There was a famous saying, coined by James Carville, during Bill Clinton’s first run for President, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It was Clinton’s focus on George H. W. Bush’s seemingly indifferent attention to economic conditions that many think lead to Clinton’s win over Bush.
Today there are those in the Republican party who think that the road to success in the midterms hinges on focusing on economic conditions, especially inflation. But, societal conditions are different today than they were when Bill Clinton was running.
This series of articles started in the fall of 1991, and as much as I’m addicted to economic education, it may be time to put economics aside, for now, and focus on other problems facing our society, or to reword Carville’s famous campaign slogan, “No stupid, it’s not the economy.”
There are two simple and straightforward reasons why we should not be focusing on economic conditions as we approach the midterm’s elections. The economic problem that most people, both Democrat and Republican admit to, inflation, is not going to be solved by the fiscal policy, regardless which political gains control of Congress. If there is a solution to inflation it’s going to come from the Federal Reserve Bank. The second reason to ignore economic conditions at this time (meaning inflation) is because there are other, long-run and possibility permanent, societal problems that need to be addressed, issues that will be with us long after inflation is a distant memory.
Consider the Republican claim the Biden’s is responsible of our current inflation problem and by extension that they should be allowed to reclaim majorities in both the Senate and House.
Forty-four of 50 Republican Senators and 175 of 213 Republican Representatives have pledged to oppose any and all tax hikes. Income tax hikes can effectively kill inflation, but no Republican Congress would ever do it. Republicans favor spending cuts, but a Biden veto of any reductions in Social Security and Medicare removes that as a policy option.
If Democrats retain both houses, their best option to quickly kill inflation, in the face of Republican opposition to tax hikes, would be to institute serious cuts to Social Security and Medicare spending, something Democrats would never consider let alone President Biden. If we’re going to get inflation under control, it’s going to be the Feds responsibility.
Just like in the early 80s, the Fed will succeed in ending inflation, and there will be no soft landing. At some point interest rates will be raised high enough to seriously dampen product demand. This drop in demand will cause business inventories to rise, leading to layoffs and reductions in output. By definition falling GDP and rising unemployment constitute a recession.
This brings us back to the midterm elections. Our focus should not be on issues that are not only temporary in duration, and for political reasons beyond Congress’ ability to fix. Where we should be focusing our attention on fundamental issues, related to the electoral process, civil rights, and climate change.
The biggest threat we face to our electoral process is the gerrymandering of Congressional districts so that a minority party can control a majority of the legislators in Congress. A secondary threat to the electoral process comes in the form of voter suppression. Even though fraud is rare in our country, there are constant efforts to tighten voter ID requirements. In some states a hunting license is a valid ID for purposes of voting, but not a college photo ID card. All of this violates “One man, one vote” principle that individuals should have equal representation in voting.
The overturning of Roe V. Wade means that women in the US will now be treated as second class citizens. Forcing women to bear children against their wishes is barbaric, something out of the middle ages. By forcing women to delivery against their will, are we not treating women like cattle?
Global warming is causing an historic drought in the West. Melting Arctic ice north of Canada, frequent Category 4 hurricanes in the Southeast, and a rise in the sea level making the odds of a South Florida flood reaching more than 4 feet above a high tide a guarantee by 2050. More than half the population of more than 100 Florida towns and cities lives on land below that 4-foot line.
As a society we’re at a crossroads. We can either focus on minor short-term problems such as gas prices or other economic issues that fade away over time, or we can focus our attention on problems that will have decades, if not a permanent, impact on our political system, our rights as citizens, and the very health of the planet we live on.