As another big election day approaches, most candidates across the country seem to be focusing on the high unemployment rate as the one key issue to address. While amusing to watch and listen to as they try to prove they are the best person for the job, and for creating jobs for the rest of us, the extreme level some go to is no laughing matter.
Skewed, biased, melodramatic, and down right mean-spirited advertisements about the plight of this country, namely the high unemployment rate and who is responsible, continue to clog the airwaves, as candidates who seek to topple incumbents use this lagging economic indicator to their advantage.
Here in California, it’s no different. In a close battle for an open US Senate seat, Barbara Boxer (D) and Carly Fiorina (R) continue to criticize one another on television and the radio. In the fierce, often bitter exchanges, one particular television advertisement stands out. It opens with two concerned farmers staring at the camera as a huge, barren farmland stretches into the distance behind them. The words on the screen state, “Barbara Boxer’s California.” The announcer firmly intones, “This is Barbara Boxer’s California,” as an image of a Sacramento homeless camp emerges next.
Sure times are tough for many Americans, but to depict California as nothing but a Dust Bowl shanty town, and blame it on one woman, is not only an outrageous exaggeration, but gives way too much power to one individual. It’s as if Boxer is not only responsible for losing countless jobs simply by being in office, but it got so bad she somehow managed to change the weather in the process.
The commercial is so exaggerated, it’s a surprise the Joads didn’t make a cameo.
On Sunday, in the local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, there was an article written by a former semiconductor industry executive and current venture capitalist who stated why Fiorina and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R) should be elected. The reason was simple: they know how to create jobs, unlike their opponents. The author’s first point to back up the thesis was an anecdotal account of how several paramount semiconductor companies decided to open up plants in other states solely because their energy bills would be lower. Jerry Brown (D), the governor at the time and the one running against Whitman this time around, did nothing to try and keep these satellite offices in-state. Another main example was simply the fact that Fiorina and Whitman both worked for top technology companies (Hewlett Packard and eBay, respectively), and thus know how to expand and thrive in any economy. The mere fact that they led well-known Silicon Valley companies at one time in and of itself was reason enough to support them over any – gulp — career politician. That was it. No mention of either’s record at these companies or even a hint of any kind of job plan going forward.
The bottom line is nobody seems to have one, be they a candidate from the Republican or Democratic party, which is understandable, as it’s an extremely complicated issue with no quick fix. Even the leading economic gurus and advisers clash over the best ways to add more human resources to the private and public sectors.
Of course, candidates can claim they might lower taxes for businesses or cut spending on certain government programs (which will help the deficit but lead to more unemployment), but these are incentives, not plans. And so far this is all we hear from anybody, left or right of the independent center.
Thus, when it comes to the one key issue that most want to focus on, which is lowering the dreaded unemployment rate, nobody, not the candidates nor their paid pundits, can tell the citizenry who is the best person for the job. The good news is many companies are once again turning a profit, the stock market is up more than 200% in the past two years, and retail stores are seeing vast improvements in consumer spending.
Perhaps these factors alone and the knowledge that over time we’ll get the confidence we need to get more Americans back to work will get us all smiling again. Then maybe we can look back at all these absurd advertisements regarding unemployment and have a good laugh.