The separation of presidential politics from the troubles assailing the US economy is now verging on the surreal. With banks collapsing, the dollar reeling, the Federal Reserve making up new rules as it goes and observers discussing a new Great Depression, the presidential candidates are still on scripts they wrote a year ago. The main problem is either the North American Free Trade Agreement (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) or high taxes and excessive regulation (John McCain). If delivery from this ordeal depended on any of the contenders saying something intelligent about it, prudence would require that the entire country be written down to a nominal sum.
What makes this even odder is that the Democrats, at least, continue to hammer away at economic anxiety. The squeeze on “middle-class families” gives them an edge against the Republicans in November, they calculate. But they were saying this last year, and the year before – when unemployment was not rising, the economy looked pretty healthy and most Americans still did not know the difference between an SIV and a CDO. The themes are trade and jobs, shuttered factories, stagnant incomes, unlevel playing fields and labour and environmental standards. As for the complete breakdown of the credit system and the danger of a years-long Japanese-style slump – oh, yes, there’s that as well.
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