After watching both the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, a wonderful cartoon by Gary Larson of the Far Side came to mind.
Under the caption, “What we say to dogs,” a man is pointing his finger at his dog and exclaiming: “Okay Ginger! I’ve had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else!”
Under the caption, “What they hear,” Ginger is looking attentively at her owner. “blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah.”
I can kinda relate to that dog. It’s not that I do not understand the words. I do. I just wonder if they (the politicians who spoke) understand what we might be hearing.
Ok, so here is my take on the politics of the day. Neither presidential candidate, in my opinion, has laid out a detailed plan on what he would do if he were to prevail in the upcoming election. We can listen to all the blah blah, some of which we may actually agree with, but we can only guess where they might take us.
The truth is that no matter who wins, the other side will have a powerful say (translation: blocking action) in the journey ahead. Gridlock rules in the nation’s capital. That certainly has been the playbook of House Republicans, since the election of Barrack Obama. Compromise, a key component of governing, is not and has not been in the lexicon.
With that backdrop, what has happened? Where are we? There is no question that fear, trepidation and uncertainty seems to dog us. We take two steps forward and then one step back.
The markets are doing very well, trading at a near five-year high, and corporate profits are doing very well, indicating that there are strong underpinnings to the economy. And yet 12.5 million Americans remain out of work and millions more are underemployed.
At first blush, the latest jobs report released Friday might sound promising – unemployment dropping from 8.3 percent to 8.1 – but the job growth of 96,000 was actually quite anemic. That’s because another 250,000 people took themselves out of job market. Discouraged, they simply quit looking and took themselves out of picture. Most experts say we need to pick up 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth.
Now this might sound a bit crazy, it might not sound right, but it’s true. We’ve actually had 30 straight months of job growth with 4.6 million jobs created. During that time, about 500,000 manufacturing jobs (which I believe is key to America’s future prosperity) were created, although we lost 15,000 manufacturing jobs in August.
But we all know this election hinges on more than just the numbers. It’s about how we feel, where we are and where we are going. And the fact is that people are frustrated, scared and even angry, which is quite understandable.
You see, the middle class, that great sea of most of us which truly moves the economy, has been under assault for the past 30 years, with declining net worth, stagnant wages, and mortgages under water. But hell’s bells, you knew that. You read.
To that extent, the Romney camp wants to couch the upcoming election in terms of a referendum. Do you feel good or bad about our direction (66 percent of Americans do not believe we are heading in a good direction).
Rather than paint Obama as a foreign socialist in secret league with those who hate America and white people (the Glenn Beck crowd), which turns off independents like me, the Romney campaign now couches their argument in more reasonable terms. Obama is a nice guy, good family man, but he’s just over his head. He doesn’t understand how business works, much less how to grow the economy.
Should the president be re-elected, America is in store for continued high unemployment and stagnant wages, according to Romney.
By the Republican scenario, you are a baseball manager watching your pitcher on the mound and he is not getting the job done by your estimation. He needs to be pulled off the mound to be replaced by a reliever. Mitt is that reliever. He is Mister Fixer.
The Obama camp is playing a defensive game, which is what they have to do. They want this election to hinge on choice. We have shown results, they contend, certainly not the results we had all had hoped for, but our plan is making consistent gains from the economic collapse that took place under the administration of President George W. Bush.
In his speech at the convention, the president gave a very cautious, workman-like speech. It was not a particularly lofty effort. In my view, the best defense came not from Obama but from Bill Clinton, who has an incredible knack of boiling things down to their simplest core.
“In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re- election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this: ‘We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in,’” Clinton said.
“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president, no president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”
Now whichever way you vote, you have to admit ol’ Bill has a powerful argument. With the damage done, with the economy truly on the brink of spiraling into something even much worse than the fire that we survived, could any president have done much better?
Well, that’s your call. I’ll not try to sway you.
When asked by a journalist what grade he would give himself for his first term, the president’s reply was “an incomplete.” No doubt, some of his campaign handlers probably winced with that answer, thinking that he should have given himself an “A” for effort. An incomplete might be pretty accurate, but it’s not a good grade.
A friend of mine, an economic developer in Louisiana, told me that he voted for Obama the last time but will go with Romney this time around. In his opinion, which I respect, the president has not performed as well as he could. My friend believes we need that reliever to come in and save the game.
I am reminded by an analysis that I heard given by a political professional who likened the president to a football coach who can give a wonderful locker room speech to his team but still continues to lose games. Then there is this data and charts technocrat (Romney), awkward, distant, and not so likeable, but maybe, just maybe, there is deep competence there. Maybe Mr. Robot can actually get the job done and get Americans back to work.
As an independent occupying the middle ground, I’m not sure. I’m leaning, mind you, but I remain undecided. The base – from the right and the left – often spew rhetoric that simply turns me off. I want solutions, not demonization of the other side. I want vision for the future and I want results.
From the GOP, I am disdainful of suggestions that the president is somehow un-American, a socialist, and “not one of us,” and a purposeful “destroyer of wealth” as one business school professor once opined to me.
From the Dems, I do not care for this underlying theme, espoused by some, that corporate America is somehow evil. Those are both big turnoffs for me from both parties.
So your all-knowing, sage-like consultant will probably make his final decision after the debates, to which I may give the advantage to Romney, as he is the more experienced debater. We’ll see.
I like the sometimes professorial and yet affable Barrack, and I also see value and even compassion in the CEO Mitt, who would enter the White House with far more executive experience than his predecessor. Both men have their strengths, and the Republic will survive whichever one of them takes the oath of office in January. But there are clear choices to be made as there are big policy differences between the two.
I am in the minority by occupying the middle ground. I’m not in the base of either party. But my group, even if it is relatively small, will be the deciders. The middle, the independents, will choose who occupies the White House come January.
Finally, there is a presiding feeling among many that President Obama is anti-business. I think they say that, believe that, because the president has bandied about some rather reckless terms. Calling certain business people “fat cats” is no way to endear yourself to Wall Street, which is now siding with Romney.
Mort Zuckerman, publisher of US News and World Report and the New York Daily News, has altered his views, a sentiment that seems pervasive in the business community. A one-time supporter of the president, Zuckerman now sees the president as the divider in chief.
“I happen to have been an Obama supporter and the Daily News endorsed him. I will point out something unique to this administration and that is they have absolutely displayed a hostile attitude to business and finance that really is pervasive now in the business community, and I think that really affects the level of confidence and optimism that the business community feels.”
I do not have space to elaborate on Mr. Zuckerman’s views. But in love, war and politics, perception more often than not is reality.
Stay tuned for our continuing national saga.
Dean Barber is the principal of Barber Business Advisors, LLC., a site selection and economic development consulting firm based in Plano, Texas. He can be reached at 972-767-9518 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Please visit our website at www.barberadvisors.com