Monday, August 27, 2012

Political pet peeves #1

So here's what's going to happen.  I'm going to write a handful of political posts, mainly about the things that drive me crazy about the election year political process.  That will either calm me down or jack me up--that remains to be seen.  When I'm finished with that, I'm going to post the political essay that I wish I'd written.  Then I'm going to write the book reviews that I promised back in May.  A couple of personal updates and a few musings about life in general . . . that's what you can expect.

So, political pet peeve #1 is pretty easy to identify:  the money game has changed forever.  

First of all, the Citizens United decision has dramatically altered the landscape of campaign finance reform, which is a joke now anyway.  Democrats are in a quandary, having vehemently opposed the Supreme court ruling that gave corporations the status of personhood and relieved nonprofit political groups of the burden of reporting the sources of their contributions.  Now they have to decide whether or not to hold their noses and take the money anyway; meanwhile, many of their donors have decided not to play the game.

The Republicans, meanwhile, are happy to collect the money but that may end up costing them some autonomy and say-so about their policies and platforms.  Do you realize that (at least as of June),  .000063 percent of the US population (196 individuals or companies) have given more than 80 percent of the money that SuperPACs have raked in?  If your individual political contribution ever did matter, it doesn't now.

The other money game--the economy--has changed forever too.  This campaign is echoing Bill Clinton's first presidential election:  "It's the economy, stupid."  The truth is that most Americans--including me--are stupid about the economy.  For one thing, the economy is more complex than any of us can possibly imagine.  When I hear people talk about running the 15 trillion dollar national budget like a household spreadsheet, I want to laugh out loud.  When people talk like the president--any president--has direct control over things like unemployment and gas prices, milk comes out of my nose.

In this global economy, sophisticated computer programs have trouble keeping up with all the permutations of possible outcomes related to any single economic decision.  The economies of small European nations and corrupt Asian countries affect our economy more than we even know.  The deals that Wall Street makes these days are more complicated than  any talk radio caller can even imagine, whether he is sympathetic to the Tea Party or the Occupy movement.  Economists of both parties and neither party tell us that the US economic recovery will happen slowly and that it will take about ten years, start to finish, because that's how these things tend to work, regardless of who is president.

And yet, who knows?  Not me, and not you either, and that's the point.

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