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As the election nears, where’s the hope?



This news story was published on September 2, 2012.
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By Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers –

The hope is gone.

Four years into the age of Barack Obama, and a dozen years into a new century, America is struggling to find its way.

It’s been attacked. It’s rushed into two wars, grown disillusioned and turned homeward. It’s endured the worst financial collapse in 80 years.

At the political fringes, Americans have felt cast adrift by the powerful and taken to the streets in anger — the tea party from the right, the occupy movement from the left. In the vast middle, tens of millions still look for work, grapple with paychecks that don’t buy as much, or sleep in homes worth a fraction of what they once did.

As the two major political parties meet back to back in national conventions to chart their way to victory, this the unsettled landscape behind the speeches and posturing. The nation is engaging in not just an election but a deep debate over how it wants to dig out of these problems and chart a new course. The key question: Does it want the government to lead the way to a new era or should it simply get out of the way?

Like turning points of the past — the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, the economic and political stagnation of the 1970s — the result could produce a new order. Or, like the last decade, the country could refuse to rally to one side, swinging narrowly back and forth between the two major parties, the politics gridlocked and venomous.

“The temperament of the country is one of insecurity,” said Randall Miller, a historian at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia. “Insecurity about who we are, who we want to be, where we are going.”

The numbers are stark.

Unemployment has been above 8 percent for 42 months, nearly all of Obama’s presidency. African-Americans have a jobless rate topping 14 percent.

For those with jobs, incomes have dropped even more since the end of the recession in 2009 than they did during it.

Families’ net worth has dropped, driven by a plunge in the values of their homes. In the Tampa Bay region near last week’s Republican National Convention, some homes worth $600,000 a few years ago are worth a third of that today. New home sales have picked up but still lag well below normal levels.

Stocks have rebounded since 2008, restoring retirement accounts. But it’s not enough. By a steady margin of 2-to-1, Americans think the country’s on the wrong track.

It’s not just the recession.

For good or ill, people are grappling with a world where the rules are changing.

A global economy and an information age are making some U.S. jobs obsolete. Illegal immigration has stopped, but the tide of legal and illegal migration over the past two decades has changed the country. Labor unions are shrinking, some under assault. The definition of marriage is changing.

Gradually, the country’s turned inward, away from wars and the threat of terror that dominated politics from 2001 onward.

Troops are coming home. Unmanned drones are taking over the hunt for al-Qaida terrorists abroad. Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is dead. Few even noticed when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney this summer called Iran the nation’s top security priority and did not mention the so-called global war on terror that once dominated American politics.

“We’ve turned the page,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion and the McClatchy-Marist Poll. “We’re war weary and broke.”

If not broke, very much in debt.

A decade of wars that were not paid for. The decision to have Medicare cover prescription drugs in the biggest expansion of an entitlement since the 1960s. Costly bailouts of the U.S. auto industry. Spending to stimulate the economy out of recession. And a refusal to raise taxes.

After years of demanding and getting more government than they would pay for, Americans and their government have $16 trillion in debt.

The credit card bill colors the country’s politics and makes it all the more difficult to rally to any of the major party proposals to fix the underlying economy.

Democrats want to spend more to educate and train people for jobs in a changing economy. Republicans want to cut taxes to put more money in people’s pockets and get them to spend.

But there’s no money. And the politics is so toxic, it’s unclear the parties can bridge the divide anytime soon.

“There’s a much higher degree of skepticism, if not cynicism, about the political options,” said Bert Rockman, a historian and political scientist at Purdue University in Indiana. “Anyone who comes in with the expectation that they can bargain with the other side is foolish.”

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9 Responses to As the election nears, where’s the hope?

  1. John Reply Report comment

    September 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    The housing collapse was caused by Barney Frank and Dodd demanding home loans be approved for all that applied. This lead to to banks having to approve people that had no means to pay. (When they found out this wasn’t working, they turned the blame back to the banks and accused them of predatory lending.

    See, every time the government gets involved in private business, they create more problems.

    Stay out of our lives and our business and we will do fine. The more you regulate it, the more it costs american people.

  2. WOW Reply Report comment

    September 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    A decade of wars that were not paid for. (And who started these wars? And who refused to acknowledge that a tax increase was necessary to pay for them?) The decision to have Medicare cover prescription drugs in the biggest expansion of an entitlement since the 1960s.(And who fought the proposal that the government should be able to bargain with Big Pharma about the cost of the meds? Like the VA does.) Costly bailouts of the U.S. auto industry. (And who fought the bailouts? It actually worked, contrary to what the Tea Party would have you believe.) Spending to stimulate the economy out of recession. (Universally acknowledged by every economist on the right and left as necessary to avoid a depression. Maybe you should read The Economist more and comic books less.)And a refusal to raise taxes.(Now who would that be?)

    You’ve gotta be frickin’ nuts to vote Republican.

    • maybe Reply Report comment

      September 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      I would rather be nuts than brainwashed.

    • John Reply Report comment

      September 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      the Auto Bailout did not work. This gave the ownership of GM to the Union. They owe us American Tax payers Billions and have not paid the bill.

      President Obama set up a think tank to solve this economic problem and I was really happy to hear that.
      But Simpson Bowles Commission that Obama hired to consult him was ignored. (Big political move on Obama’s part but when he found out the truth from the commission, he dropped it like a dead fish.)He ignored it.

      It didn’t match up with his plan for America, destroy the economy and move to socialism.

      The house has sent budget plans to the Senate for over 3 years. Harry Reid has refused to consider a budget. (Is that leadership?)

      The United States has no Budget. Would you run your business that way? This bunch has no clue how the real world works. Many people don’t use a budget but I can assure you that business people do. Even an individual will look at their balance in the check book before writing a check. If the money is not there, you don’t spend it.

  3. LVS Reply Report comment

    September 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Well here I go again with a typo, I meant lier.

  4. LVS Reply Report comment

    September 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

    After reading this I must say this is finally a honest article that does not lean right or left but tells it like it is. The isuue is, how do we get out of this mess? I really don’ feel either party has the answer and right now I am leaning towards Romney as the lesser of two evils. I hate it when religion gets involved in politics as that is the cause of almost all wars but I don’t agree with most of what Obama has done and certainly think he has failed in the last four years. Also, Obama is by far the biggest leir in the White House since Bill Clinton “I did not have sex with that woman”.

    • anonymous Reply Report comment

      September 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      LVS I agree. Our country is a mess and no one wants to blame the two corrupt organizations that caused it. The democrats and the republicans have both contributed to the steady decline of America. Like corporate America they are nothing more then two greedy businesses in competion against each other. They will lie, cheat and steal to do the other harm while claiming to be moral and decent people. The countrys problems have taken a back seat their goal of destroying each other. The Republicans want less government except when it comes to handouts for business and the Democrats want to give a lifetime of government aid to lazy people who don’t want to work for a living. No matter who wins this election the other will vow to make sure they don’t get reelected instead of agreeing to work together and trying to save our country.

      • happyguy Reply Report comment

        September 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        What we need to do is find moderate repblicans and moderate democrates to vote for. The moderates from both sides can work together. The extreme right and left won’t even try to work together. The question then is who will be first the find, run, and elect a moderate?