In one of my regularly scheduled meetings with a client, he spent the majority of our allotted time lamenting the election results. Perhaps our time spent on the subject was lengthened because my view is markedly different.
Although I am not a big Obama fan, neither am I a Romney fan either.
Instead, I find the average well-educated American, like my client fails to look at the root causes of the problem. For my client — and I hear this often from other well-educated Americans, there is somehow a great conflict in America over what we are entitled to.
Depending on what side you are on, either the country owes everyone something, some minimum amount of support, or it doesn’t owe anyone anything and you get yours by your drive to make something of yourself. On one side are the Obamaites and the other side the Romneyites.
My view is that this philosophical argument is neither the essence of The Problem America finds itself in, nor will any amount of work on resolving it produce a better result.
Growing up in America in the 50′s and 60′s, my father was a history buff. Having taught American History in High School before he entered the Sales Profession, every night my Dad would sit in the living room after dinner and read history books. He went through all the classic series on history — big thick, small-type masterpieces.
From watching him, and from having taken honors Social Studies in High School, I too, developed a love for history. I learned that there are two types of records of history: one was secondary source material, what someone wrote about the period and the other was primary source material, what was written at the time by the people who were making history. Both could be colored, but primary sources were more reliable to see what had really happened.
Going back to my conversation with my friend, I told him that in my view a number of decisions were made in the last 20-50 years that have created the situation America finds itself in. Each of these decisions was made at the highest level of leadership.
The Value of Reading American Presidents’ Farewell Addresses
One of my favorite things is reading the Farewell Addresses of American Presidents. I think if there’s ever a moment when a man as the President of the United States sees himself as free from the pressures of politics, where he can speak candidly and with an eye toward how he will be seen in history, it is his Farewell Address.
In 1961, Dwight D Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States gave his Farewell Address. Eisenhower became President after World War II. America was the undisputed industrial engine of the world. Its factories had been untouched by the destruction Europe’s had experienced. It was a great time to be an American President.
Watch Eisenhower’s speech, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY he warns his fellow citizens to be vigilant against what he calls the “Military-Industrial Complex.” When big money is being spent, there is a natural tendency to want more spent by the leadership of those military industrial companies. This chart shows a constantly rising series of higher highs and higher lows.
My friend said, but America is the world’s policeman, it is her role. I would suggest that this is an assumption that has neither been tested nor can be proved. No international election was held by the people of the world to elect America as the world’s policeman.
I think that a large military causes pushback from others. The more you attack, the more they attack back. I have lived for many years in Israel, so I have no illusions. There are people out there that want to do me harm, however Israelis constantly debate the need to find a way to modify the equation and to use less force when possible.
I am no peacenik, however I think America’s role as the world policeman costs it, it unbalances its budget and becomes an inevitable arms race between whoever it is opposing.
I would suggest, as well, that if America were to reinstitute the draft, it will receive tremendous social benefits from having such a large military budget. No one wants to think that their children will be called to war; however there is much truth to the adage that being in the military will “make a man out of you.” Military service should be mandatory for both men and women with provisions made for conscientious objectors to do national service.
Breaking down trade tariffs
In 1992 Ross Perot ran for President as an independent. Both the traditional Republicans and Democratic candidate where favoring a policy of eliminating trade tariffs. They said that eliminating trade barriers would create an era of prosperity.
Perot, a very successful self-made businessman opposed taking down the barriers. He said that within 18 years of taking down the barriers unemployment would skyrocket in the U.S.
He asked why would America, the world’s largest most affluent market want to remove its trade barriers? As a businessman it made no sense to him and he explains in this short segment who is pushing for taking them down (lobbyists) and who these lobbyists are (former Presidents who at the time were making $30,000 a month after leaving office and today make $3,000,000 a month.)
You can watch the YouTube of the Presidential Debate here: http://youtu.be/Rkgx1C_S6ls
Bailouts and Banks
Obama entered office at the time of the greatest financial meltdown in history. Highly leveraged financial instruments had become a popular trading instruments and huge fortunes where being made (and lost) by placing bets on them. Banks became involved in this trading and found themselves on the wrong side of the bet.
After the $2 Trillion bank bailout while unemployment among the average American was rising, bank executives paid themselves $32.6 Billion in bonuses http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aHURVoSUqpho
After the Great Depression of 1929, laws were put in place to prevent banks from engaging in trading leveraged instruments. The law, Glass-Steagall Act, required banks to act conservatively in order to prevent the kind of profit-chasing frenzy that had been one of the causes of the crash.
Neither candidate has expressed the slightest opposition to bank bailouts, the need to reinstitute Glass-Steagall, or for that matter the need to limit compensation for lobbying by former US Presidents.
Until Americans learn to ask the right questions I predict it will be more of the same. Sad.