Friday, March 27, 2015

Jobs and our Next President: What, If Anything, Do We Know?

Around the horn in the world of presidential politics, on jobs and beyond:

If you were announcing a run for president as the first major declared candidate, wouldn’t you have a website with your positions on issues ready to go?  Well, Ted Cruz didn’t.  Searches on “Ted Cruz” and “Ted Cruz for President” brought up nothing new, so I can’t say much about what he plans to do about the permanent jobs crisis.  His old stuff, mainly asserting that unemployment benefits are bad, wasn’t too encouraging.  I guess none of the 2.7 million Americans officially jobless for 27 weeks or more and legally required to look for work weekly are in his inner circle. That may be a reason why you can get 40 times your money by betting on him to win a year from November, as you can on, say, Martin O'Malley.

Speaking of politicians making stupid statements, get a load of Ben Carson!  The man is a neurosurgeon.  You can’t get into that specialty by just choosing it – you need to beat out lots of well-qualified doctors (not just medical students) to get the training you need.  Bet that every single neurosurgeon in the country would qualify for Mensa, going away.  I see how he might need to appeal to his base by comparing gay marriage to bestiality, or saying Obama is “like a psychopath,” but how can anyone of that intelligence say that men are gay by choice?  Carson, somehow, makes me want to root for him – he can be partially excused by now being more a politician than anything else, and wrote a good, remarkably thoughtful book about what he thinks – but there’s a difference between routine pandering or spouting ideology you think will go down well, and saying things which are clearly wrong.  Which, since it calls his grip on reality into question, I don’t like at all.  As for Carson on jobs – well, what does he REALLY think?  Will we ever know?

How about Scott Walker?  Radio host Rush Limbaugh has seemed to endorse him, at least for now, and has him as the second most likely Republican to become our next president, at 9½ to 1 behind Jeb Bush at 6½ to 1.  He’s had his doubtful statements too, and his lack of a bachelor’s degree all these years on is strange, but he has the right view on labor unions.  As classic business author Robert Townsend put it, unions served a noble purpose once, but now they’re part of the problem.  There is all the difference in the world between reigning in the abuses of the early (and not so early) Industrial Revolution, when few knew and too many didn’t care how long, hard, and unsafely people could work, and getting the most from governmental employers with little or no incentive to limit pay and perks.  Ultimately, unions cost jobs, which is why Walker did the right thing in leading Wisconsin to right-to-work status.  Could he be good for jobs in other ways too?  We’ll see as the campaign progresses.

Still no word from Hillary Clinton on employment.  Being way in front, Emailgate notwithstanding, with odds of 5 to 3 against in the 2016 election, has made her more noncommittal than ever.  Since she’s moderate, it would be consistent with her views to tone down pushes for higher minimum wages, which are now popping up here and there anyway, and campaign on a national infrastructure project.  But I’m not holding my breath.

Then there is Chris Christie, with both good and bad attributes of being forceful.  He’d love to lead a 1950s Chicago-style “machine,” in which people on his side were assured of decent jobs if they got out the vote, but the time for that sort of thing has passed even in that city – you could have asked Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who tried to reinstate one and ended up wearing stripes.  Could Christie lean on possible employers to make more work available?  That possibility alone could make him a fine candidate – but I don’t know if he would or could.  So I’ll still go with the hope of Jeb Bush, if he’s not too beholden to his fellow one-percenters to realize they can’t make money if the bulk of Americans have none to spend. 

As for political views, America’s problem goes deeper than anything above.  Why is it that the combinations of opinions are as set as they are?  Why do almost all of those who think there is no human-caused climate change also oppose gun control?  Does it make sense that those against capital punishment are consistently in favor of more spending on social programs?  Would someone from Mars see it as logical that humans seeing government as more of a problem than big business tend heavily to see abortion as murder?  Can’t be.  The answer is that most of us make complex realities easier by going with, in effect, a slate of opinions.  That is unexamined, and, if Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living, we are falling short.  If Americans were more independent in chosen views, we would reach the right answers more often as a country.  We are not doing well at that now, and, strangely enough, think almost everyone on both sides, and in the middle would agree.  Will we ever be up to that challenge? 

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