Facts and Feelings

The current Presidential campaign has become ever more bitter as we approach the election, with partisans on both sides venting their feelings. Unfortunately for all of us, the election has become more and more about feelings than facts.

Facts are often those inconvenient examples, or bodies of data, or numbers that don’t quite fit neatly into any ideology or belief. People feel strongly that “free trade” is either good or bad. The facts say, rather convincingly, as a recent series in The Economist summed up, that free trade provides lower prices for everyone, on average a bit less than 40% lower in the U.S., and that the benefit is greater the lower one’s income happens to be. But free trade isn’t all that good for those formerly employed in certain sectors. Free trade means that millions of Americans in manufacturing industries, especially textiles,apparel, and steel, lost their jobs.

Technology is also a very mixed bag. Yes, computers and associated have revolutionized the American workplace and improved communications and entertainment, data processing, accounting, etc., but those same technologies have automated American manufacturing and reduced the number of good-paying jobs for semi-skilled workers, with the result that the combination of globalized free trade and automation has eliminated some six million U.S. manufacturing jobs since 2005. Technology has also significantly contributed to the restructuring of the entire U.S. economy, putting a premium on higher-skill jobs and adding to the forces that have created greater income inequality.

Likewise, improvements in energy production, including fracking, and automation of coal mining, have lowered the real prices of natural gas and oil, and that has reduced the numbers of coal mining jobs and driven a number of major coal companies into bankruptcy and some entirely out of business. Less coal production results in the production of cleaner electric power, but fracking creates new environmental problems.

Despite all the efforts by the Federal Reserve and central bankers around the world, there’s no way to make money cheaper for borrowers than it is, and that cheap money hasn’t done much to spur job creation. With massive deficits in government spending, not only in the United States, but around the world, reducing taxes will only make deficits greater, because any tax cut large enough to create a meaningful stimulus will ensure financial collapse within a few years.

These are facts. No amount of feelings or political rhetoric is going to change them. People aren’t going to willingly pay 20-40% more for goods at a time when middle class income is essentially stagnant, if not lower, and when the real incomes of those below the middle class level have, on average, declined. Government can’t cut taxes significantly, because it won’t be able to borrow enough to pay its bills, and if it prints that much more money, that risks destroying the entire financial system.

Do I see any real discussion on these points? Hell no. I see people frothing at the mouth over Trump’s crudeness and sexual predation, but not attacking or discussing his non-existent knowledge of government or economics, or his simplistic and unworkable, but highly popular [with his suppporters] plans. I see others fuming over what Clinton may have hidden in her emails and the sexual history of her husband, or inaccurate scare-mongering about how she’ll eliminate the second amendment [which she can’t], but not about the implications of her infrastructure programs or the details of her proposed changes to taxes.

Nor do I see any discussion of the voters’ tendency to always want more programs and lower taxes, which is one reason why we’re in the mess we’re in. After all, taxes and spending are truly controlled, not by who is President, but by the Congress, and with the exception of a year or so at the end of the first Bush Administration and some of the Clinton administration, for the last forty years, neither party has had the guts to say no to popular pressure.

It’s so much easier to mount personal attacks on the other side than to deal with the critical issues, especially if you have one candidate who doesn’t even know anything about what really caused the problems that fuel his anger and that of his supporters and the other who essentially ignores the losses so strongly felt by her opponent’s supporters. But then, they both know, Trump more than Clinton, that this election isn’t about facts. For most people, it’s all about feelings, especially anger, and that’s what makes the entire election process and what will follow so potentially dangerous.

9 thoughts on “Facts and Feelings”

  1. Frank says:

    I’ve been reading the political rhetoric and listening to the hate being delivered by the candidates and their respective campaigns. I agree with the most widely held and universal opinion that, no matter who wins…we are “in a heap of trouble.”

    So I have a question: what does a real, actual, “good candidate” look like? Not what their specific views on the arguments du jour happen to be, but how does this candidate reason? What characteristics are different than we currently see? How could we recognize them from our current crop?

    What does success in the election/selection/democratic process look like?

    1. Shannon says:

      I think that answer varies by the person answering. Personally, I want someone who is willing to discuss and make decisions on the hard issues and that isn’t spouting extremist rhetoric. I also want someone who not constantly attacking their opponent’s personal life. I don’t care what you do in your personal time; I’m much more concerned with your professional competence. I would vote for Kasich in a heartbeat, but he’ll never win a primary because moderates don’t generally vote in primaries.

  2. darcherd says:

    John Kasich, governor of Ohio was, IMHO, a “good” candidate who happened to be a Republican. He was centrist in his positions and really stuck to the facts…and he lost overwhelmingly in the Republican primaries.

    As a European politician a couple of years back during the Euro crisis put it so succinctly, “We all know what needs to be done. What none of us knows is how to get re-elected once we’ve done it.”

  3. R. Hamilton says:

    How will increasing taxes reduce the debt when politicians can always find more ways to spend tax money to buy votes? Particularly since tax increases, let alone debt reduction, will slow the economy, reduce jobs, etc.

    Gradual spending cuts would help; IMO nothing else would. Of course, nobody wants their ox gored. So start out by restoring genuine civics education, which would train the left to realize that their ideology has NO right to exist.

    1. Whether the left and right like it or not, in practical terms, the only way to reduce the massive deficit is by both spending cuts and tax increases.

      1. Nathan says:

        The left doesn’t accept that the deficit is a problem, (see Krugman), while the right only cares about the deficit insofar as it gives them an excuse to try and cut social spending they don’t like anyway.

      2. Devildog says:

        You are right. Cuts need to be made and revenues needs to be increased. A simplified tax code that does not pick winners and losers would be a great start. Policies that stimulate a real economy in the United States would heat up the economy too. There is some room for interior infrastructure projects. However, there must be a vibrant semi-skilled manufacturing economy that pays living wages to those putting in an honest days labor. There is no way the government can subsidize this work force in the long run. One cannot have one part of society supporting another large portion of society and the society itself not collapse upon itself. So maybe real prices for some goods and services have been suppressed by free trade policies but if a portion of my wages is subsidizing that labor, are those prices really suppressed?

  4. Tom says:

    Is the answer to the question: a charismatic individual, with their first interest being evolution of the US society, and, who has the support of the majority of the Congress, and a Plan? But, since we get what we support, our society needs to want what’s best for our country rather than what is the immediate wish of us as individuals. So we should look for the person who can present “what’s best for the country” in a convincing analytical critical manner. Will we (the majority) recognize such a Messiah? Perhaps Louis XIV or Constantine were such but they had relatively easy ways to manipulate their societies. Our multicultural society is much more difficult to manage.

  5. Alan Naylor says:

    It’s a sad truth that the society of the United States has put itself in the position it is in. Politically, financially and socially. They voted for those who promised them what they wanted to hear without a thought for the consequences. The votership did not consider what was good for them, but what they wanted most.

    Now the piper has come calling, claiming his dues.

    I, personally, do not see a way in which this ends well for the United States. I do not believe the country is going to collapse today, nor tomorrow. The system probably won’t collapse in even ten years. But the collapse is coming relatively soon without significant changes to the government which people are going to find very hard to stomach.

    I have, and will continue to, vote for the candidate that I thought was the best amongst the selection available. I will be voting for a third party this time around though I know that the impact of that vote is negligible given the huge numbers aligned with the two major parties. If the 20% of voters who are voting for the opposite candidate out of a desire to deny the other candidate their vote would vote third party there might be a chance. Sadly the voters will not do so.

    I would be willing to accept a politician who would give the hard truths, had a difficult plan that would address them and would fight for the needed reform. as it has been previously noted politicians are all too often thinking about how to get re-elected or elected in the first place. I understand that you cannot make changes if you get elected, and that people will not vote for you if you don’t say what they want to hear. I just wish more people were willing listen to what they need, support it and the politician willing to take those steps, instead of thinking only of themselves.

    People, as a whole, rarely seem willing to do what is good for them because it all too often comes with a price tag they are unwilling to pay despite the fact that they’ll have to pay a far larger price tag down the road.

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