jobs being created than the number of people coming off unemployment while reports state that the unemployment rate continues to fall. Yes, like many financial decisions made in Washington, 1 + 1 = 3.

Even many of the economic policies that seem like great ideas the first time we hear them are nothing more than utopian fantasy. A prime example would be raising the minimum wage. Of course people want to get paid more but what happens when the other dominos fall. When the person making $8 per hour gets bumped up to an hourly rate of $10, what do you think the person who was originally getting paid $10 per hour is going to want? That’s right, they are going to want a bump in salary to at least $12. The dominos continue to fall and while some businesses may be able to support the radically increased overhead costs, many if not most small businesses will either have to decrease staff or close their doors completely. This is not the path to economic growth and a stronger middle class.

Some of the issues that don’t seem related to the economy are actually a part of the crisis as well. People today are polarized by one of the rights that the majority of the country exercises, firearms ownership. While not the determining factor in the debate (by a long shot), the limitation of gun rights has had a detrimental effect on many states. In addition to the hours spent by politicians and law enforcement (salaries paid by the people), many manufacturers have moved factories, offices, and other resources from one state to another because of limitations placed on the people (Magpul moving out of Colorado exemplified this issue). Also to be considered is the increased costs faced by government and law enforcement agencies due to the refusal to sell to certain states and departments which is their right as privately owned companies (see Ruger, STI, Barrett, Smith & Wesson, and others).

There are many issues that this country faces and it is going to be a painful recovery when we are finally able to right the ship. Can it be done? Yes! Change may be difficult but it is not impossible and as long as we have hope there is nothing that can keep us from returning to prosperity. While the times have changed the challenges remain the same and while we have not been able to prevent the repetition it is never too late to learn from the past.