Many years ago, comic Joan Rivers did a routine on Elizabeth Taylor’s struggles with her weight. I remember one particular zinger. “Liz Taylor is the only person who stands in front of a microwave oven and yells, ‘Hurry, hurry.'” We all laughed. Back then, the microwave was a new and exciting development in our kitchens. And really fast. How could somebody be so impatient as to shout at an appliance that could nuke a potato in a flash?
Since then, our society as a whole has become pretty impatient. We now have electronic technology that allows us instantaneous access to information and people around the world, day and night. We don’t even have to order lunch in a restaurant any more; we text or email our orders so that we don’t have to waste a single minute of our precious time.
I have been musing about microwave ovens as I watch the goings-on this particularly nasty campaign season. (Will it ever end? Sorry, I’m impatient.) Some things just don’t make sense to me. Now, I admit to being a bit slow. I am neither an economist nor a politician, so if somebody could please explain this to me, I would be most grateful.
Here’s my problem: The Romney campaign has been saying that it will fix the economy that President Obama has failed to repair in his 3½ years in office. But, if we look at the history, didn’t Mr. Obama inherit a huge deficit, two wars, and a tanking economy from his predecessor when he took office? And, didn’t that deficit, two wars, and a tanking economy result from the policies of the prior Republican administration? After all, the Clinton years saw a surplus.
The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states, “If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.”
Recently the movie “Titanic” was released in 3D, and in my musings, it appears I have conflated the movie with my thoughts on our obsession with speed. So, I have been thinking that if the captain of the Titanic (the cruise ship, not the movie) had been able to turn on a dime, then the ship probably would not have hit the iceberg that brought over 1,500 people to their deaths.
But, the U.S. economy is enormous and cannot be fixed at microwave speed. To steer it away from the iceberg it has already hit is a daunting task. Sure, President Obama has not completed the job. But, things are starting to right themselves and get to a more even keel. For example, U.S. News and World Report wrote in September that the stock market has jumped 76% since the day Obama took office. This morning’s newspapers report that consumer confidence is up and housing prices are rising. And, between October 2009 and September 2012, the unemployment rate dropped 3.02%. Sure, 7.8% is still not great, but we are at least heading in the right direction — toward the sun.
Mitt Romney has derided the stimulus program. And, he would have let the auto industry go bankrupt. Bankruptcy would have put 350,000 people directly involved in the industry and another 2.1 million in related ones, out of work (data from The Center for Automotive Research)
Do we really want to jump ship now and go back to the economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place? Am I reading the ship’s log all wrong?