The Underlying Issue of the 2012 Campaign
Lost amid the fiction-based stage play that is the Obama re-election campaign and the contentious Republican nomination battle that has been focused solely on the personal destruction of various candidates is the failure to address the underlying factors that have created the ever-growing angst among the American people.
The majority of the people know based on their day-to-day experiences that the United States is no longer the nation it once was and that those they relied upon to lead the country have failed them regardless of party affiliation. They are part of a shrinking middle class and an economy that no longer creates high-paying jobs and upward mobility. They see a future overwhelmed by unimaginable debt while a few at the top of the new American caste structure have exclusive access to a political system which benefits them greatly.
While the Republican Party downplays it and the Democratic Party exploits it for political gain, there is no denying that the level of inequality and tension amid the income groups is greater than ever before. If income is relatively evenly distributed and there are not overwhelming differences between the rich and the middle class, there is a greater sense of community and trust. This is dependent on those in the lowest income strata being able to move into an ever-expanding middle class, which is something government cannot accomplish.
Over the past thirty-five years, many on the Republican side of the fence pushed for ever-expanding globalization, while those on the Democrat side were determined not only to rein in capitalism through regulations and taxation, but also to control the economy by a dominant central government, all the while buying off the populace through unrestrained social spending. Never have two concepts been at odds with each other. The result was inevitable: the middle class would pay the price.
The elites over the years have told the citizenry that unrestrained globalization is good for the United States. Thus the nation unthinkingly embraced this version of globalization and assumed that the country had to move rapidly into this post-industrial, post-manufacturing world. Forgotten in this headlong dash was the fact that it was the modern industrial economy which produced middle-class societies in which the overwhelming majority of the population could enjoy middle-class status.
Many worked in industries that have since been abolished and transferred to other countries. Those members of the middle class who were able to hold on to their jobs saw their incomes stagnate or decline, while a few of globalization's winners reaped enormous rewards.
In 1972, over 28 per cent of the labor force was employed in the high-paying manufacturing sector. Today, that number has shrunk to 8.9 percent (a decline of nearly 70%). Over 74 percent of the jobs created since 2000 have been in the low-paying portion of the service sector.
Accelerating this process has been an avalanche of laws, regulations, taxes, and mandates that have made it nearly impossible to start up and/or operate a manufacturing facility and develop new products in the United States, thus forcing many companies to look overseas. While these disastrous policies were promulgated by those in the Democratic Party, the Republican Party did little to fight these obviously detrimental steps that would in the long run undermine the American economy while promoting the supposed advantages of unfettered globalism.
Among the countries that have benefited enormously from this shortsighted policy is China. The United States and much of the Western world have acquiesced to the Chinese deindustrializing a large part of the globe. China has played one country against another, stealing technology and arbitrarily manipulating the Chinese currency, all while those in Washington, D.C. have, for over twenty years, turned a blind eye.
In a democracy with a weaker and shrinking middle class, there is much more populism, internal conflict, and inability to resolve income distribution issues in an orderly way. The Tea Party movement is a manifestation of the new populism, as not only do Tea Partiers rightfully blame the government for much of the nation's problems, but these same people think they have been betrayed by the elites. The bailout of Wall Street; the crony capitalism of the Obama regime; the seemingly bottomless pit of money for those well-connected to the power structure in Washington; and a disconnect between the Ruling Class and the vast majority of Americans that work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules confirm that betrayal.
The fundamental and underlying problem America faces is this: what is going to be done to put the middle class back on a sound footing and recreate the upward income mobility and wealth-formation that enabled this nation to be unique in the annals of mankind?
This topic cannot be left to the Democrats to demagogue and exploit through Marxist class-warfare rhetoric. The Republican Party must take this issue and make it their own by acknowledging the existence of the expanding income disparity and the accelerated shrinkage of the middle class, and to explain why this happened and that there are viable solutions.
Yet in the Republican presidential primary fight, that question is not being addressed except via the usual platitudes, as it appears that the current candidates are quite happy to allow Obama, the Democrats, and the mainstream media free rein to mislead and lie to the American people. The Democrats' solution is more government, more crony capitalism, the further expansion of elitism, and increased taxes on the so-called rich -- steps that will accelerate the demise of the middle class and exacerbate wealth inequity.
The nation's Republican and conservative leaders must articulate a strategy to protect and grow the American manufacturing base and its working class. It must be clearly stated that it is in the country's interest to protect and grow the middle class through an engagement with globalization and by dramatically altering an oppressive government in a way that benefits the broad mass of the American people.
That strategy must include the aggressive confrontation with those involved in unfair trade, including, if necessary, tariffs on imports and additional protection and enforcement of property rights. Concurrently, on the domestic front, there must be a national determination to reindustrialize the nation by the elimination of countless duplicate and unnecessary regulations and mandates as well as the agencies that promulgate them; exploiting all viable sources of domestic energy; a complete purge of the current tax code, starting from scratch with a viable code for today's national needs and global environment; and lastly, ending the policy of designating certain financial institutions as "too big to fail" and thus allowing them to restructure into smaller, more viable entities -- which may include bankruptcy for some.
On a government level, the nation must alter the basic entitlement programs into a more market-based structure; reduce overall government spending to that of 2008 within three years; eliminate the incestuous and revolving-door relationship among Wall Street, major corporations, the unions, and the government; and institute a complete restructuring of the role of the federal reserve through a major change in that entity's charter.
The populist revolt that began with the Tea Party movement is just a harbinger of what is to come if the leaders of both parties blissfully ignore the underlying angst of the American people and continue with business and politics as usual. Those Republicans running for president and the Congress in 2012 must be forced into revealing whether they do or do not understand the depth of the nation's problems. If they do, are they are capable of not only taking the battle to their Democrat opponents, but also initiating and putting in place the major changes so necessary for the future of the American society?