U.S. Presidential Options

March 19, 2012

The president of the United States after January 19, 2013 will be Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, or none of the above.  Voters will decide the answer in less than eight months, but the manipulation of opinion by special interest money is so sophisticated these days that the choice arguably will be akin to that by a hypnotized electorate.  The three identified people offer widely different visions of U.S. capitalism and U.S culture.

The U.S. economy is unlikely to perform decently at the start of the next presidential term, and signs of struggle may be widespread at the time of this year’s election.  Due to a changing situation, It will be difficult for the winner to implement whatever is promised during the heat of the campaign.  Economic policy will be in response mode, dictated by events rather than a premeditated agenda.  The main legacy of the next president is therefore apt to be in areas other than the economy.  Given the 5-4 continental divide on the Supreme Court, it is in behavior affected by the decisions of the third branch of government that the greatest impact of this year’s election is likely to be felt.  That’s not to say that economic matters are insulated from the election’s result, only that the channel of influence may be different from what is generally anticipated.

Mitt Romney is being marketed as “an economic heavyweight” in a field of lightweights.  This depiction is projected in what the campaign asserts verbally and in the visual photo opportunities.  Pick up any newspaper each day, and one sees Mitt, microphone in hand and elevated above a crowd beneath.  He already is on a pedestal set apart and above lesser mortals.  One might even imagine a subtext imploring a return to monarchy.  The message is that who but a successful businessman is right for America at this time of broken capitalism? 

Assuming that is a fair assertion, one could still question if Romney is the best fit.  Why not draft Michael Bloomberg, who is roughly 100 times richer than Romney and a leader who has made a smoother transition than Mitt from business chief executive to political consensus driver.  Why not Tim Cook, Steve Job’s appointed successor at America’s most extraordinary business success of the past twenty years?  The point is that few Americans knew anything about Mitt Romney, the businessman, when he was cast in that role.  His entitlement to the presidency is based on second-hand knowledge.  Bloomberg, Jobs and Cook became household legends while still businessmen, not after they played that part.

A more pertinent question to ask is if good businessmen make good political leaders, and the evidence on that is mixed to poor.  The Great Depression began and was badly mishandled under the government of a former highly successful businessman of his day.  George W. Bush on whose watch after over six years in command the current crisis erupted was a former oil executive, baseball club owner and governor of a state much larger than Massachusetts. These precedents do not inspire confidence that Romney is the right man to lead America at this moment in time.  And then there’s the matter of integrity, having a consistent core of beliefs through time.  Even Romney’s claim to have created thousands of jobs is shrouded in doubt.  Along the way to creative destruction, he took enough jobs from people that sceptics wonder if he’s more like the person who might fire them than the one who’ll help get them employed.

This is where former Senator Santorum offers an alternative.  For him, the economy will have to be addressed, but that’s not his top priority.  Rather, it’s promoting the culture that he believes made America the greatest power of the 20th century.  Without that prerequisite, no modification of fiscal, monetary, and regulatory policy will suffice.  Alas, the problem with Rick is that many Americans disagree strongly with his belief system.  His appeal is strongest in former confederate states whose allegiance to a united republic, not a twice-failed confederation of states, is still suspect.  Santorum is anti-science, denying in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, that global warming is a hoax.  It’s unlikely that such a person would promote  needed human capital and other  infrastructure repairs that will be vital to keeping America competitive in the 21st century.  Santorum rejects the theory of evolution but belongs to a party that practices Darwinian capitalism as a core principle.

Obama has the advantage of incumbency, if that can even be called advantageous amid so many problems to be solved.  He came to the job without ample training, just two years removed from the Illinois state senate when he declared his initial candidacy.  Obama won the first time on charisma.  A second term will need voters, who have understandable misgivings about the past 3-1/2 years to nonetheless not seek a change because they distrust of the ability, integrity, and financial patrons of the Republican alternatives even more.  

All this raises the possibility of a brokered Republican convention, or a third party.  It’s been a long time since America found its leadership this way, but there were plenty of good precedents if one looks back far enough.  Maybe it’s time to reach back to this old political tradition, the brokered convention.

Copyright 2012, Larry Greenberg.  All rights reserved.  No secondary distribution without express permission.



One Response to “U.S. Presidential Options”

  1. nicolai says:

    To what extent can a President actually have an effective economic strategy?

    With the deregulation of finance and the advent of financial innovations, the last few crisis of capital have ended, with jobless recoveries. We have also seen a drastic increase in the world labor supply (population increase of ~4 billion over the last 40 years).

    As Bill Clinton took office he is quoted as saying, “you mean to tell me the effectiveness of my economic plan and my re-election hinges on the Fed and a bunch of f#%king bond-traders.”
    The depth of power that capital has over both parties has rendered them completely useless to dealing with moneyed power since the 80s. Clinton caved to the bond traders… L. Summers even violently opposed regulating finance as Clinton’s T.S. To say that G.W. Bush gave tax breaks to the rich because he liked them or for their re-election support seems too simplistic. And then Obama extended the breaks.

    Any third party candidate claiming to reign in capital or even re-orient the tax structure to invest in public works and global competitiveness would be dead in the water given the lack of media coverage and as you noted, special interest.

    I know my original question is broad, but without reorienting tax structure to be more progressive and reigning in finance, I don’t foresee a President capable of an economic recovery that isn’t jobless.