Common Reality

DISCLAIMER: This post was done late in the night and on a whim. More effort was put into pounding something out than having a polished, edited writeup. Hopefully, it’s useful. If the author deems otherwise, the post may go through some additional edits in the near future.

I’m not altogether happy that the first written post on this blog is about national politics, and the GOP convention in particular. There are enough talking heads with crystal balls out there. I’m never sure if I add anything to the conversation by jumping into that big ol’ bucket of red, grey, and blue-shelled crabs. But an acquaintance of mine pulled me into a guilt trip about how young black men should be listening to this because “they are talking about US, they are talking about YOU! And I might not be here 30 years from now, but you have to live with whatever happens next. Remember it was only 50 years ago we couldn’t even vote!”

He was right on multiple fronts, and I was restless, so I caught the last few minutes of Romney’s closing speech. And it only took me that long to realize that he, or whoever wrote that speech for him, still doesn’t quite get it. In those few minutes Romney mainly spoke to the idea of coming together as a nation as a whole – without regards to particular parties, groups, special interests, etc. – to make some real progress.  This, in itself, is quite the noble cause. The problem is that his party’s platform does not support progress for all, as much as it supports a lopsided recovery that favors those who are already advantaged. Whether he gets this or not, I can’t be sure.

Romney, for instance, said that the current administration’s foreign policy was at odds with the “bi-partisan” policy that the former administration protected. A “bi-partisan” policy that the country really wants right now. I, for one, thought the way the current administration handled the conflict in Libya was one of it’s biggest successes, and most underrated achievements. In deciding not to severely limit involvement, and forcing other UN nations to take the lead, the Obama administration sent a clear message that America was no longer nominating itself the world’s police force.  If this became common practice, it could very well keep us out of the kind of the conflicts and occupations that led to things like 9/11. Occupations that require lots of resources. Resources that require lots of money.

It’s estimated that, in 2012, the defense spending accounted for 25% of the federal budget.  This is a higher percentage than the GOP’s favorite political pinata, healthcare. More than pensions. More than the rest of 2012 entitlements and government expenditures combined. Should avoiding conflicts and reducing subsequent costs becomes a habit, you have a gradual change in a major component of USA Inc.’s cost structure – a savings that has the potential to compound on itself overtime.  That money can be reinvested in more productive assets and programs to the benefit of the country.  And unlike healthcare and jobs, a huge, aggressive foreign military presence is not a necessity.

Romney goes on to say that the focus should be on “uniting to preserve liberty.”  He said that all Americans were and are fighting under the same flag. He says “that united America” would take care of the sick, the poor, and the elderly. And that, under the best of conditions, this is done with “no mention of their race, their party affiliation, or what they do for a living.” His intentions may be noble, but the policies he supports do not support the vision he shared at the convention. I’m no economist or PhD or policy wonk. But I have a strong impression that a strong recovery under the kind of conditions that Romney and the GOP hope for will strongly favor the currently advantaged to the detriment of the disadvantaged.

The perception that, under current conditions, a purely free market and perpetual deregulation is beneficial to all is a wet dream enjoyed by those who can afford and benefit greatly from the appreciation of valuable assets in an economic uptick. In other words, people that have good employment, are in positions of power now, are wealthy right now, or otherwise had enough financial cushion to see them through the financial crises. People that own stocks, bonds, homes or other assets that can increase in value in a recovery without any additional efforts from their owners.

Clearly, the average man is not in a position to benefit from this kind of recovery. Now, and in the immediate future, much of the common population will be forced to choose between home ownership, healthcare (my COBRA, for example, costs about as much as my monthly rent), OR education. Populous economics make simultaneous and sustainable pursuit of all three impractical, unlikely, even impossible for many. Those who have been out of work and need support the most will find it much harder to get reasonable rates on home loans, health care plans they can afford, or jobs that will help them recover. If they are lucky to have a steady job that pays for today’s increasing cost of living with a little left over to spare, perhaps they can reasonably afford one or two of these things. Not to mention other semi-necessities such as transportation (to get to work) or certain clothing (depending on what type of job you have).

Maybe a Romney-Ryan ticket will reduce debt and increase GDP over the long term.  But you can almost guarantee that dropping support for individuals will mean putting many citizens in a hole they will not be able to recover from in their lifetimes. The current Republican vision is more beneficial to institutions and the kind of wealth that parallels institutional status than the average American. It also treats the recovery of the United States economy as an institutional problem, that of a single entity – U.S.A. Inc. – rather than a problem shared, unevenly, by a collection of individual citizens.

A systematic reduction of government and regulatory checks and balances may very well add to the problem.  Healthcare and education, for example, would only become more expensive under far right policies, as the rejection of a program like Obamacare  means that insurers have a smaller pool of people to spread risk over, causing them to charge each individual consumer more, and as higher education institutions keep raising tuition without offering much in the way of jobs, as a “respectable” education remains the ticket into middle class life for the very people that can’t afford the entrance fee. Under current conditions, and especially under purely right wing or purely libertarian authority, it’s likely that the current system will only make it harder for your everyman to achieve middle class status as time goes on. Even if the country as a whole does better over the next for years, I am not sure that we are promoting a system that will allow the common denominator to become much more than common.

That the GOP and Romney believe that their far right ideology will lead to a long-term economic recovery is not, in itself, the worst thing about its platform. Perhaps their plan is more responsible than any currently backed by Obama’s or the democratic party. Perhaps the GOP plan pales in comparison.  But the GOP and Romney, in the very least, need to acknowledge that realizing their vision may very well require leaving much of the American public behind, even if the U.S., as a whole, moves forward.