There are three big economic tasks we need Washington to accomplish: avert the $700 billion “fiscal cliff” error created by Congress and the White House; set the national debt on a downward glide path; and restore normal incentives for American businesses to invest and hire. The American public says these problems are of high importance. If Washington ignores the fiscal cliff it will push all Americans into another recession without curing any of the nation’s long-term economic ills.
Everyone except for federal politicians is focused on the gravity of the $700 billion fiscal cliff. Instead of focusing on serious challenges, our elected narcissists devote themselves to narratives of blame woven from budget details and character assassination. Recitation of these talking points may reassure the party base of a politician’s credentials but it halts others’ willingness to listen. We’re also fatigued by self-righteous sermons from the political scientists, busy-body preachers, one–sided TV channels, movie actors, and camera hounds. Their divisive rants improve nothing and cultivate resentment. Instead of addressing the challenges, our elected representatives amuse themselves by convincing voters what a degenerate their opponent is.
The nation has the expertise to fix the budget and restore incentives for businesses to expand and hire. But we lack a leader with a compelling vision of where we should head. Byproducts of the vision must include revitalizing our economy and rebuilding a future for our children. After all, it’s not budget audit reports that motivate – it’s vision that motivates. President Kennedy found that “putting a man on the moon” revitalized the economy far better than blaming Ike for the humiliation of Maj. Yuri Gagarin. President Reagan found that focus on winning the Cold War was more effective for the economy than harping on Carter and the Misery Index. Without a compelling vision, our class-resentments continue to dominate emotions.
As a nation, our ties are deeper than the federal budget. Among our shared hopes and dreams, any moderately-brave politician can find the ingredients of a compelling vision that will persuade us to admit to our shared future. If we don’t embrace a shared destiny, we won’t be ready for the moderate austerity that allows for long term growth and fiscal sanity.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Colorado and who focuses on public policy from the consumer’s perspective.