Largely due to GOP obstructionism, 2012 will hobble to a close and end the same way it began; with a widening chasm between far-flung perceived economic gloom and the real economic conditions being experienced in the U.S.
Despite growing consumer confidence after President Obama’s resounding victory, it slipped back into uncertainty and frustration in December, in the midst of persistent coverage of the lack of cooperation and hyper partisanship surrounding the looming fiscal cliff. Holiday spending was understandably, albeit disappointingly low-key. Businesses, citing the unresolved negotiations in Washington, put new spending, hiring or investment on hold while hoping the dysfunctional House of Representatives would find a way to do the jobs they were elected to do rather than simply practice obstructionism. The televised media, in search of viewers and the accompanying ad revenue, counted the days, minutes and seconds until we descend the fiscal cliff, or curb, or slope, or whatever the hell they’re calling it today – adding to the anxiety blanketing the general population while The Republicans and their propaganda machine play with the lives and livelihood of real Americans like they were toys to be strewn about or crushed underfoot as if they were day-old Christmas gifts.
Yet, every single gauge of American economic activity has been reflecting a strengthening.
- Stocks are up, depending on the index, anywhere from 8 percent and 14 percent in 2012.
- Gross domestic product has been increasing between 2 to 3 percent a year.
- Unemployment has consistently fallen and was reported at 7.7 percent for November.
- Wages are finally steady rather than falling as they have been since the middle of George W. Bush’s second term even as inflation remains almost non-existent.
- Energy prices have once again receded and America is now exporting more oil than it’s importing for the first time since 1949 because the light, sweet crude that is produced in the U.S. is more profitable to oil companies as exports while the U.S. continues to import foreign oil better suited to U.S. Gulf Coast refiners.
- Home prices, at long last, seem to have bottomed out and begun the slow rise that would help underwater mortgage holders. Debt burdens for American households are now at the lowest level in 29 years, giving the enormous majority of consumers more flexibility in their spending ability.
The Intentional Disconnect
None of this, however, is clear if you tune in to the nightly rhetoric being beamed into our homes from Washington or New York. Pundits, from morning until midnight tell a totally different story about Wall Street and the petulant, spoiled House of Representatives that only worked 129 days in all of 2012. The promises of “Jobs, jobs, jobs” from the 2010 sweeping GOP victories morphed into the 112th Congress in 2012 that voted 33 times to repeal Obamacare, 40 separate bills regarding the renaming of U.S. Post Offices, and numerous attempts to limit the rights of anyone who is not not white, male and rich.
Predictions have us going off the fiscal cliff, even though, according to the Congressional Budget Office, should this occur, the U.S. will descend into a second recession, resulting in higher unemployment and assorted other serious economic and personal disasters.
So, either the successes painstakingly achieved since the Bush 2008 economic collapse will be splattered to smithereens at the bottom of the fiscal cliff or the consequences of that plunge will be much less catastrophic than promulgated by our increasingly skewed broadcast media.
I’m sure that in the netherworld known as the “realm of possibilities”, either could happen, but it’s far less likely than the media or politicians, that would benefit from our fear, would have us believe.
But the CBO isn’t making an indisputably negative case. Even if Republicans in Congress continue their obstructionism and allow absolutely nothing to happen for the entire year to offset the tax hikes and spending cuts that are scheduled to take effect January 1, the CBO forecast calls for a contraction of approximately 1 percent in the first half of 2013. Reading further, however, they calculate 2 percent economic growth in the second half. Projecting further, the economic growth accelerates considerably in 2014 and over a decade, even the worst case scenario will likely reduce the deficit by as much as $10 trillion.
But as usual, the broadcast media, and through them the general population, are so focused on any short-term pain the cliff might produce that the long-term benefits become irrelevant. After all…where are the damn television ratings in that?
I admit, the arbitrary cuts are not the best way to balance the budget. Unemployment benefits not extended will be disastrous for millions of Americans. And the tens of millions of people already stretched to the breaking point will see tax increases and needed government programs will be trimmed.
Yet, as dysfunctional as Washington is, the chance of nothing being done to address this over the next months is close to zero. I can not imagine that even this Congress would welcome the reality of 12 million people with no income whatsoever.
But there are much-needed, nearly impossible to get benefits in the “cliff-o-matic” cuts. Reducing defense spending and raising taxes on the wealthy are measures that need to be passed and would be accomplished by the cliff-dive.
So what is labeled a worst-case scenario, going over the cliff, produces long-term advantages, with its worst features easily remedied.
The Bigger Picture
Globally, Europe will stay stalled in what looks to be a protracted economic contraction and stagnation due to incredibly stubborn and ill-advised austerity measures implemented at the worst possible time. Thankfully it is past the stage that looked like it was about to ignite a global economic meltdown. And Latin America continues to produce one extraordinary success after another.
The most surprising Western Hemisphere success story is Mexico (not that you would hear about it from any U.S. broadcast media). No other country was hit harder by the rise of China in the 1990s. Border cities now broken and left for dead by drug violence, were touted in the 1990s as the factories of America, to be unleashed by the free-trade zone of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those factories ended up being decimated by cheaper alternatives in China.
But now that wages in China have risen so sharply, Mexico is again becoming a regional manufacturing power. It boasts a functional democracy, a rejuvenated new government led by a charismatic young president and a highly educated young population more interested in sensible, pragmatic advancement than the often rigid ideologies and corruptions that used to define Mexico.
And if Mexico prospers, along with undeniably potent, rich and creative Canada, the United States will be a clear beneficiary.
And in the United States, if the obstructionism and regressive GOP policies continue, easy generalizations will continue to be made in politics, in the media and in heated arguments across the country.
That may not make us happy, and many, many people will continue to be ignored by the GOP, although at their own peril. But it is the way things are today. And unless more Americans demand that they be heard, demand that they be considered equal, and demand that they be treated fairly it’s the way that things will stay.
Euclid, the Greek mathematician from 300 BC and considered the “Father of Geometry”, stated in his first common notion that things (or in this case people) who are equal to the same thing (or other people) are by definition equal to each other…and that this notion is self-evident, or evident by simply looking at it.
Self evident. The same way poor Americans should be treated equally as rich ones.
The writers of the Declaration of Independence claimed that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” When the term “self-evident” is used, it means that the human rights require no defense because their virtue is unquestionable.
Self evident truths. A tenet of American values. Equality equals Balance and Fairness. Balance and Fairness equal Justice.
And Justice is what America is supposed to stand for…now, and when the fiscal cliff is just another forgotten memory.