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Barbara Amiel makes the case for excising the personal from politics

Family anecdotes sideline frightening issues on the U.S. campaign


 
Getting rid of the personal in the political

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Michelle Obama loves her husband. He is the “guy” who had a car so rusted she could see the pavement through a hole in the passenger side door. His only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small. Her own father had multiple sclerosis and had to prop himself up with his walker to shave. Mitt Romney’s father began as a carpenter. His parents were married 64 years and every day his dad put a rose on his wife’s bedside table. She knew he had died when “that morning there was no rose.” Ann Romney has a “deep and abiding love” for Mitt. When they married their dining room table was an ironing board. Ann’s grandfather was a Welsh coal miner. Ann has fought breast cancer and MS. Ann loves her five children. Barack loves his two children. God, it makes me wish for the old Chinese and Russian political model.

Those rows of stern grey men in ill-tailored identical suits whose very middle name was a state secret let alone their marital status. No politburo member talked about the illnesses of their spouses. Evil people, the product of an evil system, but they spared their population the soap opera narrative of happy families. They didn’t talk prayerfully about braving Siberia without overshoes. Indeed, this very week China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping, the man expected to take China’s top post next, has gone missing and you can’t even find his name on some Chinese websites, let alone the diseases his family had.

That total dehumanization was to make government as remote and scary as possible. Even in Western Europe, to be seen without a tie or to take off one’s jacket was to detract from the dignity of political office. Now, it seems, America has decided to explore the lower depths in the other direction—shirtsleeves all the way, and I am fully expecting people in the next election to campaign in swimming trunks.

If ambitious politicians once needed ancestors who were well-born, now they require ones with a total lack of distinction. President Franklin Roosevelt hid his disability but his wheelchair would be worth its weight in gold today as compensation for his patrician background. Were Betty Ford around she’d tell the convention how Gerald helped with her 12-step program.

It’s all intended to make voters feel that the privileged political elites share their problems. Meanwhile, it’s fashionable to speak of Democrats as no longer wacky idealists but rather hardened realists and to blather on about side issues like abortion and voter fraud to distract from the single hard issue of economics.

Abortion is a side issue: there isn’t a chance in hell of any president getting a constitutional amendment outlawing it given that it requires votes in the two houses of Congress plus the legislatures of three-quarters of the states. And it’s hard to square the notion of the Democrats as the reality party with the main issue of this election—economic policy. America is about to go bankrupt and that is reality.

In the past four years, the M2 money supply has increased 28 per cent, which is 10 times the averaged growth rate. After 220 years of the U.S.A.’s existence, the total public debt added up to more than $10 trillion. In his four years, Obama added more than $5 trillion to that, so it now equals 100 per cent of gross domestic product. Here’s how it’s done: when a country runs a deficit it sells government bonds to cover its bills. In 2011, for example, only about 39 per cent of issued bonds were bought by arms-length buyers (retirement funds and banks.) The remaining 61 per cent were sold by the Treasury to the Federal Reserve that, as part of the government, pays not with cash but notes. The Federal Reserve doesn’t pay income tax; earned interest on the notes goes back to the Treasury. In the private sector, this would be fraud—a colossal Ponzi scheme.

Inflation doesn’t look as bad as it is because of the bombed-out housing market, largely the result of Bill Clinton’s 1995 changes to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Those changes forced banks to give a percentage of residential mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them. For good measure, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government agencies privatized by President Lyndon Johnson with a comfort letter from the government on their debt) were ordered provide 51 per cent of mortgages on a similar non-commercial basis. When this jerry-built scheme to promote home ownership collapsed, the government was left holding the bag for Fannie and Freddie. The political class of both parties locked arms and blamed the whole fiasco on private-sector greed. About the only person talking any sense on this is Paul Ryan who actually understands fiscal policy.

As for voter fraud, it’s a trick to cite only 86 convictions as evidence of its paucity. Or that ID legislation is somehow discriminatory against African-Americans. The 90-year- old African-American granny who doesn’t have a driving licence is a one-off TV interview. Voter fraud involves the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanics. Those who do vote fraudulently are most likely to vote Democrat and there is absolutely no way of estimating how many that is since in Democratic-controlled districts prosecutions are unlikely to be made.

I have no idea which party will win the election. The deficit is difficult to understand. Voters think jobs and wages first. Gay marriage and voter fraud are tabloid topics, letting the mendacity of Wolf Blitzer and Rolling Stone magazine meld seamlessly with Fox’s thoughtful Sean Hannity and truthsayer Glenn Beck. Meanwhile, the politicians, hands on heart, hope Americans don’t notice the frightening shift under their feet as the once great American dollar slides ignominiously below the euro.


 

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