Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's the Economy Stupid

The old truism that "the economy" is the most important topic in every US Presidential election is absurd to me.

I'm sure it's true enough. I fully believe that people vote based on their perception of which candidate can drive economic growth. I just think it is absurd how voters over-estimate how much the President can impact the economy (which in truth may be not at all, but at best it is very, very little).

I also find it beguiling that campaign strategists perpetrate the false notion, in every election, that their candidate can actually drive an economic turn-around.

Sorry to report this folks but neither Obama nor Romney can "fix the economy". The only people who can fix the economy are us voters.

Here are a few ways to start:

1) Get in shape. Don't cut down a little on fast food, stop eating it. That includes soda.  Lose some weight, exercise, and eat fruits and vegetables. This will greatly ease the burden on our health system, which wouldn't look nearly as broken if we weren't a bunch of over-weight, diabetics who need statins and hypertensive medications for the final five decades of our lives. This will also cut down on expensive triple-bypass surgeries and knee replacements. Let's free up a little spending for wellness.

2) Use less energy. Like a lot less. In your car and in your home. Next time you need to buy a car, buy a small one and, in the meantime, drive less and drive more slowly. This could vastly reduce our reliance on foreign oil, which will weaken demand and bring prices down. It may also put less money in the hands of certain groups that we spend a lot of military dollars to protect ourselves from.

3) Be an active parent. If your kids are being raised by TV and video games, you need to engage. It's hard and it takes a lot of time, but kids who spend their time with caring adults, as opposed to consumer electronics, develop better social skills and are more likely to cultivate an interest in learning. They are also less likely to exhibit disruptive, anti-social behavior in the classroom, which will allow our teachers to focus on educating instead of baby-sitting. Just a guess, but our education system might not look as broken if our kids were taught how to be attentive students by their parents.

4) Do the work that needs to be done. If some jobs are beneath you, then don't complain about the unemployment level or the number of immigrants who enter our country to fill the demand for low-status work. Until we are willing to do all kinds of work for pay that may be unattractive, then jobs will continue moving overseas, immigrants will continue to cross our border illegally, and unemployment will persist. The government can't fix our willingness to work.

5) Save some money. The government can't always be there for everyone. Maybe keep your car a little longer, get by with a smallish TV, and live below your means. Put some cash toward retirement, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and bouts of unemployment. There is no way the government, under any administration, can accumulate enough tax revenue to help all 300 million of us avoid some disruptions in the high quality of life we enjoyed during our peak earning years. Things go wrong, family financial health swings up and down, and we all need to prepare ourselves for the downturns.

I know these are hard habits to adopt.  I acknowledge that I could be doing better on a few of these suggestions myself. But the point is, the change is up to us. We can't expect a miracle from the government or from any particular Presidential candidate.

The President who can impact the economy is the one who can get the voters to fix the economy themselves.

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