After Washington, D.C., political observer Jim Wiesemeyer, of Informa Economics, finished his prepared remarks at the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants annual meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., recently, someone asked him about the U.S. political environment, and whether or not he thought the United States had the wherewithal to repay its substantial debt. He did not tread lightly.
“We’re in deep trouble if Washington doesn’t show leadership,” Wiesemeyer said. “I’m an equal opportunity finger pointer. I love the institutions of the House, Senate and the White House. But with each passing day, there is more disdain for the people. They (our political leaders) are just myopic.”
To bring Wiesemeyer’s remarks into focus, just look at congressional and presidential re-election campaigns this year. The strategy of Democrats was to divide, conquer and cobble various constituencies into votes (which they have become very good at by the way). Meanwhile Republican attempts to unify America with its message of smaller government and lower taxes no longer matters much to a majority of voters. There’s not much visionary leadership in either party.
Maybe it’s time for a shakeup in the system, Wiesemeyer says. “Normally, when you look at the history of developed countries, our country should have developed a third political party by now. That would bring in moderates from both parties.”
The rub is that it will take some major fund-raising and/or wealth to make that happen, said Wiesemeyer, noting that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could fit the bill.
Without a third party, the bickering and caustic partisanship will continue as standard operating procedure in Washington, and as Wiesemeyer points out, the American taxpayer will continue to get no respect from the people they elect.
“You heard Washington say your taxes were not going up,” Wiesemeyer said. “Seventy percent of all taxpayers saw a smaller paycheck the first week of the new year. You tell me if they’re speaking the truth.”
Wiesemeyer believes America still has the ability to pull through its economic hardship. “The entrepreneurship of this country is still vivid. Profit is not a four letter word, and I don’t think most Americans have forgotten that. They just want Washington to get out of their way. We can grow our way out of economic recession if we can sustain economic growth of 3.5 percent to 4 percent annually, or more, and not have interest rates go up. But it’s going to take more than most people think.”
But if slow growth or global recession persists, hard decisions on spending are inevitable, and perhaps a fresh look at the issues from a strong, well-heeled third political party. In any event, it’s up to Washington to lead, follow or get out of the way.