Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reality Check

WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to the economy, half of Americans in a new poll say it won't matter much whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins — even though the presidential candidates have staked their chances on which would be better at fixing the economic mess.

People are especially pessimistic about the future president's influence over jobs, according to the Associated Press-GfK poll. Asked how much impact the November winner will have on unemployment, 6 in 10 gave answers ranging from slim to none.

Yet the candidates, the polls and the pundits agree — the economy is the issue of 2012. Can either man convince voters that he would set things right?

James Gray of Snow Hill, N.C., is skeptical.

"It doesn't look to me like the economy or nothing gets better no matter who you've got up there," Gray said. "I don't know why it is."

A retired policeman, Gray plans to vote for Romney and thinks the Republican might win. But he doesn't have much hope that would improve things for people like him, living on a fixed income. "Every time you go to the grocery store the prices have gone up," he said.

Poll: Election winner won't affect economy much

Stories like this one fill me with so many conflicting emotions. Let's just start at the beginning, shall we?
SEWANEE, Tenn. - As Robin Layman, a mother of two who has major health troubles but no insurance, arrived at a free clinic here, she had a big personal stake in the Supreme Court's imminent decision on the new national health care law.

Not that she realized that. "What new law?" she said. "I've not heard anything about that."


Layman was hardly the only patient unaware that the law aims to help people like her, by expanding health insurance beginning in 2014. And this gets to the heart of the political dilemma for Democrats: Despite spending tremendous political capital to pass the law, the party is unlikely to win many votes from the law's future beneficiaries, most of whom live in Republican-dominated states in the South and West. In fact, many at the clinic said they don't vote at all.
Oh, lord have mercy. My knee-jerk reaction is to scream, "Pay some fucking attention, people! Christ on a cracker, what the hell is wrong with you?" But I already know the answer to that. It's not that they're too busy or lazy or uneducated to pay attention -- there may be an element of that, but that's not the crux of the issue.

The real problem is that these are people who have given up. They've decided -- with good reason -- that our institutions were not created for them. Those things like caring about who goes to Washington and what's happening in the news are for other people. Robin Layman has already been told she doesn't matter, so what's the point of civic crap like voting? What's it going to get her?

It's really hard to argue with that. Turn on any news broadcast -- Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, it doesn't matter -- and tell me who's talking about people like Robin Layman? No one. We had one presidential candidate in the past decade who did that, and he ended up being a scoundrel. The worst thing John Edwards did wasn't having a baby with his mistress, it was in bringing the plight of the working poor onto the national stage and then dropping it like a hot potato when he got tripped up by ambition and his penis.

The Country We Deserve

The real issue is surely turnout. In the US it has been low for a long time: between 50-60% for presidential elections and 30-45% for mid-term congressionals since the second world war. In the UK it has slipped dramatically: from 84% in 1950 to 65% in 2010. An analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that the collapse has occurred largely among younger and poorer people. “Older people and richer or better educated people … are now much more influential at the ballot box”.

The major reason, the institute says, is the “’low-stakes’ character of recent elections”: the major parties “fought on quite similar platforms”. The biggest decline in recent political history – from 1997 to 2001 – lends weight to this contention. In 1997 the young and the poor believed they faced a real political and economic choice. By 2001, Blair had moved Labour so far to the right that there was scarcely a choice to be made.

Moral Failings

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