October 4, 2003

By Michael Strickland

It's Not the Economy, Stupid

The white-hot political scene here in California will cool down next week, after Tuesday's election. But with a presidential election just a year away, things will not stay quiet for long. Already, Democrats aspiring to replace President Bush in the White House have started slinging mud and talking trash. They're seizing on every dime-store drama and shadow of a scandal like it's Watergate Revisited. And it's only going to get worse.

One of the foremost issues to serve as a lightning rod in any election year is the economy. And with the U.S. economy (as well as local economies) limping out of one of the worst periods since the Great Depression, this election year is no exception. President Bush has already begun to receive the slings and arrows of blame for the recessionary times of the past two years. As President Clinton took the credit for the boom of the late nineties, so President Bush is assigned the responsibility for the downturn of the new millennium.

This is how it always works, and I'm sick of it. I hope my fellow Americans are similarly fed up. How many people honestly believe that the person sitting in the Oval Office has a significant effect on the state of the economy? The answer, I fear, is "too many." Sure, most presidents have specific agendas for improving a bad economy, or keeping a good economy strong. But whatever effect they exert upon the economic well-being of the country is surely long-term. President Bush, therefore, is no more responsible for the recent recession as President Clinton was for the expansion of the nineties. Such arguments are tailor-made for ignorant voters who make their choices in the polling booth based on sound bites.

Unfortunately, Democrats are not the only ones guilty of such faulty logic. They pumped up President Clinton by giving him credit for the boom of the nineties, and now try to bring down President Bush by blaming him for the bust that followed. But in the current recall election here in California, Republicans have used the same fuzzy logic to try to bring down Governor Davis. True, Davis has done plenty to affect the economy here in California, but in my opinion, the state primarily suffers from the same economic malaise which has struck the rest of the country. If the downturn in California is due to one person, who's to blame? Davis or Bush? I guess the answer depends on the political affiliation of the person you ask, but the likely answer is neither. Credit for the boom of the nineties should probably go to President Reagan, whose seeds of "Reaganomics" bore fruit long after he left office. Blame for the subsequent bubble-burst is best assigned to the millions of investors who bought into an artificially inflated market—and should have known better. Only a blind idiot or a hardcore gambler would pour money into a company called Nobusinessplanbutaflashywebsite.com and expect to make a sizeable return on his or her investment over the long term.

My basic premise is this: in an election, there are plenty of valid issues by which to judge the incumbent and candidates. But the state of the economy is not one of them. A chemical company may be charged with polluting, but you don't blame it for the ozone hole or global warming. A gross polluter may contribute to such environmental problems, but does not bear the sole blame for them. Any accusation of such is erroneous, as is any charge that the incumbent president (or governor) is to blame for a bad economy. Such barbs are strictly intended as sound bites, so ignore them when you hear them—unless you use such biased claims to choose whom to vote for.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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October Columns:

10/31: Halloween's History
10/30: Good GDP, Still No Jobs
10/29: Disaster
10/27: Ash Monday
10/26: En Fuego
10/25: Diving in the Desert
10/24: Dead Car Canyon
10/23: Reflections
10/21: Le Métro
10/20: Pain
10/17: Jury Duty
10/15: Labor Pains
10/14: The Business of Losing
10/13: Owls and Jobs
10/12: Hooked
10/11: The "S" in SUV
10/9: Flee the City
10/8: Sore Losers
10/5: Turkeys
10/4: It's Not the Economy, Stupid
10/2: Focus
10/1: Twenty Years
Previous months in The Archive

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