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Financial Crisis Highlights Fault Lines in American Political Process

by Alan Markow, published

During this period of economic crises for our country and its people, one would think the priority of national leaders would be finding solutions and working together to right the ship of state. But that is far from what is happening. Instead, the top people in both major parties appear to be out entirely for themselves and their partisan positions.

The conversation since Friday’s jobs numbers were released must be frustrating and disappointing to anyone hoping for caring, concern and solutions to the problems currently facing us. All the players are, instead, making political hay or defending fixed positions.

According to the New York Times:

“House Speaker John A. Boehner called the economic situation in the country ‘the sad new normal’ and blamed it on Mr. Obama. But he said Americans don’t have to accept the situation if they vote for Republicans in the fall.”

Spokespeople for the Obama administration argued that their policies were working, but needed more time, and attacked Congress for failing to pass infrastructure bills that would have created jobs.

The administration stressed that the country was adding jobs, albeit more slowly than expected and noted that this was an improvement from the situation that the president had inherited. But the country faces a series of trials that the president referred to as “headwinds” fighting against a stronger recovery.

“We have lot work to do to get where we need to be,” the Washington Post reported President Obama saying. “All these factors make it all the more challenging not just to recover but to lay the foundation for an economy built to last over the long term. But that’s our job.”

It should be noted that “built to last” is a political catchphrase that the president introduced months ago and is therefore a calculated turn of phrase as opposed to a sincere reflection of deep concern for the nation’s desperate condition.

If you’re out of work, seriously underemployed or on edge about the stability of your job, none of these political excuses is terribly helpful. And the tenor of our leaders’ interactions doesn’t provide much hope. It’s all a question of laying blame rather than seeking solutions.

The numbers are a “harsh indictment of the president’s handling of the economy,” Mitt Romney said in a statement. “It is now clear to everyone that President Obama’s policies have failed to achieve their goals and that the Obama economy is crushing America’s middle class.”

Romney also called the jobs report “devastating news for American workers and American families,” then went on to attack the president for moving backward instead of forward.

Those are not the words of a loyal opposition seeking solutions for the American people. Is it any wonder that so many voters have become disenchanted with partisan politics and are looking for alternatives to traditional two-party dogmas?

The reality is that we are in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis and there may be nothing the United States alone can do to fix the situation. If that is so, then there’s certainly no way a president alone can make as much difference as the candidates aver.  It will require a concerted effort by all of our political leaders and policy makers.

But as long as we focus on laying blame, taking credit and seeking political gain, we are certain to make little, if any, progress. There is no better evidence of a need for political change than the way this crisis is being handled, and the degree to which peoples’ needs are being ignored while political points are made.

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