Briefly

Four years ago, I watched the election returns from a Holiday Inn off the 240 Loop. It sounds more sordid than it really was. I was called for jury duty and, because my luck is nothing if not stellar, I was sequestered. One of the things Shelby County does really well is scheduling for jury duty. You get to pick the week you’re called. Knowing this, I voted early. We were, along with our bailiffs, allowed to watch the returns.

I didn’t serve in the military. I have no interest in any job that involves campaigning. And while I think both the jury system and electoral system are flawed beyond reason, I vote and I serve on a jury.  There was something about sitting in a hotel room with more than a dozen other citizens, all strangers, watching history being made. I’d have preferred to be watching the returns with my family, but it was still a little patriotic jolt to get the results the way I did.

This year I’ll be plopped in front of the television in the den, kid on one side, husband on the other. Hopefully something in front of me involving items from the wine, pickle, and cheese groups.

And I will, as I was four years ago, be missing Tim Russert.

Not Tuning In, Just Dropping Out

On the heels of my decision to ignore promotional emails, I’ve decided to opt out of the presidential race as well. I just cannot listen ONE MORE MINUTE to these people. It’s not that I don’t care who is president, I do. I care very much. But sweet Gussie, the GOP seems to be running robots carved from cream cheese who run on battery cells fueled by PACs and the Dems are all SUCK IT! WE GOT BIN LADEN!!

Of the Republicans, Huntsman is the only one who makes any sense to me. And by that I mean, really, I cannot understand anything the others are saying. Because they don’t seem to say anything. Ron Paul, hailed as the only consistent candidate, wants total deregulation of markets. No government intervention, he cries. Let the consumers choose who stands and who falls! BUT YET, he wants to outlaw abortion. And I’m not sure my logic on this is totally sound, but isn’t that government regulation? How is it not? The government should regulate, apparently, nothing in the public sector, but everything in the private sector. Rick Santorum wants to outlaw contraception and homosexuality. Because, again, we should be in the business of regulating private homes. And bodies. Then there’s Mitt. Mitt’s got to stop talking to crowds like they’re full of toddlers. I’d never vote for Mitt because I can’t take that voice. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. I feel for him that he’s getting flack for his religion. What I wish is that would make him more sensitive to religious bigotry, but I also wish for thin thighs in thirty days. He’s flipped more times than the US gymnastics team, and much less gracefully. Oh, Newt. Let’s talk about Newt. No, let’s don’t. Let’s just ignore him and see if he goes to sit at the geek table. Is Rick Perry still in? All hat and no cattle, as my mother would say.

I’m not in love with our president either. He has this habit of answering questions starting with, “You know what?” It makes him sound like he’s two seconds away from bitch-slapping the questioner. Which he probably is. Oh, there are other reasons I’m not in lurv with him. For example, before the first election he laid out a loose plan to fix this ridiculous BCS mess. IS IT FIXED?

I think the problem is the game’s changed, but the players won’t admit it. I happen to believe capitalism like we were taught in school doesn’t exist. I think it’s been laid to rest just like communism. I’ve heard two things recently that really speak to what I believe about our country. In an interview with NPR, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Richard Cordray, said of his agency:

Well, the key for us is that part of our job is to make prices and risks clear for consumers so that they can make good, better informed judgments for themselves. That doesn’t mean that we’re prejudging any particular product. We will be regulating payday lenders, mortgage brokers, private student lenders, and that’s a very important step forward for us….We won’t be making people’s judgments for them. But if consumers aren’t clear on what the options are, then the markets don’t work very well. And we saw that in so many ways, and we all have stories about people who have lost their homes, who are drowning in debt. And sometimes, it was because they made bad choices, and sometimes, it was because they didn’t understand the choices they were making because this marketplace had grown too complex, too confusing.

Elizabeth Warren, who should have had Richard Cordray’s job, made this statement that went viral a few months ago:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! 

But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea–God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Markets don’t really regulate themselves becasue people run markets. This mystical “market” everyone keeps talking about doesn’t exist in a vacuum. No computer has ever stolen a credit card and bought a big screen TV at Best Buy. No market has ever sent me a letter saying that based on the balance of another credit card from another company, it was going to raise my interest rate and double my monthly payment. People decide those things. A business is not a social service. If you’re a for-profit business and you’re not worried about profits, you’re doing it wrong. But just as people got our economy off track, it’s going to take people to get our economy on track. I just don’t see a leader out there who can do that. Except maybe Hillary, who has totally ignored the doll made of my own hair I sent her with “PLEASE RUN” stitched on the dress.

I have also come to realize that we need a true co-presidency. We need a face for the glad-handing and a son of a bitch to get the work done. I once read something that compared politics to a beauty pageant. Is the woman who won the Miss Whatever State title really the prettiest, smartest young woman in the state? No, but she was the pick of the women who entered. Are any of these men the best choice for president? No, but we will choose from the group we are given.

I’ll show up, I’ll vote. But my resolution for the year is to pay more attention to the local because that’s the only way we’re going to have candidates good enough for the national.