The Mistake of Youth Matters: A Diary of the 2012 Presidential Campaign

This might sound radical, in light of a continued culture of personal wealth, but regardless of all its intents and purposes not every person measures personal growth in the context of money.

Not every person is born with the same opportunity (this should go without saying), or taught with the same set of ambitions. Not every person is interested in learning the ins and outs of the stock-market. Not every person is wired to seek the kind of career which traditionally pays very well. Not every person aspires to maintain any sort of power or prestige to establish or strengthen a personal or family legacy through wealth.

“If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart, but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain,” a quotable luminary said. Many times, it feels. Or, in short, ‘liberals’ have hearts and ’conservatives’ have brains. I say and write such things as this because of a yearning to feel equal in every possible way. I do not seek it for myself but for a conventional wisdom. I don’t look to government for help (although, greater promotion of the arts would be nice, and would cost nothing). One can only gauge his or her expectations to the other at hand. Our livelihood is a constant discussion between the heart and mind.

The fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats—which many people do not know, and defining them might significantly help or interest an undecided, unmotivated, or misinformed voter, in the midst of any campaign or debate—comes down to who is considered more or less trustworthy: the federal government or the extent of a deregulated financial system.

I once overheard a gentleman leaving an expensive restaurant comment on then Presidential candidate John McCain as not being a “true” Republican. A Democrat believes in regulations that strictly apply to the general well-being of the nation. An actual true, fiscally conservative Republican likes the idea of less regulation and generally less federal involvement. As far as how every issue in some way comes down to its financial expense, Republicans believe in individual liberty over legislating commonality; letting you decide what is best to do with your income. That always has a very nice ring to it (as well as a homey way of painting Democrats as conversely untrustworthy).

Naturally—and, important to note—both sides come with their share of both good and bad contradictions regarding how these principles affect a wide range of social issues. But, non-ideologues (including myself) continue to have difficulty trusting Republicans in power; difficulty, trusting corporate lobbyists who seem to envy the concept of power by finding equal or greater power in abusing it.

A bank’s primary purpose used to be to serve the people. The culture here has changed dramatically. In all fairness, which set of ideals has continuously proven responsible for interpreting the concept of lower tax rates among the very highest percentage of income-earners into the idolatry (a word which always spells certain doom) of wealth, contributing to a hole in federal revenue due to a lack of enough jobs created to help regenerate taxable income, and thus an increase in the national debt? Which campaigns with decided reluctance to specify a deregulating—palpably ‘trickle-down’—economic policy not unlike their past aspiring or elected executive predecessors, and continues to pigeonhole blue-collar voters into looking daft and naïve while broad-stroking the corresponding other as lazy and irresponsible?

Late in the 2008 Presidential campaign, around the time news broke of the economic crash, I felt the Republican Party was suffering from an identity crisis. Over the past 32 years, the mistruths and consequences along the surface of national election races have spread even wider and the stakes elevated even higher. Any political discussion comes with an examination of personal identity, for no one ought to be above self-doubt.

And what has made this 2012 campaign very interesting—and at times hot-tempered—is how different these two personalities are, in terms of professional responsibility. One is contemplative, soul-searching, and tries to imagine what the best decision would be to balance progress. The other: super-charged, singularly locked-in, yet self-marketed to where nobody on the planet can tell for certain which way he leans on almost anything; most importantly, fiscally—towards the center or once again out to the right?

Several amongst the wealthy on up to the super wealthy insist we at least maintain their current personal income tax-rates. But never talked about really in-depth is the issue of registered as well as unregistered lobbyists getting laws (many of which they tend to write themselves, but for the sake of here discussion) passed to create loopholes in order to pay less than their required personal or corporate tax rate (the latter, which I agree with both 2012 candidates is too high) even throughout our longest period of war, and stack their representative’s campaign chests in order to secure a variety of business interests. (Thank you, unregistered A.L.E.C., among many of your other inspired pieces of legislation; including, Stand Your Ground). Both sides are guilty of this, although Republicans in fact much more so. And it is worth mentioning how every two to four years Democratic organizations request donations to fend off Republican lawyers seeking to discourage registered voters, in “urban” areas, in court, beyond Election Day. Meanwhile, newer Republicans in the Tea Party accuse the President of never compromising. From the article, “The Tea Party Pork Binge”, Newsweek, Oct. 30, 2011: “The stack of spending-request letters between these GOP members [including several by Representative Eric Cantor] and federal agencies stands more than a foot tall, and disheartens some of the activists who sent Republicans to Washington in the last election.” But the President did compromise on the size of the economic stimulus package and then on the Bush tax cuts. I listened to criticisms as to how both compromises would not break us enough out of recession and knew the President would be labeled as the failure, in a fight for re-election, over the economy.

No wonder so many can easily tune out politics.

The root of all evil and freedom without responsibility. President Truman’s proverbial ‘buck’ has taken the size, speed, and shape of subatomic particles smashing into one another in order to recreate the Big Bang. Close to a billion dollars each will have been raised over the course of this Presidential campaign to ironically decide who can best manage our economy. We are not mutes, even though its’ ‘speech’ is distending beyond sight and sound.

So, with monetary policy (the relationship between the price at which money can be borrowed and the total supply of money) a non-spark, how much of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was in fact wasteful, not enough, or weakened—perhaps, understandably—by gun-shy thriftiness on our part? Maybe, a little of all three. The recession later revealed to be much worse than any unemployment projections at the time it was written up. Many small-business owners who traditionally voted Republican have decided to once again this year vote Democrat. The incumbent’s American Jobs Act, which had Republican provisions in it, the Bring Jobs Home Act, the Payroll Tax Cut Renewal, the Veterans Jobs Corps Bill—about 20 recent reasonable proposals, to date, were all brushed aside by the Congress of the past two years. A healthcare plan which largely resembles his opponent’s signature legislation while governor of Massachusetts and hugely contributed to his decision to run for President, the first time around, this time: awful idea; plan to repeal…most of it. Recent claims, such as, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term”, by the current Republican Senate leader a couple of years ago during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, in among other more conservative organizations; the infamous Taxpayer Protection Pledge by (conservative lobbyist) Grover Norquist, as signed by 95% of Congressional Republicans; Republican insiders (including former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich) at a private dinner on the night of the President’s inauguration having mapped a strategy to “show unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies” (Robert Draper, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives), altogether, make for a very simple, political priority. Jobs = President looking politically good or filibuster and block debate on every such legislative proposal the White House has presented over the past two years to hopefully keep the whole outlook symbolically the President’s fault while their candidate virtually makes it the case of his entire campaign. Visit youtube for “Obama on GOP’s Refusal to Vote on American Jobs Act” in Mesquite, Texas, October 4, 2011, for his take.

Despite very false claims that regulations quadrupled in the past four years and the size of government has doubled, as a result of our fiscal domestic and foreign policy over the first eight years of this century having so presumptuously veered us from ‘a danger of paying off the national debt too quickly’ (to paraphrase former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan) deeply back into the red, the hard-bitten reality remains that a properly monitored and regulated federal government work to help revitalize every other sector of ownership. One reason cities tend to vote Democrat is because people see first-hand poorer neighborhoods that go untouched by private investors and entrepreneurs. It is naturally unrealistic to expect communities of investors to then re-build these neighborhoods all by themselves. All I wish to suggest here is instead of consistently being a culturally right-of-center country, how about being center-of-center? Then, we can argue whether we are ‘maximizing government’.

I was as surprised that a more hands-on approach towards working with Congress was not initially asserted—or apparently even nudged along to the new President by more established Democrats in Washington. And I am annoyed at myself for giving too much benefit of the doubt towards things in general looking to even out again, over the past four years. This President has, and has in various ways indicated a second-term agenda focused on among other things creating new jobs, tax cuts for middle-class families, and balanced deficit reduction. Also, any reasonable person knows for certain the President will continue to lean towards the center. Yet, in his case, it is much more a question of how; of style igniting substance in order for both sides to work together.

At this point in our country’s development, at this stage of a campaign, when circumstances are this pivotal, I don’t know how anyone can defend an idea based upon the (ever-shifting) appearance of patriotism. Although the Republican candidate proved to be more prepared and engaged during the first Presidential debate, he ‘won’ by appearing moderate. (Senator Marco Rubio’s stating that the millions of dollars Democrats had spent trying to paint the candidate as an out-of-touch rich guy having been wiped away in one night was not a point very well argued.) Then, after he had ‘lost’ the third debate on foreign policy, immediately according to one conservative yet fair analyst he had managed to succeed at appearing Presidential.

Beyond appearances, here is the one and only gamble concerning a vote based largely around job-creation and the economy—as well as repeating history, in more ways than one: the Republican candidate proposes to reduce everyone’s income tax-rate by 20%. But to offset or neutralize this sudden lack of hundreds of billions in federal revenue he must specify which loopholes and deductions he wishes to lower or close, currently benefitting the upper-crust. Morally, this gaping lack of specificity should have been of daily, primary focus throughout this campaign—the “backbone” the Republican candidate alluded to having during the third debate, if it were not the preference against alienating voters who could always simply fact-check things themselves, accompanied by a mainstream media’s more often than necessary shallow and congenial coverage of the campaign. (So much for ‘Afflicting the comfortable…’) What the candidate explained during the second debate about everybody in the middle-class getting the “I’ll pick a number” $25,000 worth of pick-and-choose personal deductions and credits still would not add up. Either he is extremely confident enough jobs will be created to help fill the hole, yet the overall concrete implications still leaves economists, tax experts, businesses, and every middle or lower income person legitimately anxious. Even if right-of-center tax-policy experts leaned any likely set of sacrifices from the current federal tax-code as favorably as possible towards lessening the potential burden on the middle-class, less taxed income would still be going to the federal government and to a greater or lesser extent every income below $200,000 will likely see their taxes raised so to meet the expressed 20% promise. The numbers do not—in fact, and not in appearance—remotely add up.

“‘It’s not as if the entire philosophical approach he’s pursuing is doomed,’ said Alan D. Viard, a tax expert at the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute. ‘But he’s going to need to cut rates significantly less than 20 percent if he wants to honor his other goals.’” “‘Everything is on the table,’ R. Glenn Hubbard, a top economic adviser to the campaign, said in an interview, declining to elaborate any further.” Both excerpts are explained in better-detail in the New York Times article, “Romney’s Tax Plan Leaves Key Variables Blank”, September 9, 2012. R. Glenn Hubbard, by the way, was an economic advisor to then President George W. Bush. He also declined to elaborate further, here:

But now appears the young, high-profile, reputable deficit-hawk from the Wisconsin 1st district agreeing to be the candidate’s running-mate. However among many of his ideological contradictions, how can the current Chairperson of the House Budget Committee who signed off on cutting $331 million in diplomatic security from the 2012 White House budget suddenly agree to promote $2 trillion in increased military spending, over an approximate ten year-period, the amount of which the military is not in fact requesting? (And what sort of ideas might the two have with my portion?)

So, the unbiased and updated math, as far as mid-October: minus-20% tax-rate cut, plus [blank] tax-code adjustment, equals trust that they will create 12 million new jobs.

Whoever does become President obviously must be more hands-on involved with a Congress whose approval-rating over a year ago was 9%. Their rating has averaged roughly in the teens, in every poll, over the past two years. One would think a rating of around 40% would be cause for immediate alarm.

Ultimately, we are all in various ways responsible for not being as better off than we wished by now. And we are, although slowly but surely, collectively better off. We need more honest, mature debate, in general, in order for change to come to as well as from above Congress.

A couple of ideas… There would be much fewer fireworks along the campaign-trail by keeping the other factually in check—more often and far less costly than singularly stumping and advertising, and repeated returns to swing-states, by virtue of thoroughly debating substance. The risk of alienating voters has proven not nearly as distressing as leaders alienating each other.

Second, speaking to what continues to be the main problem every time we assemble like this—gridlock—as it does not seem the following suggestion is really being pursued throughout either chamber right now, might I suggest leaders reaching across the aisle in terms of the old-fashioned gesture of inviting a co-worker over for dinner. Personal aspiration unconsciously, profoundly, and subjectively reflects personal experience. In this country alone, tens of millions are capable of interconnecting on various messaging and internet platforms. Add the Citizens United decision to the universal appeal of celebrity created by reality t-v, to the birth of 24/7 cable-networks and a new wave of individual radio-commentary programs created during the 1990s, and a bent towards disinformation has almost supernaturally compounded. In conjunction with the White House and Congress, we altogether live and communicate in an increasingly depersonalizing and intense time of scrutiny. Some things which reflect the nature of elected leaders’ ‘opposing’ visions desperately need to be illuminated but only confided in a non-political setting. No cameras or media-alerts to inhibit any public whiff of a power-struggle or ‘political stunt’—just a breaking of bread between intelligent public servants to amicably deconstruct one another’s vision.

No person likes having their convictions shunned, snubbed, scorned, or depersonalized—and the grudge can be lasting, thus making the inclination for conservative constituents and poor people alike to feel these effects only worse for everyone. I want to believe every aspiring or elected public servant to have decent intentions.

What is acceptable philosophy for a few is obviously not mathematically possible for all. According to a report by the impartial Economic Policy Institute (“CEO pay and the top 1%”, May 2, 2012), “Using an alternative measure of CEO compensation that includes the value of stock options exercised in a given year, CEOs earned 20.1 times more than typical workers in 1965, 383.4 times more in 2000, and 231.0 times more in 2011.” These U.S. ratios are still ridiculously above those of other developed nations. Meanwhile, the average worker’s salary—adjusted for inflation—has risen barely if at all since 1979.

Hard to imagine that about fifty years ago the middle-class made up about 90% of the American public, the compensation-ratio was much more reasonable, and America prided itself more on fairness. And, to quote James Madison: “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” It always pauses my breath to think, staring at what he later estimated to be 1-and-3 or even odds at potential armageddon, with two post-WWII military superpowers not helping by pushing each other’s buttons (for lack of a better term) in an accelerating, fate-riddled storm of fear, loathing, high anxiety, and suspicions of weakness on his part over a particularly intense thirteen days, the Commander-in-Chief held to the will of good men. And the sun came up the next day. The strains of war’s profound and in many ways unpayable debts need to be foreseen, prevented, and resolved far less expensively than as of late. Certainly we can apply a sense of fiscal responsibility to a jobs bill for veterans relative to our two unpaid wars.

Conventional wisdom, and the fact that life’s ideas can only regenerate themselves in a forward process shows that if one extreme pushes one way then the other will push back. And so on and so on… This is called, simply put, reactionary thinking—a persistent problem with youth. We still like to tout ourselves as a young country in every practical way. We are very idealistic but do not know how to properly explain ourselves, get impatient with trying, and secretly wish we could all live like we were in our twenties. For as much as we are obsessed with youth, we are obsessed with remedying the past.

Nothing is more crucial to a community’s enrichment than greater liberty and wherewithal to bounce ideas off of like-minded others in healthy, furtive, and organized settings; to organize, build, and/or invest in brighter outlets rather than blindly churn along in the cynical cogs of personal, philosophical, and/or professional isolation. We all develop a sort of multi-layered cynicism over time—which doesn’t age as we age—invariably shaped by our respective family legacies. And by respecting/delving into these legacies to advance our individual futures it is obviously important to not advance the cynicism. Then, opportunity creates itself, for nothing less would be expected.

Empowered minds shape the conversation and very easily shift the concentration of power. People who claim to dislike politics ought to be more involved for this very reason. The strange homogeny of neoconservative economic practice and fiscal conservative poetry has more than significantly reshaped our political discussion. But shifting the conversation to something sane again, and keeping it there, is—although slowly but surely—happening.


Outside of yourselves.

Before reacting.

The more we all know, the less expensive things will continue to be. This is the so-called Information Age, with technology continually striving to make things more accessible for everyone. So, try to seek it responsibly—especially during an election-year.

But as I alluded to earlier and pervasively throughout, in a Presidential campaign centered predominantly in terms of jobs and money; its impossibly interconnected nuances, what sacrifices will have to be made as for whether a more faith-based or more pragmatic vision gets elected, and how every person campaigning is in some way influenced by the overall billions donated—spurned by the desperate disinformation, knucklehead distractions, and genuine sins of omission, a still relatively well-informed person can still end up feeling like a stranger uncomfortable to intervene with a couple arguing over: money. …It was only natural. But, here is where we rely on knowledge of the fundamental differences, how they have been applied in recent history as well as how they have been reflected in this campaign, as to who will more likely acknowledge and confront the other related matters: campaign-finance reform, climate change, equal pay, crumbling schools, gun-control, foreign policy, among pertinent others depending upon who you ask.

Perhaps to some I sound more socialist than capitalist, or more liberal than conservative. But such labels are irrelevant. Generally, unattainable perfection plus a desire to atone through possession equals any a self-destructive corruptibility. There is plenty of money to go around yet what helps make this world go ‘round requires a collective growing-up. If ever asked to label myself, the term practical progressive is really just a misnomer for a person looking to both personally and socially catch up with all things humane.