By: Jonathan S. Hogue ~Opinions & Editorials Editor~
The political season has me thinking about a few things. First, why do people support Donald Trump? Second, is there a way to stop covering all politics until the actual Election Day in November? Last, what does economic growth do for us in the long-run? The last question boggles my mind because I’m confused as to how Americans connect economics to freedom. Hear me out.
We discuss economics like most citizens would discuss legitimate civic liberties. Americans equate the ability to fight for flat-screen televisions on Black Friday as a sign that their freedoms are being respected.
When politicians argue that we need to cut back on fossil-fuels in order to preserve the environment, Americans are quick to argue their freedom grants them the right to buy a Hummer, load it up with gas and parade through town putting as many fumes as they want into the environment.
It’s dangerous to believe economic action now equals freedom in a political environment. Older Americans believe the last competent Democratic and Republican Presidents we had were William Jefferson Clinton and Ronald Wilson Reagan. Americans don’t necessarily remember their speeches on political liberties or the need to reshape the American citizenry.
Americans fondly remember these men because their presidencies were a time when they people were financially able to accumulate a lot of stuff.
During the Clinton and Reagan Administrations, Americans’ wages rose, GDP remained steady and consumers engaged economic interests in brand new ways. Did this access to stuff increase anyone’s liberties? Not necessarily.
While I’m a Bill Clinton fan, his administration was responsible for the passage of DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the now-infamous 1994 Crime Bill. Ronald Reagan, a man I’ll admit is not my favorite president, ignored the AIDS epidemic, cut important parts of the economic safety net and illegally funneled U.S. dollars to support Latin American rebel forces during Iran-Contra.
These are not records that scream political idealism. Their legacies are not tied to their adherence to the political good, but rather their ability to improve our material well-being.
For Americans to consider that the nation’s paramount indicator of a strong civic society is sad.
Economic growth is good, but it’s important to note that it should not come at the expense of weakening social institutions. Americans have a right to worry about how the economy shapes their lives.
Millions of citizens are fighting every day just to put food on the table, but for some Americans to be angry they don’t have enough to upgrade cars even when their current model runs fine is not a reason to cry that freedom is being threatened. I love my country, but boy do we complain about the pettiest things.
Just because our disposable income doesn’t allow for a trip to the mall every other weekend doesn’t mean that our freedom is infringed upon. The United States will experience economic downturns, but the health of our republic should not be solely based on the volatilization of markets.
The true test for the men and women in government is how public institutions will be used effectively to support and defend the well-being of the public through a host of areas.
Americans get angry when gas rises above $3 a gallon, but we forget what damage this does to the environment and the cost low-lying countries pay for our selfish use of fossil-fuels. These economic issues aren’t paramount to our civic life.
When you go to the voting booth this November – which I expect all of you to do – think about issues other than economic ones. It’s important to consider candidates’ economic stances, but remove the selfish economic wants and think about the greater good. It’s not necessary for our economy to continue to grow if we don’t use the progress in an equitable manner. That’s only rewarding bad behavior.
Instead, let’s focus on the people and not our selfish desires when discussing politics. Just because your economic desire wasn’t fulfilled doesn’t mean it won’t happen later. You acquiring stuff isn’t political freedom – it’s just clutter.