I was reading an email from the president of Morthland College confirming my appointment as chair of the Department of Business last week, when my wife burst out laughing in front of her computer. It turned out that she had just read the latest political joke: Once upon a time we had Ronald Reagan as president. At that time Americans also had Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, and Steve Jobs. Now Barack Obama occupies the White House and, oh boy, what a "change"-we have no jobs, no cash, and no hope.
If you, dear reader, are not personally affected by the bursting of the housing bubble and the following economic stagnation, you are among a select few in the country. But look around and you will almost certainly notice a neighbor who has lost a job, someone in your extended family forced out of his or her home by debt, or a friend who had to close his small business in the past three years after losing all hope of speedy market recovery. I witnessed a lot of those personal hardships in New York and the picture is identical in the Midwest where we recently moved.
Perhaps you are a sympathizer or a veteran of the Tea Party movement, supporting the resistance against the current administration's schemes to redistribute trillions of dollars through increased regulations and "stimulus" spending. Perhaps classical liberal ideas are not your cup of tea and you have recently joined the colorful crowds "occupying" Wall Street in downtown Manhattan, protesting against bailouts that help the rich corporations at the expense of the working poor. Whether you feel comfortable within the libertarian camp, the conservative community, or the category of those who see economic crises through the eyeglasses of class conflict, I hope that you will take the time to ponder on the fact that we all share a deep disgust with a political system that has been abusing the power to tax and spend since a populist president offered us his "new deal" 80 years ago. We may be divided on myriad social issues, but if we can clearly see the cause of the current economic mess, we can unite behind a solution.
Alex's follow-up to his column from last week on John Maynard Keynes will be posted next week.