It’s the economy, stupid…not the President

The title of this post is [a slight variation of] a term coined by the famed Democratic strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, James Carville.  This catchy phrase is now so often repeated in American political discourse that it might possibly unseat the sports cliché, “I just went out there and gave it 110%,” as the most irritating adage I can personally think of.  The point Mr. Carville was making was that Clinton just needed to remind the American public that the economy wasn’t doing so well, and that George Bush (Sr.) also happened to be the current U.S. president.

As everyone in America assuredly knows by now, our economy is very much affected by who our president is.  He’s the final decider, he creates and approves all of the fiscal policies, he creates jobs and wealth, he determines the market interest rates and tax rates, he sets the levels of supply and demand for all products being produced around the globe, he determines who is allowed to sell what, where, and when across every continent on Earth…

“Wait a minute, Mr. No-Name-Blogger, you went off the rails somewhere in there.  That last bit is ridiculous!”

Were you just thinking that, or something like it, when I appeared to be going off-kilter?  Well, sir/madam, if you did, then you probably weren’t thinking it soon enough!  Oh, I was off-kilter alright…right from the very beginning.  There’s a well-kept secret in politics in the United States that has kept the mass public hoodwinked for a very, very long time when it concerns the state of our economy and the president’s role in it: The U.S. President has very little to do with the state of the U.S. economy.  The problem is that the public has been indoctrinated into a ubiquitous belief that presidents are extremely involved in the state of the economy.  We just went through a $2 billion+ presidential election recently, and of course the primary theme of every debate and attack ad was the economy.  Presidential terms live and die by the health of the U.S. economy (or at least they did until Obama was reelected…).

“Romney knows how to create jobs.  Look at the employment rate in Massachusetts!”  (bet you can’t spell that state properly without a spell-checker)

“Romney loves to fire people!”

“Obama knows what it takes to kick-start this economy again!”

“Obama will get this country back on track by making sure everyone’s paying their fair share!”

Oh yes, I heard each one of these as many times as I’ve sneezed in the last 18 months (and I am a recently self-diagnosed nonallergic rhinitis sufferer, by the way), and you can bet that every single time I heard them, my eyes rolled so far back in my head that I could actually see my own spinal cord.  This is a point that I have struggled to make known to as many people as possible for many years.  I even once dated the daughter of a prominent former U.S. ambassador with ties to Bush, Clinton, and Obama, and even she couldn’t grasp the “outrageous” concept that the president doesn’t actually have very much impact on the economy at all.  “That can’t possibly be true!  I’ve never heard that in my life!” she would proclaim.  You bet your behind you haven’t ever heard it before (read: my first blog post — the rich and powerful allow us to see and hear what they want us to see and hear), but that’s certainly no reason why it isn’t still 100% true.  Unless you’re an astronomy enthusiast uber-nerd like me, I bet you also haven’t heard a detailed explanation of precisely what a “magnetar” is.  Doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist.

The media, in their never-ending quest to avoid reporting actual fact rather than whatever the other guy is reporting, have — for generations —  failed to point out the true impact a president has on our economy.  The result has been a great number of Americans who have unfortunately sent in their votes on the basis of what they believe a candidate can do for the economy, and in many cases these voters cared very little or not at all about any other issue.  “The economy, stupid.”  James Carville nailed it, even though his actual intention was simply to perpetuate the stalemate of ignorance gripping our country in this regard.

Allow me to explain precisely, in as many words as humanly possible (I have a penchant for being overly verbose), why you’ve been wrong all your life if you thought your candidate would do anything at all for the economy at any point in your life.  There are five main reasons why the economy is its own untamable beast almost completely severed from the U.S. president:

  1. The Laws of Supply & Demand — You don’t have to be a Harvard-educated economist to know about this one.  It’s the granddaddy of a free market system.  It’s the foundation upon which our entire economy rests.  The health of our economy, which is technically a “mixed market” economy rather than a purely “free market” economy, is first and foremost determined by these two rock-solid economic laws.  They are as tested and proven as is our understanding of the wheel or fire.  There is no other facet of our economy that is as substantially omnipotent as the level of aggregate supply of goods in the U.S. vs. the aggregate demand for those goods.  If there is too much supply for not enough demand, the economy falls.  The same is true of the opposite situation.  It seems simple because it is.  Notice I never mentioned the president anywhere in this paragraph until this sentence…
  2. The Federal Reserve System (The Fed) — Here’s a little nugget of information that you may not know (because no one in the media or the general public ever discusses it): the Fed is not actually a federal government agency.  The Fed is a private banking institution!  I want you to wrap your head around the fact that a private institution is sitting at #2 on my list of things that impact our national (and global) economy.  I’ll discuss why that’s such a big deal in a separate blog post, but believe me, it’s scary.  The Federal Reserve System was created in response to a series of very public panics in the early 20th century with regard to banking practices.  As I’m sure you would agree, I certainly make my best decisions when I’m panicking  (end sarcasm here).  The Fed performs a variety of functions concerning the finances of the U.S. Government, and one of the major ones is determining the prime rate.  The way I just said that actually gives too much credit to the “Fed.”  I make it sound as if some grand institution of many great minds determines such a critical number.  This rate is actually determined by a small board of directors of the Fed (i.e. 12 people), and most of these guys are there not because they’re the greatest economic minds alive, but because they’re rich, powerful bankers and have been direct or family friends for decades (read once again: my blog about the rich and powerful in “…Un-American”).  The prime rate has an immediate and substantial impact on the lending practices of all major institutions in the United States.  Lending practices in turn directly impact the business operations of countless businesses across the country and the globe.  When this rate changes, the economy changes with it, for better or for worse.  Note, again, no presidential inclusion.
  3. Congress – Man do these guys love to argue!  It’s like watching Tyson and Holyfield every day of the week, except pretend that Tyson was still in his prime and not completely crazy.  Congress is full of blowhards who care more about political posturing than making things happen.  There’s only one thing they love more than posturing, and that’s MONEY.  They love this stuff, and by “love,” I mean they love to throw it away (or steal it).  Congress writes every law in existence, every bill, and every measure of every fiscal policy to have ever been implemented.  There’s also no president in sight among this collection of fools (unless you count the vice president, who’s as feckless as Lindsay Lohan’s AA sponsor).  Oh sure, the president signs Congress’ bills into law and can even veto them if he likes, but Congress can still override the veto.  It’s more difficult to override a veto than to simply pass a bill, but ultimately the power to create fiscal policy still entirely rests with Congress, not the executive branch.  As an aside, I’d also like to point out that Congress is also the branch that declares war, not the president.  Everyone who blames the poor economy on George Bush Jr. because of “two wars we couldn’t pay for” (as Obama loves to say) should understand that Bush never declared war on anyone; Congress holds that honorary distinction.  Congress wrote all of the bailouts, all of the tax laws, all of the sanctions, tariffs, and regulations that affect business around the world.  These regulations and taxes have a very potent and direct influence on our economy.  If you don’t like the state of the economy, stop voting for the same man or woman you’ve been voting for in every election for the past 20 years.  Now there’s a thought!  Ok, I admit I mentioned “president” several times in this one, but hey, it was only to further demonstrate what he has nothing to do with.
  4. Corporate America – AT&T, Apple, Google, Verizon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Stryker, and — of possibly most importance — Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, etc.  You may have heard the oft-repeated phrase that most business in America is small business, and that’s true, but lost in translation is that most people in America are actually employed by large businesses (those with 100+ employees).  According to the U.S. Census website (http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html), as of March ’12, 63.5 million people are in small business, and 78.8 million people are employeed by large business.  The decisions that large businesses make in what they will produce, how they will produce it, and who will get those goods (incidentally the 3 primary questions that must be answered in a free/mixed market economy) affect the lives of the majority of the working public, which of course also affect the lives of their family members.  That’s just the surface data.  Those 63.5 million people working for small business also rely heavily on large business in order to even run their small businesses at all.  Your mom & pop shop doesn’t work too well if Edison is no longer supplying your electricity or Time Warner decides to stop supporting internet access in your area, cutting off your internet sales in the process.  The decisions that are made by the leaders of the businesses in America are reliant upon the previous three points I’ve made, and their decisions are the next step in the process that will decide which direction our country goes.  This is particularly true when it comes to the banks and credit agencies.  Because of the way our economic system is designed, lending (and therefore debt) is built right into it.  When these corporations make changes to lending practices, everything else in the economy ripples like the waves in a pond when a Mount Rushmore-sized boulder falls into it.  Now, there are lots and lots of presidents in this particular category, but none of them have “United States” in front of their titles.
  5. The Global Economy – A hundred years ago, the inclusion of this point on this list would be absurd…and so would the notion of posting the list within a “blog” on a contraption that allows anyone in the world to read it at any time of the day instantly, so I think it’s fair to say that times have changed.  The global economy was once a much less noticeable facet of our national economy, but those days are long gone.  Chinese citizens are the ones consuming the majority of American products, not Americans.  The European Union’s banking system influences many of the decisions our own Fed makes on a daily basis.  The U.S. dollar is the world’s currency.  The internet allows goods produced around the world to be delivered around the world, around the clock.  It also allows the media to report news to everyone everywhere at any time, including financially significant news like the European debt crisis or the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating.  The U.S. is absolutely the world’s economical engine, but even the engine can be adversely affected if the transmission goes out.  Full disclosure: I know almost nothing about cars, so if this analogy doesn’t make any sense, pretend I said something poignant and sensical.  You should also pretend that I said nothing about the U.S. president, because I didn’t.
  6. The U.S. President – Finally the man in charge makes an appearance!  I find it shocking that I was able to write ~1500 words about what affects our economy before writing this paragraph while keeping in mind that the media continues to frame every election cycle around the state of the economy.  The president does, in fact, have some measure of impact on the economy…to the extent that he has just a bit more impact than you, the individual, do.  The president is the leader of his political party and often provides the framework for the fiscal policy he’d like to see Congress enact.  For example, Obama has mandated that taxes be raised on the top 2% of earners in America, and it looks like Congress is going to finally follow through on this.  However, this amounts to nothing more than a fairly powerful suggestion to Congress on what they should do about the economy.  Congress of course has the option (and has frequently exercised it) to completely disregard the president’s suggestions.  Beyond these suggestions, the only other thing the president can actually do about the economy is make a boatload of empty promises to a whole heck of a lot of uninformed and easily misguided voters about job creation and economic inspiration.  If he’s a talented enough orator, the president can surely make a country full of believers in the notion that the economy is going to turn itself around, but this is as far as his power goes.  I would actually also rate “blind, dumb luck” and possibly “supernatural forces” tied down here at #6 alongside the president.Having said this, I do want to point out that there actually have been a small number of exceptions to this rule: James Polk with his approach to Manifest Destiny, Franklin Roosevelt with his sweeping social policies of the 20’s and 30’s, and Lyndon Johnson with his Great Society policies.  I would also be willing to make the case for JFK due to his inspirational speeches to the American public to support the space program’s mission to the moon, which helped spur great national pride, economic growth, and innovation by encouraging millions of children to become scientists, engineers, and the like.  However, the underlying cause for America’s push into space and the subsequent effects on our economy were really due to competitiveness with the Soviet Union, not the U.S. president.The aforementioned presidents were so influential with their political idealogies, so great was their influence on Congress, that they were able to push through these wide-ranging policies which had enormous repercussions on the economies of their day as well as the economy today.  However, as noted, their power really only came from their ability to influence or inspire, not to enact.  The actual changes still ultimately came from Congress.

If you’ve read this far, then you should think of all of these things the next time another presidential election cycle rolls around, and just watch and see what the framework of that cycle will be as presented by the media and the candidates.  I can already guarantee you that the economy will be one of the main talking points.  The debate moderators will ask each candidate how they’re going to turn the economy around (if it’s currently bad) or keep it going in the same direction (if it’s currently doing well).  There is no magic secret to how a president is going to “fix” the economy.  He merely has to sit in his chair in the Oval Office and wait.  If the economy does well, he’ll be praised.  If the economy does poorly, he’ll see who he can shift the blame towards.  In either case, he is barely more than a bystander, lucky to be there in good times or unfortunate to be around in times of struggle.

If you hear anything else from anyone, print this blog out and send it to them…also send them a link to my blog so they can follow it.  I want to see that number climb its way above “1”…and I’m pretty sure that’s just my mother who somehow found her way onto my page.

American Elections: So Very…Un-American

The 2012 United States presidential election has just ended, and maybe you’re celebrating because you told everyone you voted for Barack Obama, and your man won!  On the other hand, you may be already in the midst of planning your big move to Canada because you wanted Romney.  Maybe you’re not either of these people, and you actually voted for Roseanne Barr (in which case I believe your right to vote should be rescinded).

There’s one thing that links every one of these voters to each other no matter which candidate’s name they cast a ballot for: none of them ever voted for any candidate, and what’s more, they never had a choice to begin with.

You may be thinking I’m out of my mind at this point.  I’m just some [insert-wing-here] nutcase conspiracy theorist who thinks there’s a Manchurian Candidate in every election.  I am, of course, not quite that crazy.  Having said that, the concept may not be as far from the truth as we’d all like to assume.

I’ll start by explaining my first point–that nobody who thinks they voted for a president ever actually did so.  Yes, you punched your ballot card, or maybe you tapped a computer screen that had your candidate’s name on it, but your vote was meaningless right from the start.  There are actually many reasons why, but for brevity’s sake, I’m going to condense this down to what I feel are the three most important reasons:

  1. Your vote was actually nothing more than a simple suggestion to your state’s electoral college officials, or the people whose votes actually count.  There is no actual federal law that forces electoral college officials to vote the way the public vote turned out, and the state laws governing their voting behavior vary, but almost half of the states in the country do not require electoral officials to actually vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state whatsoever!  They can, in fact, vote for anyone they desire regardless of their state’s choice.  There are some states who give small fines (read: slaps on the wrist) or disqualify “faithless electors” (as they are known) for voting against the public vote.  Crazy, right?  Never happens, you say?  Oh yes it has…187 times in fact.  Now, to be fair, this still constitutes less than 1% of the total number of electoral votes cast in U.S. history, so the practice is indeed rare, and the previously mentioned penalties can certainly provide incentive to vote “properly.”  Ultimately, though, you merely suggested your wishes to a random person in your state who doesn’t know you, doesn’t have any particular sense of loyalty to you, and may even disregard your voice entirely.
  2. Even if you assume your state’s electors will vote honorably, your vote is still worthless if you live in a state with a very low population.  This is because the number of electors needed to win the presidency is 270 (1 more than half of the total available).  Every state gets 2 votes automatically (per U.S. Senator).  This was written into the Constitution on the belief that it would help give a voting voice to those states with lower populations.  Beyond the 2 automatically assigned votes, your state also gets votes that are proportional to your state’s population (or actually your state’s number of House representatives, which is determined by your state’s population).  If you live in Montana, you get a measly 3 total electoral college votes (1 for the size of the population and 2 automatically assigned votes).  How many presidential ads have you Montanians seen in the last century?  None?  There’s a reason for that.  Your vote is meaningless.  They don’t care about your votes because it is rarely going to be the case where a presidency is going to be so close as to be determined by your almost invisible 3 votes.  Why would they care about you, when big bad California with her 55 electoral votes is oh so close by?  Of course, there are no presidential ads playing in California either, and that brings me to my next point…
  3. If you live in any state that isn’t Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, or Wisconsin, your vote is still worthless, even if you assume your electoral college official voted honorably and your state’s total electoral votes are enough to make a difference.  California has 10% of the total available electoral votes, but presidents almost never campaign anywhere near there.  Ask why, and you’ll quickly find out it’s because California will vote for an invading space alien whose stated clear intention is to wipe humans off the planet before it will ever vote for a Republican president, and due to the way our voting system is designed, almost every state in the union (except Maine and Nebraska) has a winner-take-all approach, meaning whoever wins the popular vote in that state gets all of the electoral votes, even if they only won by a single vote.  There’s no reason to campaign in the states who historically vote for the same party in every election, which unfortunately for this country constitutes the majority of the states in general.  The states who actually have shown some oscillation between their chosen parties are called “swing states,” and they are the aforementioned states.  Those are the only states where the votes actually matter, because they have both a large enough number of total votes to make a difference, and they might actually swing towards one party or the other.  If you don’t live in these states, then it doesn’t matter who you supposedly vote for, because your state is going to vote for the same party it always does.  If you’re a Republican in California, I can already tell you that in the 2068 election, California will vote for the Democrat, and your vote for the Republican candidate will be gone with the wind.

Feeling disheartened yet?  I’m not even finished yet!  Because even if you want to believe everything I just said is total malarkey, that you actually are voting for the President, that your state actually does matter, even if it has a low population and isn’t a swing state, then there’s still a minor detail about all elections that you will have to accept: you never had a choice to begin with.  That’s right, you were allowed to send in a little scorecard that told someone out there in the ether who you want to be president, but that’s the extent of your total participation and impact in the election, because, you see, the president was already chosen long before election day…by the campaign strategists, corporate sponsors, and backdoor dealings of the rich and powerful.  Oh, I know, I know…I can hear the catcalls already.  I’m not an Illuminati/New World Order extremist (although it’s interesting that a 7th grader recently found that 43 of the 44 U.S. presidents are all related through King John of England, the man who signed the Magna Carta).  I’m not going to go so far as to say there’s a secret organization out there that is controlling the minds and pulling the strings of everyone on the planet.  However, political “strategists” exist for one reason: they can strategize how to gain the necessary votes!  How could their jobs exist if every person in the country had free will to vote as he or she feels fit?

The strategists, and their affluent campaign donors who finance tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign costs, find the target material and the target audience to attract the votes they need.  This isn’t to say that they’re controlling our minds; I would be more inclined to analogize this to a hypnotist.  Campaign strategists devise a very subtle and suggestive way of influencing voters to vote one way or the other, and the voters won’t even realize it’s happening.  Mitt Romney recently caught some flak for suggesting that Obama granted “gifts” to voters to attract their votes.  While Romney certainly would fail a class in political correctness, what nobody in the media wanted to point out was that he was absolutely correct!  Of course, Romney did the same thing, just not as effectively or to as wide an audience (he focused on helping the rich, who constitute a very small minority of the population).  Obama’s “gifts” were to hold off on tuition hikes (gifts for college kids and their parents), Obamacare (gifts to the elderly and uninsured), his promises to women that he is pro-choice (a gift to an increasingly large number of women), and Obama’s insistence that Arizona requiring people to *gasp* show some I.D. that proves their legal residency in the country should be struck down (gifts for those sympathetic to illegal immigrants…i.e. the Latino community).

I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I either agree or disagree with any one or all of these concepts.  I am making no judgment whatsoever (at least not in this blog post) as to their righteousness or lack thereof.  I am merely pointing out that these are all political stances the President takes not because he actually believes in them, but because there was a political strategist somewhere in his life who sat down with him and told him, “We can get X% of votes in Y state if you say ____.”  It’s the very reason why the stereotype of the flip-flopping politician exists.  If every politician only said what they truly believed and nothing more, they would never be elected.  They would never be able to adapt to the changing whims of the mass public, and the public never votes for a politician who…well let’s face it, the vast majority of voters never vote for a candidate who’s not in their party first of all, but secondly, almost paradoxically, voters will habitually reject any politician who doesn’t practice extreme political correctness.  “Political correctness,” by the way, is a politically correct term for “lie.”

Unfortunately for the mass public, and as a direct result of their voting behavior, politicians will say and do anything that will earn them a vote, including lie.  The end result is that we all choose to vote for someone based on an intricate method of hypnosis they have been conducting on all of us for over a year leading up to an election.  There are many people who voted for Obama in ’08 because they really believed he wanted to shut down the clearly unconstitutional Guantanamo Bay prison as soon as possible, as he promised he would.  Four years later, that prison is still quite operational.  People voted for George Bush Sr. because they honestly believed he would never create new taxes (“Read my lips!”).  Soon after the election, new taxes were surely created.  All of these voters believed they were making a choice; what they were really doing was exactly what they were hypnotically programmed to do long before they ever opened their car door to begin their journey to the ballot box.

And now we’ve arrived at the Illuminati argument that I know you’ve all been thinking I would drop on you, and here it is!  No, I still don’t believe the Illuminati controls all of us, but I want to make it clear to you that your choices for president appear limited because they are!  And in order to have a limit, someone or something must be setting that limit.  Have you ever wondered why there are certain families in American history who seem to dominate all areas of leadership, regardless of generation?  How is it that the Kennedy family continues to wield such power and prestige over American politics long after JFK was assassinated?  How does George Bush Sr. become President, his son also becomes President, his other son becomes a governor (and already there’s talk of him becoming a future presidential candidate), and his grandson has already become a vested and influential figure in local politics by his early twenties?  Why are the Clintons the Democrat version of the Bush family?  How did John Rockefeller have personal ties to every single president to have existed during his time?  Why on Earth do we only hear from two major political parties and almost no others?  Maybe you asked yourself, while you were at that ballot box, why there are suddenly so many names on the ballot for the presidential election who AREN’T named “Obama” or “Romney”?  The answer lies in the fact that the same families continue to hold power in this country because those families, and their friends, control the wealth.  They control who will get enough funding and political clout to continue their political aspirations and who will not.  When the country “elected” George W. Bush to the presidency, they were latecomers.  The oil barons and Wall Street elite of this country had decided decades ago that George Jr. would be sitting in the Oval office one day, and he was guided every step of the way to that seat.  We had absolutely no choice in the matter.  He was going to be our president because those who control the power in the U.S. had deemed it so.

Ask yourself why Millard Fillmore was the last non-Democrat/Republican president to be elected.  How is it that the highest office in the land only has two parties vying for that spot?  Does that seem logical to you?  The most powerful position on the planet only has two political parties who covet its authority?  You don’t hear from the Libertarian party, or the Green party, or the Whig party (which is now defunct as a result of the system I’m about to describe) because the media chooses to focus on the two major parties.  Every once in a while an exceptional 3rd party candidate is heard from sporadically (Ron Paul would be the most recent example), but they get only a fraction of the airtime that the major parties do, and as stated, they have to be exceptional candidates (i.e. actually have a solid base of voters pre-established) to even get that much.  Those rare 3rd party candidates who actually make it onto the national stage are still immediately discredited by major media and are universally recognized as not having any hope whatsoever of getting more than a small percentage of the total vote.  Why?  Why is there an automatic assumption that the winning candidate has to be a Republican or a Democrat?  The answer is very simple, though oh so inconspicuous:  the media, the debates, and the political ads are all owned and controlled by a very select few, and those select few are selecting fewer individuals still whom you, the voter, are allowed to see.

Only the rich and powerful in this country have the money, time, and strategists to truly decide who will be the next president of the U.S; the rest of us are nothing more than witnesses to history.