Elections will mean no changes for economy

Jason Cuevas, Clarion Staff Writer

In case the Occupy Wall Street protests haven’t clued you in, there’s a bit of an economic problem going on in this country. Technically we have been experiencing growth, but it’s creeping at such a slow rate that it is barely noticeable. Unemployment remains very high with no signs of an increase in hiring. So, why is almost nothing being done?

The reason the government is passing nothing is because of democracy. I know – it’s the best part of being American. We’re a free country. We have a government by the people, for the people. The problem is that elections have now made our current government leaders gutless.

Let’s look at what the two political parties in our country have offered up lately. The Republican’s most recent job package contained the usual suspects seen in any of their economic packages. You have some business tax cuts, curbing back regulations, reducing the debt and drilling for more oil.

The effect of any of these proposals is certainly debatable. There is a solid argument that none of those things will bring jobs quickly, or even at all. Nothing in the bill will be giving someone a job next month and none of them will bring us anywhere near pre-recession levels of employment.

The reason for this seems clear. Republicans have no desire for the economy to actually get better before the election. Their proposal would score a few points with their banking and energy donors. Also, the Tea Party loves any kind of government cuts, leaving Obama and the Democrats with the anchor of a bad economy while trying to paddle down the river of the next election.

There is no political benefit for Republicans in improving the economy. If they pass something with Democrats then Obama gets the credit of a better economy and the ability to get results from a divided government. The Republican’s best chance in the next election is for the economy to still be in a poor state. The fact that an election is coming up actually makes politicians not want to make things better for the people.

On the other hand we have the Democrat’s jobs bill. It has a couple of nice proposals to keep teachers and emergency first responders employed. The reality is that it’s pretty thin on immediate job creation itself, though it would add about 1.9 million jobs. Unfortunately, we need about seven times that to get back to pre-recession levels.

It’s frustrating that the current administration does not seem to understand the extreme scope of the current unemployment crisis. What’s more disturbing is the manner in which it was presented.

The president came out and immediately demanded that his entire jobs package be passed with none of it being broken up. With Republicans having control of the house and a filibuster-proof majority needed to pass almost any major legislation in the senate, there wasn’t even a small chance this would happen. It’s political theater.

You can’t deny that it’s politically advantageous to try and point out that the Republicans don’t really want the economy to get better before the election, but in doing so you’re wasting time. While 1.9 million jobs may not be all that we need, it would still help. Time would be better spent actually creating jobs as opposed to uselessly puffing out their chests to each other.

If splitting a bill into parts is the only way to get an up or down vote on legislation, then do it. It seems that this will now be the path, but why did it take weeks of nonsense to get to that obvious place? Good leadership would realize we have a crisis and devote its time to immediate action. Instead we have two parties trying to sell us snake oil.

There are things that could actually turn this economy around. A real jobs stimulus program focused on construction projects. We have schools, roads, bridges and rail systems that are falling apart. Let’s fix them.

The problem for politicians is that this would be a bold action. Big time money would be spent. Some tough financial choices would have to be made. For all the words about big action that politicians throw out, none of them want to actually do big action during election time.

Action means explanations and details, and answering to constituents. We have created a system where the safest thing for our leaders to do is keep the status quo, even if that status quo is hurting all of us. Instead of election time making politicians work harder than ever to do the best for the country, they do their best to have no bills to explain while campaigning instead.

We have accepted a sound bite political news world that makes changing your mind about something a political fault. If you suggest bold reforms, you are out of the mainstream. If you want the government to help, you’re a socialist, which apparently is spooky. Everyone is too afraid of the repercussions to actually do anything.

Until we actually use our elections to put those in office that might make mistakes but are at least willing to take action, we can continue to expect our economic outlook to be exactly the same as it has been.