Monday, January 9, 2012

The Glass Campaign

I am unemployed, yet again. This is only really a failure on my part, to be in a field (IT) where the business model is to hire a "hired gun" to come in and do work until they are done or prove themselves incapable of working to the company's time-lines. I certainly don't blame the President of the United States for my fate -- he has little to do with whether companies actually hire or fire people, despite what you may hear in the popular media.

So as I while away the hours searching for work, fielding recruiting calls, answering questions, setting up interviews, I have the time to absorb the goings-on here in my home state of New Jersey, and the one thing that catches my ear is the constant talk of our Governor, Chris Christie, out on the campaign shilling for his Republican compatriot, Mitt Romney. Governor Christie's favorite subject at these events is President Obama and his "failure" as President, especially when it comes to jobs and taxes. To hear our Governor tell it, the President has single-handedly deprived the economy of labor and shackled the wealthy with draconian taxation in an attempt to keep killing jobs.

As you might have guessed from the title of this tract, those who live in glass houses...

Perhaps Governor Christie would like to explain the following: From October 2010 to November 2011, the unemployment rate in New Jersey went from 9.2% down to 9.1%., while during that same period, the U.S. unemployment rate went from 9.6% down to 8.6%. Of course you will say, it's apples and oranges, because how can one compare a State's unemployment problem to the general unemployment problem in the nation. However, when one claims that the business policies of the sitting President are failing, doesn't it behoove one to make such a declaration from a position of relative strength, rather than weakness? After all, the man Governor Christie is stumping for claims that as a private-sector employer he made jobs, while the President of the United States has lost jobs. Isn't that apples and oranges, too?

The fact is, that Governor Christie is one to talk. He has done little to bring unemployment down in New Jersey. Property taxes continue to increase, which further burdens a NJ housing market gutted by the financial crisis that started in 2007, and makes it more likely that more houses will go into foreclosure. The budget gap, though not as bad as when he took office, remains stubbornly large, mainly due to his inability to work with the State Legislature -- though to be fair, the State Legislature is too busy maintaining its system of patronage and kickbacks to care. In essence, Governor Christie has accomplished little that puts him above the President in stature; this is party politics at its finest.

The fact remains, that such statements as made by Governor Christie, Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Paul, and others of that ilk, are not critically challenged in any serious fashion. The press seems content to roll cameras and recorders and take what candidates and legislators say verbatim, without attacking the underlying hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement with facts. The candidates surround themselves with loyal party retainers who stroke their egos and stack campaign events so that it seems that no one in their right mind would disagree with what is said. Even the "debates" that are held more resemble high school basement arguments than impassioned and level-headed discussions of critical topics. Candidates are wrapped in such cocoons of self-congratulation that mere facts cannot pierce them.

Elections are no longer about the actual qualities of a person or their accomplishments or their beliefs, but are about what sells them to the electorate. Elections have become glorified year-end car sales, Black Friday specials where goods are unloaded regardless of cost to generate the appearance of value and of consumption. Slick packaging and manageable chunks of misinformation that can be gobbled up by an attention-span-deficient citizenry flood the airwaves, substituting rhetoric for reality. Obfuscatory mantras are chanted at every stop, repetition being the surest way to flood the short-term memory and wedge malarkey firmly into sycophantic synapses. A modern campaign is a political weather vane, twisting and turning with each new breeze, to keep the candidate pointed directly at the people that will vote for them, no matter how contradictory current statements are to prior ones.

Ask yourself a question: if the President is such a failure, why hasn't the nation collapsed? For America is only as strong as its President, and a weak one condemns us to be lashed by forces we cannot command or contain. Yet unemployment is slowly falling, the economy is slowing gaining strength, and as Europe falls apart at the seams, the United States continues to shrug off the vicissitudes of the global economy's shuddering. Clearly, we are not free of the precipitous drop we stood on the edge of in 2008, but we have taken several steps back from it. How can this be categorized as failure?

It is clear that the Republicans now seeking to turn President Obama out of office are whipped into a lather that blinds them to the reality of the situation they are in. As each month passes and America recovers that much more, they must press every button they can to convince voters that only they can successfully save us from ourselves. It will mean turning over every stone, looking for the unenlightened and ignorant, stuffing their ears with tired, fabricated tropes, and hoping there are enough of them to counteract that vast number that will be able to synthesize reality from the muck that is campaign politics. They act as if victory is assured, because to do otherwise might expose the fact that the Emperor has no clothes.

It would behoove Governor Christie, if he has any hope of higher office in the future, to return to his desk and work on solving New Jersey's problems, and not to stay hitched to the  Romney train, lest he be caught in the derailment. The time will come before long, when Romney -- or possibly another -- will have to answer to the full weight of Americans and the President, and getting caught in the shower of glass that follows will not be pleasant.

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