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Politics as usual, unfortunately.

Ross Perot is history. But his brief flirtation with residing in the White House again pointed up the fickleness of American voters. They claim to dislike politicians. But as soon as a non-political candidate commits a faux pas--as he or she, not being schooled in the art of being political, is apt to do--we crucify them.

Another non-political-type candidate that didn't go far was Paul Tsongas. An industrialist, he decided to run a campaign "guided not by polls but by my principles." His "tell it like it is" manner captured the fancy of the voters. It did, that is, until they started to understand the consequences of what he was saying. "You cannot distribute wealth that you never created. You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers" was his message. He often repeated this economic fundamental: "No goose, no golden eggs".

He quickly learned, as have others, that's not what the public wants to hear. As an old friend, reporter-turned bureaucrat Mark Goldstein reminds us, in a new book entitled America's Hollow Government--How Washington has failed the people (Business One Irwin, Homewood, IL), Americans decry the likes of politicians even as they continue to demand more from government, but rarely are they willing to give more; they want the benefits Washington provides but not the costs associated with providing those benefits.

So this year, as in every national election year, it appears we are back to business as usual. The campaign will settle into a series of anti-tax anti-incumbent, and anti-Washington messages but little will change. We all want lower taxes but reject giving up entitlements. We all want to throw-the-bums out of congress--all except for my legislator because his staff can rush through a passport application or because we agree on whatever single issue I'm for. We rant and rave against government intrusion into our business lives but welcome regulations against foreign competition.

It's clear that this selfish, love-hate relationship which Americans are carrying on with their government is only digging us deeper into the economic abyss. The result: entitlements could account for nearly 60% of the federal budget by 1995, up from less than 25% when Kennedy was president. As the century turns, spending on medicare will exceed the cost of Social Security or defense, Mr Goldstein points out, adding that Social Security will be broke by 2017.

In an earlier age, when it was American companies providing jobs for Americans by meeting the demands of a domestic American market, this uniquely American-Way of social democracy was tolerable. Today, Americans are competing for meaningful jobs and the good life--predicated on a strong industrial base--in the context of world corporations operating in a global economy meeting the demands of international markets. It should be clear that there has to be a better way.

Perot never had a chance of sitting in the White House. His autocratic businessman's approach to running our government wouldn't work. Democracy means coalitions. Coalitions require politics. And politics is the art of give and take, no just take. Somehow, if we expect the American experiment with democracy to continue to work, we must come to understand and accept that.

Whatever your politics, Mark Goldstein gives us something to think about in his new book: "Whatever government we have, we should effectively fund. Whatever type of government we demand, we should support, and whatever government we choose, we should respect."

Stanley J Modic

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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:US politics
Author:Modic, Stanley J.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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