Today is without a doubt the foggiest, most chaotic election day in my longer-than-I care-to admit life. Who to vote for and why is anything but clear for most Evolving Excellence readers, especially if the driving issue is economics, or for what is best for American manufacturing and the American economy. As Tom Hanks said in Saving Private Ryan, "We have crossed some strange boundary here. The world has taken a turn for the surreal." The problem is that the old theories and prevailing wisdoms have just about all turned out to be wrong.
Obama and the Democrats have done a masterful job of demonstrating the hollowness of the old Keynsian 'let the government do it' school of thought, while the Chinese and Wall Street have jointly demonstrated that the free market, no rules philosophy is a train wreck for the USA when other countries use economic policy as a predatory extension of their political agenda. The Democrats and Republicans built their agendas around differing ideas of how to split up the great wealth pie, with the Dems advocating for giving it all to labor, and the GOP'ers urging that it should go to capital – increasingly meaningless arguments when the central issue is a frighteningly smaller pie for everyone. It is quite obvious that, while both sides are skilled at divvying up the pie, neither has any idea how to bake a bigger and better one.
Is the Tea Party the answer? The Tea Party is a myth – an illusion. It is not a party with a core ideaolgy, but a disparate collection of folks whose unifying issue is collective dissatisfaction with the status quo. Some Tea Party candidates seem to make a lot of sense, while others are unqualified to run a lemonade stand, let alone the United States.
So who has the answers? No one, really. On this side of Hanks' "strange boundary" new ideas and new philosophies will emerge and the next Congress and the next Senate will have to figure them out. So who to vote for? I tend to fall back on sports analogies, as weak as they sometimes are.
The powers that be at Notre Dame and Michigan are a lot like the voters who backed Obama – they fell for the idea that gimmicks and complicated schemes and trickery would yield quick, easy success. While coaches Kelly and Rodriguez create occasional flashes of excitement, they field teams woefully lacking in fundamental execution – blocking and tackling – the boring, detailed hard work that makes football teams good and sometimes great. In like manner, multi-thousand page stimulus packages, compoicated environmental schemes, and health care processes with hundreds of new agencies and decision points can be alluring, but they are no more a formula for what ails the US than a new playbook with more trickery is the answer for Michigan's inability to beat Ohio State.
Whatever the answer is for the US economy, it will most certainly entail hard work – and my advice is to try to identify the candidate on your ballot who acknowledges that basic fact. Whether it is in your country, your state, your city, your business or your home, if the economy is broken the only solution is to spend as little as you can and work as hard as you can. The deeper the hole the longer and harder you have to work to get out of it. The wider the gap between income and expense the more austere you will have to live to get out of debt.
I say you vote for whoever you think is most willing to tell you and everyone else what you don't want to hear. Vote for the guy who says that Washington – and you – are going to have to spend a lot less money; and the guy who acknowledges that it is going to take a long time to fix things … if such a person exists. Most important, vote against anyone who tries to tell you the old rules still apply, and that either government or Wall Street has all the answers. And vote against any candidate who is promising you a quick, painless fix.