Today's economic outlook is so uncertain that it points to much graver problems.
As the nation heads into the next election cycle, there is much frustration, angst and anxiety directed at a system that does not seem to work. Everyone senses there is something terribly wrong with the country. The worst part of this growing malaise is the feeling that no one seems to know what the real problem is.
Over the years, the conventional wisdom has been to sidestep the issue by saying that, in the end, elections are all about the economy. If candidates cannot explain the malaise, then they can at least mesmerize the electorate with promises of jobs, opportunities and education. Inject more money into depressed cities, open up school options, lower (or raise) taxes, and spur local economies. Jobs, jobs, and more jobs is a program that both left and right can trumpet. Winning is just a matter of staying on focus and repeating the worn-out battle cry: It’s the economy, stupid!
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange just before the opening bell May 13, 2014 in New York. (AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Yet another year has passed, and it seems the malaise has only gotten worse. The response is to propose a new onslaught of tax reform, tax cuts, job creation schemes and the like to make America prosper once again. The prevailing opinion is that the right (or leftward) tweaking of the economy can solve the problem.
However, such logic will not work for 2016.
To put it bluntly, the economy is a mess, both here and abroad. The interconnected global markets are unstable and volatile. Central banks are pumping massive money transfusions into the system. The world is awash in oil and there are gluts in commodities like copper and nickel. Inflation is dangerously low. Some banks are even charging negative interest . Contrary to dire Malthusian predictions of the past, the world is drowning in its overproduction and abundance. Tens of trillions of dollars in government and consumer debt also weigh it down.
This is a crisis that has not been seen before. Governments and economists have thrown every economic trick in the Keynesian book at the crisis in an attempt to jumpstart, kick-start or even taser-start the economy into prosperity. Many bankers are saying there simply are no more lifeboats to rescue this seven-year recovery that never seems to get any traction.
This dilemma seems to suggest that the 2016 slogan should be: It’s not the economy, stupid!
The cause of the problem goes much deeper than the numbers on the bottom line. People and candidates forget that economies are not mathematical models that can be programmed to success. The foundation of any economy is about people and especially families.
“ The subject matter of economics ,” observes Norwegian economist Odd Langholm, “is properly the habits, customs, and ways of thinking of producers, consumers, buyers, sellers, borrowers, lenders, and all who engage in economic transactions.”
It cuts straight to the fact that the nation’s “habits, customs and ways of thinking” have changed. Americans are upset because they have lost their focus and unity. As has been proven, no amount of number-tweaking is working to put the ship back on course.
America is not failing because its economic machinery is faulty. Quite the contrary, it is still capable of producing enormous amounts of goods and services. Rather it is failing because, as sociologist Charles Murray affirms, America is coming apart. The people, the fickle agents of all economics, have changed. There is no longer a core, a canon of shared moral values that keeps things together and economies in balance.
Instead, there is a fragmented America dominated by the frenetic intemperance of the times, which mandates that each one must have everything instantly, effortlessly and without consequences. There is a prevailing lack of restraint that people mistake for freedom but actually leads to that very malaise that something is terribly wrong since there is no unity or direction.
In face of this crisis, the economic rhetoric of candidates becomes empty and meaningless. How can candidates speak about helping families when they fail to address the fact that families are disintegrating from divorce, abortion, promiscuity and neglect? The effectiveness of more educational options is limited when growing numbers of children come from broken homes without a mother or father.
How can they talk about stimulating growth in communities, when there is little left to stimulate? How can they end their speeches with the hopes that God will bless America with prosperity when He is banished from the public square? These are profound questions that are left unanswered to the detriment of the nation.
This election, it’s not about the economy stupid; it’s about returning to order.
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