The Economy – A V or a W?

May 26, 2020

First off I am not an economist, although I don’t know which is more of the dismal science – economics or my specialty political science. But if I am not an expert at economics, I do know my alphabet. The good nuns who trained me in penmanship at St. John’s in Milwaukee showed me how to make a proper V and a W, but shied away from explaining supply and demand.

But in this pandemic crisis all of a sudden the alphabet comes into play. Will the economic recovery look like a V – a sharp decline like we are experiencing now followed by a huge uptick, a perfect V. On the other hand the economic recovery could look like a W – a sharp decline, a huge uptick, then another decline ( likely caused by a return of the Covid-19 virus) followed by another uptick ( likely caused by a vaccine to end the threat of the virus).

Not surprisingly, economics and the alphabet intersect with politics. President Trump and his advisers are convinced that the V is the future of capitalism in this country as the uptick begins to take shape during the latter days of the presidential campaign giving the incumbent chief executive an edge over Joe Biden. Even some Democrat strategists are worried about the V as a fast economic rebound is not out of the question.

It you believe in the public health officials and the scientists, a W is more likely in our future – a rebound that is weakened by a return of the virus sending the economy into a second tailspin. A second uptick could occur but that would not come until well into 2021. President Trump dreads the W and the Democrats silently agree that the chances of Joe Biden taking the golden ring of the White House would be enhanced by the W.

Of course economists just like political scientists have no grand predictive powers about the future of the economy, but winning the presidential election is likely based on whether we are in store for a V or a W recovery. It would be great if our great engine of capitalism in the United States would take us toward another skyrocketing economic boom in a matter of a few months, but there are just too many unknowns about how the Covid-19 will act, how Americans will join together to defeat the virus, and how our political leaders will respond to the public health crisis. The virus remains in control of our fate as a people, but the election of our president is dependent in large part on two letters – V or W.

Political Slogans for 2020

February 11, 2020

Unless you have been living on an island somewhere, it is safe to say that just about everyone with even an ounce of politics in their bloodstream knows that the Trump slogan for his 2016 and now 2020 campaign will be “Make America Great Again”. It worked in 2016 and is front and center this year. As for the front running Democratic candidates their slogans are not terribly memorable, and of course they are not emblazoned on a red sports hat.

Bernie Sanders may have the shortest slogan – “Not me. Us” – which captures his view that all Americans must join together to change not just the administration but the country.

Pete Buttigieg has a much longer and kind of bland slogan – “It’s time for a new generation of American leadership”. While his supporters likely agree that a younger candidate in a field of oldsters is the key to transforming America, this slogan is hard to remember and would be difficult to fit on a bumper sticker.

Elizabeth Warren is all over the place with slogans – ” Persist”, Dream Big, Fight Hard” and the unofficial slogan, ” I Have a Plan for That”. The “Dream Big, Fight Hard” slogan is kind of catchy and befits the tenor of her campaign, but her declining support might require more fighting hard,  and less dreaming big.

Then there is Amy Klobuchar who has one of those roll up our sleeves slogans – ‘Let’s Get To Work.” While short and simple, the slogan doesn’t really tell people what the “Work” is and how her supporters are to direct their work energies. Still not a bad counterweight to Trump’s “Make America Great Again.”

Then there is Andrew Yang’s “Humanity First”  and Tulsi Gabbard’s “Lead with Love” – both a little too esoteric for my tastes, and clearly not likely to catch the voter’s attention.

I haven’t forgotten Joe Biden’s “No Malarkey”, which unless you are a senior citizen has no meaning whatsoever. In today’s lexicon malarkey could mean ” no bull***t or perhaps “No lies” or for those with a fear of the Russians ” No disinformation.” No matter what the interpretation the “No Malarkey” slogan has kind of disappeared from view to be replaced with ” Our best days still lie ahead. This is America. We are America, second to none. Anything is possible.” Try putting that on a bumper or a blue hat.

Finally, there is Mike Bloomberg’s ” Fighting for Our Future”, short and to the point in the Elizabeth Warren mode. Voters often like a fighter running for office, but unlike Warren, Bloomberg doesn’t accent dreams or elaborate plans, just his record and his willingness to tough it out with Trump.This could be the slogan of the Democrats in 2020.

In thinking about political slogans I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s classic slogan against Jimmy Carter during a critical debate – Are You Better Off Now than Four Years Ago?” Reagan got people thinking about how the four years of Carter created higher unemployment, inflation, skyrocketing interest rates and a slow down in the national economy. He crushed Carter in the national election.

The Democrats of 2020 would not touch this line with a ten foot pole as Trump has all the answers to that question, although in the last four years it is accurate to state that not every American is better off under the Trump presidency in terms of take home pay, health care costs, bankruptcies in the heartland, and growing income inequality as the rich get richer, while the working class is living paycheck to paycheck. Nevertheless, “Making America Great Again” carries a simple message of renewed power and reputation and an end to the perceived arrogance of the liberal elite. It just might work again.


What’s Wrong With Saying I Am Sorry?

April 8, 2019

Unfortunately, we live in an age in which politicians on all levels, and in particular on the national stage are adverse to admitting wrong and following through with a public apology. Whether it’s Joe Biden touching women who don’t want to be touched or Donald Trump refusing to say he is wrong and then lying about it, the moral code of just saying “I’m sorry” is sadly in decline.

Most of this refusal to apologize is born of enormous ego trips and perhaps in Trump’s case a psychological defect, but it would be refreshing if political leaders just climbed down from their high horse and admit that they were wrong on a public policy issue or a behavior pattern. We are living in a time when too many Americans take their cues from political elites and just stonewall their response to a problem or personal defect. Yet, there are still countless examples from daily life where we humble ourselves and say “I’m sorry.” Husbands and wives end a fight with I’m sorry;  children run to their parents after some minor dispute and say I’m sorry; members of a church community are often advised by their pastors to say I’m sorry ( the Catholic Church calls it reconciliation); and neighbors often end a petty disagreement with a handshake and an apology.

But not in Washington.  What replaces the apology is the blame game – the political opponent or partisan group that challenges a leader for a miscue is instead characterized as at fault and the spin agents enter the fray and provide the media with all kinds of excuses for just saying ” I’m sorry.” No apology just theatrics. This refusal to apologize for an obvious error in judgment or outright lie is one of the contributing factors in our political malaise. Telling the truth is downgraded and admitting wrongdoing is a political strategy to be avoided at all costs. You would think that political leaders who want to win elections or hold onto power would just try out the truth/apology model and regain the trust of voters with an old fashioned tactic. Certainly President Trump has championed the no apology strategy but Democrats are no better, especially the army of candidates for the White House in 2020.

There is a lot of work that has to be done in order to get this country and its political culture back on track to moral and ethical normalcy, but a good start would be for politicians to simply say  I’m sorry.” I know its risky these days, but it is worth a try.