Why the Economy Doesn’t Matter

Okay – obviously it does. We still have weak economic growth, high unemployment, and a lack of consumer confidence. However, as Keynes pointed out decades ago, and as Paul Krugman recently referenced, due to “use, decay, and obsolescence” economies eventually fix themselves. Basically, as products, machinery, or equipment grows old, breaks down, or becomes obsolete – it needs to be replaced. This means businesses and individuals start buying more products, and the economy returns itself to normal.

I bring this up because so often the question in the Presidential race is who is best suited to fix this economy. Not to say this issue shouldn’t be addressed, but it overshadows so many other issues. Since we are in a recession, we as a country forget there are other problems and issues a President must address.

The United States is facing an education crisis; our standing on the world stage continually dropping. Not to mention there are underfunded and understaffed schools across the country.  Both sides have offered little more than campaign platitudes, and good feeling rhetoric like “Hire more teachers!” In fairness to the President though, he does have his Race to the Top initiative, which focuses on increasing funding for k-12 education. (He did a terrible job communicating details of the plan during the debate) Similarly, Democrats have been trying to increase funding for Pell grants, and are working to  keep interest rates low on student loans. Conversely, the Ryan plan slashes education, including cuts to programs like Head Start and Pell grants. Also, we have seen Republican Governors attempt to balance their budgets by getting rid of teachers and other public employees.

The next President is also likely to make two Supreme Court nominees, which means whomever wins this election, his stance on social issues will have a greater bearing on policy than normal. This is troubling, especially considering we have absolutely no idea what Mitt Romney actually believes on the issue of abortion, and in the debate, Paul Ryan hinted he would be in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade. Furthermore, as state courts contemplate the issue of gay marriage, it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court weighs in. Yes, jobs are important, but it is also important that women continue to have the right to make decisions about their body, and it is also important we work toward giving all persons equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

Finally, as I’ve argued before, the greatest threat to this country is not the debt, it’s not China, and contrary to many Catholic groups, it’s not gay people – it’s climate change. Climate change not only threatens the lives  of people across the globe, but it has and will continue to devastate the world economy. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to fix, and the harder it will be to reverse. Addressing climate change will be the single most difficult task our country has faced. Not because we don’t know how to fix it, or it’s a problem on too big of a scale to solve – it’s because one of the political parties doesn’t even believe it exists. Even though the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in support of climate change, the right insists it must be a left-wing conspiracy.

So as election day nears, remember, this country faces more challenges than just the economy. They are challenges of a type that being a businessman doesn’t automatically qualify you to address. As voters we should elect a President who believes in funding the eduction of future generations, not cutting it in the name of fiscal responsibility. We should elect a President who believes in protecting the rights of women and extending equal rights to all persons, not suppressing individual liberties to cater to the extreme wing of the base. And although both parties have stalled on the issue of climate change, for God’s sake, we should elect a President who sides with the scientists (and the rest of the developed world for that matter) and recognizes the threat is real, not one who believes the entire scientific community is pulling some giant prank.

P.S. I also believe Obama is better suited to fix the economy – See here, here, here, and here


You Must Actually Teach the Man to Fish

I frequently get in conversations with conservatives who constantly gripe about government handouts, believing the welfare system is what is wrong with this country.  It is people not wanting to work and expecting government to just bail them out.  When I get in this discussion with Republicans they always bring up the clichéd line “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”, basically saying government handouts will never bring prosperity to people who depend on them.   Now I do not whole-heartily disagree with this and I think it is a wise saying.  However, for the line to actually make sense the man must actually be taught how to fish.  I think it is incredibly hypocritical for Republicans to denounce welfare, and at the same time be anti-education, in both rhetoric and policy.

Mr. Santorum called President Obama a snob because he wanted every person to have access to higher education.  “What?” College graduates on average earn far more than those who do not graduate from college and the unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.2 percent (compared to 8.3 percent for those with only a high school education, and 12.9 percent for those without a high school diploma). Now I know college is not the right option for every person, but it is not snobbish to want every student to become better educated.  Similarly Mitt Romney told a high school student to go to a school that is cheaper and not to expect government to help pay for his loans.

Instead of telling students to settle for a cheaper school why isn’t he encouraging reform to keep tuition rates low and to make college affordable to all students who wish to go on to higher education?  Mr. Romney seems to forget this country was made great because we invested in education.  America started the “high school movement,” which made secondary education standard. It also passed the GI Bill, which led to a generation of college-educated individuals.  Government worked to make education a priority.  In 1979 Pell Grants covered 77 percent of the costs of tuition at public universities that number is now down to 36 percent.  This is due to skyrocketing education costs and one political party that argues we must cut spending at all costs. Is it any wonder America is no longer the pinnacle of education?

Republicans curse those on welfare for not helping themselves while de-funding education and regarding it as snobbish. Education is precisely the means people need to help themselves.  Yet they talk about education as if it was toxic, they want to cut Pell grants, and they scoff at the idea of government intervening to help.  Republicans want to cut both welfare and education; I just don’t see how that will make anyone better?