Our Saturday morning family breakfast conversation began with talk of Verizon and Home Depot layoffs.Both announcements affected people we know.A friend is succumbing to the death rattles in his restaurant, which he began in 2007 with much fanfare and optimism. "My competition closed last year and with less competition, I thought I could hold out. But there are fewer customers as people are still hunkered down and pulling their money belts tighter."
With the recovery staggering through a muddy rut in the middle of a country road, there is an unsettled air across the nation.We have gone beyond looking for the witch and now seek the magic elixir for economic recovery. GDP is growing, mainly pushed by corporations realizing the productivity benefits of their downsizing and banks flush with cash, making their predictable smart investments in sure bets here and abroad.
Almost 18 percent of the folks are in need of meaningful work.People that are working as independent contractors, especially in self promotion disciplines such as training, advertising, marketing, travel and entertainment, are still in business but are seeing less of it. They are not counted in any of the employment figures but do account for fewer disposable dollars that feeds the economic recovery engine.
The banks will not return to the loose credit days.And many people will not return to undisciplined personal finance. This will cause a slower, sounder recovery. Canada did not fall as deep in the global recession because of the adherence of banks and citizens to obedient economics; 20% down on a house purchase, no easy loans, little credit card abuse. And the US is moving back to that platform, we hope.
Be creative with your business, market yourself, manage your pennies, save more, watch your debt and make prudent day to day spending and investment decisions. Be better off every four years because of what you have done without attention to what the government says or does.
Ok, we know what the problems are, high unemployment, growing deficits, unbridled government growth, inability of political legislators to work together,foggy climate change initiatives, diluted global competitive leadership, tight credit for business and consumers, health care cost growth, market uncertainty among others.
So for this speech we the people were seeking at most a cohesive plan to solve the problems or at least an offering of some tactical solutions that could have immediate effects on job growth and the other problems mentioned. Voters watching the speech also expected to see a CEO present a motivational vision for legislators to willingly act upon with expediency.
From Nuclear power and Clean Coal to Tax Credits for Community College Students the State of the Union Address was an attempt to appeal to everyone in the room.The pundits and party faithful found both red meat and blue sky to rally to in the words of the President. In total, the speech was either an attempt to demonstrate harmony with the voters’ priorities or served as an initiative to reach across the aisle to both liberals and conservatives to fulfill the bipartisan campaign promise.
We could see from the agreeable reactions of many legislators in the room for sound bites that spoke to American values. We also observed nods from both sides of the room for the confident messages of prosperity to come. Everyone was however waiting for the cohesive plan that they could align with to solve the problems that American voters view as their priorities.
On style, the President delivered the words with excellence, although at times seemed less presidential than in past speeches, especially when communicating his vulnerabilities. On substance, we will have to wait and see.The gauntlet was thrown for a new tone, but the jobs legislation that Obama demanded will be the first test as to the effectiveness of tonight’s message.
Obama, stating that the “…anger…” that brought Scott Brown to the senate was the same that crested him to power was attempting to harmonize his new focus with that of the citizenry.Since the realization that a deep recession was at hand, the public has been focused on the economy.Individuals and families were changing behavior to reel in their own spending and debt and find creative ways to solidify their own sources of income. Almost everyone had a facebook friend that had lost a job or struggled with finding a first job in this bleak economy. The economy has been for at least the past year the most important single issue.
Meanwhile Congress, acting upon Obama’s priority list, was exclaiming about how important it was to reconfigure the US health care system. The initiative was being sold as a major driver to more jobs and a healthier economy.The public watched as Congress invested long nights, relationship capital and unappealing deal making to achieve Health Care Nirvana.And, as the economy drifted through the shadows of recession, the majority of Americans remained under-impressed and un-reassured. Very few voters have acknowledged Health Care reform as their 1st concern.In fact, recent polling showed it to be a distant 4th among major concerns.This disconnect is most likely the source of distrust as to the motives of those pushing a fast Health Care restructuring.
And now, as he prepares for the State of the Union, Obama is faced with the task of convincing a discontent public that the economy has been in his sights all along.And, he will reposition the Obama brand as focused on the economy first and foremost. The new playbook will suggest ways to strengthen inner cities as economic enhancement zones and redirect stimulus funds to promote small business hiring.The President will continue to take credit for setting policies that avoided a depression and for “…saving millions of jobs…” with deficit expanding stimulus. He will have to acknowledge continued press for Health Care Reform so that the energy doesn’t dissipate from the initiative altogether.
Behavioral Economics suggests that the economic recovery will begin when the public and financial institutions are convinced that it has truly begun. This will drive the private market behaviors that will cause consumers to spend and businesses to expand. So, for the State of the Union to be effective the tenor of the speech will have to instill confidence in the future of private business and job growth.
In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the poem, "Concord Hymn", dedicated to the Obelisk, a battle monument in Concord, Massachusetts, commemorating the men that gave their lives in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first battle of the American Revolution. This engagement was a decisive moment in our nation's history and the first stanza of Emerson's poem speaks of the "embattled farmers" that "fired the first shot heard around the world". On that day in April, 1775, the common man of Massachusetts made his frustrations known and yesterday he did it again.
With a clap of thunder heard nationwide, the most reliable Democrat seat in the Senate fell to a Republican.Fifty years in Democrat hands meant nothing under the weight of public annoyance. The vulnerability of this seat exemplifies how voter frustration, focused into action can create significant change.Is this the first day of a new political revolution in our country or just the beginning of a season of fascinating debate - time will tell?
At this point in the campaign, the voters have decided.They have made a personal commitment to go to the polls tomorrow at their predetermined time and pull the lever or tap the button for their candidate.The respective political bases have been rallied (or not) based upon the energy that has been carried throughout the campaign by the contestant and their party followers. Each candidate wears a personal brand that has been molded over months of the campaign through the media to the voters.The brand is defined by the adjectives that the majority of voters place next to the name of the candidate when prompted. This brand was either intentionally crafted through the emotional themes they promoted repetitiously through the fall or by the caricatures that the media formed for those candidates that chose a less intentional path.
Republican Scott Brown chose a consistent theme that supported the sound bite “Its’ the people’s seat”. His mastery of retail politics, borne of previous campaigns for state office, appealed to an electorate that wanted to develop trust through a personal relationship with their leaders. Democrat Martha Coakley was confident of an election victory following her primary success.Given the well known demographics of the Massachusetts political blue landscape, her assumption was also presumed by National Democratic party leadership until the 11th hour. That is when her lack of focus, energy and theme building was overtaken by the tipping point model that Scott Brown effectively executed.
As the candidates retreat this evening to their home base and prepare for an election day waiting game, they will no doubt reflect upon the moments of decision that represented the respective turning points for their campaign. The biggest personal lesson for both Brown and Coakley will likely come from their ability to adapt to the changes during the run and the decisive sprint to the finish.
Democratic Senate Candidate Martha Coakley has staggered into campaign end game with significant media gaffes that could rally those on the fence to her opponent.The gaffes include her statement that she would rather ".meet with Party officials.", than ".shake hands at Fenway Park." Curt Shilling, a BoxSox icon weighed in to the comment...
"Has she forgotten who she's talking to? What state she's wanting to represent in the Senate? It's Massachusetts. You do not make sneering insults about Fenway Park. What's she going to do next, insult the Red Sox?"
Perhaps she was taking a swing at Curt "bloody sock"Shilling when she called him a "...Yankees' fan...." just like Rudy Guillani, in response to questions about Rudy's visit to support Scott Brown. Oops.
Even more sacred ground upon which she has chosen to trample includes Catholics, who ".shouldn't work in emergency rooms.", and "the terrorists are not there (in Afghanistan) anymore."Even the crickets weren't chirping after that statement.And finally, an early campaign ad intending to smear Republican Candidate Brown had an image of the most sacred ground, the World Trade Center, which was embedded behind the words ".Greed and Corruption."
Martha's friends say she has a wonderful sense of humor and she has not been effective in displaying it during the campaign. There is a comedy nightclub in Atlanta called "The Punch Line",where comics perform their stand up routines to a fickle audience who venture into the club to laugh out loud and find a release from life's routine. Candidate Coakley is performing her stand up for a national audience on a highly visible stage and is experiencing her own media Punch Line indeed.
Current pundit speculation is that the GOP will have moderate to big gains in the House and small but significant gains in the Senate this election cycle. While mid-term elections typically observe gains for the minority party and this year portends to be no different, 2010 will be a year of establishing themes that hope to make nervous voters more comfortable about the country's future.The public remains unsettled by high unemployment, deep and growing deficits, unabated government growth, conflicting global climate change science, distain for pork projects, the war in Afghanistan and growing Government influence over our daily lives and activities.
Expect the GOP themes to sound off toward fiscal conservatism, smaller deficits and less government control.Also, the Northwest Flight 253 terror attempt positioned the GOP well to discuss the Democrat Party stereotype of a party weak on National Defense and fears of Iran's nuclear ambitions will establish a flash point between the parties, as they clash on the best course of action to stem the threat.On the environment, the sound bites will feature a stronger trumpeting for nuclear power, off shore drilling and additional green initiatives.Should the economy not improve before the election season, expect both the GOP leadership and its candidates to advocate for a different approach to job creation. Border enforcement will also be a ring tone for almost all candidates running from the right.
Democrat themes, driven by their discomfort with recent polls, will hearken back to 2008, focusing on Republican advocacy of big business and Democrat support for the many unemployed on" Main Street". They will go on both offense and defense in an effort to help the public digest their version of Health Care Reform and position the GOP as unsympathetic to the social needs of those citizens in 'the gap'. Should the economy continue to limp, expect more energy invested in a continuation of the Keynesian approach with another attempt at "Stimulus".Also expect an attempt by the Democrats to position their Party as Hawks against Terrorism.Finally, the Republican Party will be branded as obstructionist during a time when our citizens, economy and country need decisive government action to bring about positive "change."
The winds of speculation will blow in every direction over the next few months but, we only have to wait until November to find out which themes win out; this should be a fun year !!