The Unspoken Election Issue: The Economy

by Bob Schwartz

If you want to find the real issues that need addressing, just look at what is not talked about in the election campaign.

The economy has been a topic at a very superficial level, but the deeper issues have been avoided like poison. From a political standpoint, this is completely understandable. But as for problem solving, it is dangerous.

The economy is in the midst of a structural, existential transformation. Big time. One reason not to talk about it is that economics is substantially psychological, depending on a degree of optimism, and no one wants to enable pessimism and tank an already fragile economy. Another reason for politicians to avoid the topic is that they either have no good strategies, or the strategies require the sort of complex and long-winded discussion that citizens supposedly tune out or reject.

Too bad. We have to have “the talk” before it’s too late. It is a little like parents not having the sex talk with their children, only to discover those same children unexpectedly expecting children of their own.

The political question is who is most able to lead us into and through that talk, when the time comes that we can no longer delay and deny it. The answer is that we need leaders who are curious, creative, courageous and flexible. That doesn’t mean discarding guiding principles of ancient and venerable origin, principles such as honesty, integrity, compassion. But it does mean that trying to fit the future of the economy into the paradigms of the past is like watching a child trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Which is not nearly as frightening as watching grown-up politicians trying to pound a 21st century economy into a 19th/20th century hole.

Predicting tomorrow’s election is a fool’s errand. But here’s a prediction you can take to the bank: This will be the last election that addresses the economic future in such simplistic and maladaptive terms. Because if the immediate future of leadership doesn’t end the tired nostrums and doesn’t include these big vision, big picture, new world considerations of the changes happening right now, the economic context of the next Presidential election could be much, much worse than this one.