Following is a draft of a speech that President Obama might have considered giving in an effort to explain to people how and why they are so frustrated and what to make of and do about it.
Perhaps such a speech was too much to ask or expect of a President in office because it runs the risk of sounding like excuse making. Even by his own account, though he has gotten the substance very right on the main issues, he has not achieved the political or public comprehension adequate to generate support for his policies.
It is never easy for citizens to happily accept the conditions of their lives which are less than optimal and less than they have come to believe are their due. Their discontent is entirely understandable and is particularly so when those reduced circumstances have come about, they correctly believe, because of forces beyond their control and through no conscious fault of their own.
In the last 15 years we as a nation have experienced for a variety of reasons (some good/some bad, but none unfortunately usefully related to today’s problem) two quite extraordinary boom bubbles followed by similarly extraordinary collapses.
In the course of those roller coaster upswings many Americans happily experienced euphoric ups with the good times: good jobs and increasing pay, higher home values, cheap borrowed money, and virtually no down payments for new cars and home improvements. Life felt and looked good as far as the eye could see.
Then suddenly, for no good reason they could relate to their own actions, things changed for many Americans: home prices fell, jobs became scarce, and money to make existing payment obligations was hard to borrow. As the famous line from Casablanca goes, they were SHOCKED and naturally those suffering people were worried and looked for things they could blame and perhaps change in the hope of improving their own situations.
What they found was not to their liking. They found that the whole country had been over consuming and over borrowing. Of course, they focused on simple solutions which would be for their neighbors to slow their consumption and to reduce their borrowing. Sadly, people never like to discover that they are part of the problem. Believe me, I know. Presidents are not immune to that problem.
Out of that mess of problems a lot of folks came to believe in the superficially attractive, but diametrically conflicting solutions that taxes should not be increased and the government’s deficits had to be reduced, though of course, not through any reduction of their own benefits or services.
That is the driving force behind the Tea Party movements which are at the heart of today’s popular political conversation. Frustration drives anger. Anger drives a perceived need for change. And the two together spell DANGER.
There is no doubt at all that all kinds of people share the blame for the reality of today’s conditions: Wall Street, the Banks, politicians and, of course, the average citizens themselves for simply doing what came naturally.
But the answer is NOT simply to throw up one’s hands in horror and hope a magic wand will quickly and easily wipe away the long developing problems that led in the first place to today’s frustration.
The only honest and sound answer is to face the reality that these conditions are actually there and will ONLY get better with time, measured partly by the time it took to grow the problem in the first place. We all have to avoid being seduced by the unexplained and empty contradictory promises coming from frustrated pitch persons peddling ideas which sometimes sound superficially helpful, but will beyond reasonable doubt further increase the problems.
The country desperately needs to stay the course of solidly getting the economy slowly back on a sound footing.
Two years from now, when we have stayed steady on the course we set in the past year and a half, our citizens’ lives will have begun again to be the lives people once thought were theirs forever.