Exposing a Significant Flaw in Our Democracy

List of constitutions of the United States

More Functional than Blue and Red.

The 2010 election did more than just change the balance of power in the United States.  It also exposed a very significant flaw in our democracy. 

The 2010 election was determined by misinformation, ignorance, and paranoia.  Republicans and their strange Tea Party side kicks ran on themes like “failed stimulus,” “Obamacare and the government take of of health care,” taxes and jobs, loss of “freedom,” and more.  None of these arguments stand up to scrutiny, however, and we have impatiently removed from office politicians who were in fact accomplishing something postive done for most Americans.

It is true that Obama did not turn out to be as aggressive or as persuasive as many people had hoped he would be.  His campaign was more persuasive than his presidency so far.  But Obama is taking a terribly unfair rap.  He has become a symbol of failure he did not create.  Republicans hijacked both failure — failure for which they hold a great deal of responsibility — and success and made both their own leaving Obama the scapegoat.

We have a significant short term jobs and growth crisis in this country caused by the recession.   Tax policy is not going to correct that problem.  Short term deficit spending, money spent directly on needed public works programs, for example, not further tax cuts, would most likely be the correct step.  In fact, almost universally and across political lines, economists — the people who, unlike most Americans and politicians, have been trained and study economics agree that deficits in the short term are not an inherently bad thing right and are a necessary step toward recovery.

The fast learners in China are pumping up their economy and all we do is complain about their “unfair” success.  Very bold of America, I must say.

This “quantitative easing” that everyone is talking about today and few people understand is helping keep the United States out of a deflationary cycle, but it is not enough, especially as the economy begins to turn around, to restore fully our economy. Something like additional stimulus would be needed.

Unfortunately, in an era when the stupid and the poorly informed can influence elections — or worse, win them — smart economic policy is not a high probability.   Our competitive advantage in the global economy has already taken many hits.  Mismanaging our fiscal policy is not going to offer any help.

And this “government takeover” of health care that the Tea Party Zombies irresponsibly spout off is something that even a little cursory common sense should quell managed to become a legitimate argument in political debate.  The right hates health care reform because they fear it will interfere with a free market system, a system that does, in fact, ration care to protect profits.  People have to be denied care — and die — for this system to survive. 

But what has the “takeover” of the health care system done to profits?  It would appear that it has been very good for the industry.  United Health Care in Minnetonka, MN, enjoyed a nice 23% increase in profits last quarter.  Aetna in Hartford, CT, saw profits jump 53% last quarter.  Hardly a bad trend.  But don’t let facts get in the way of campaigns relying on lies and confusion to create fear and frustration.

And that deficit?  Actually down since Obama took office.  Job growth?  Actually increasing since Obama took office.  Even periphery issues in this election, like immigration reform, a favorite of the jingoistic right, Obama has taken a harder line than his predecessor.

So what is it that conservatives don’t like about Obama?  I would say they are racists crybabies, but that would turn off people…unfortunately.  (Again, don’t let the truth get in the way of a problem.)  I don’t think the problem is people hate Obama; that’s a symptom more than a first cause. 

Instead I think the problem is more basic and just as shameful:  People are irresponsibly stupid and poorly informed.   They allow manipulated and misguided emotions steer important decisions.  The result is a significant flaw in our democracy.   Voting is a serious responsibility.  We will only be as good as the people we elect into office and those people reflect the sophistication of the electorate. 

This time around, the typical voter looks pretty weak.  Impatient voters who have tolerated decades of policies that have undermined their own best interests have turned in less than two years on politicians who were at long last once again working to protect their interests.  It’s called things like cognitive dissonance and as long as voters don’t intelligently grasp the issues or make an effort to do so, as long as they are willing to be led like mindless sheep by the shrill voices misleading them, we risk having bad elections.  And last nights was a bad one.


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