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The nature of government is a central topic in this election. What is it’s role? Whom does it serve? Can it be trusted? Does it create jobs or not? Is it like a business? Is the economy more productive  if the President has experience in business? The answer to the last question has been answered by history, and the answer is no.

Looking at official GDP statistics from a recent Washington Post article entitled Can A Businessman Help the Economy?, it appears that economic growth has slowed during the administration of “business Presidents”, such as Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush. On the other hand, GDP has been at its strongest under  Presidents without prior business experience in the White House. It works the same way between performance of the stock market and a President’s former profession.  “Stock values have averaged a robust 14.2 percent annual gain under presidents without business experience, and they have fallen by an average of 3 percent annually under those with that “essential” qualification.”  Electing a businessman as President is no guarantee of a vigorous and expanding national economy. The Chief Executive simply does not possess the power.

Running a country is not like running a business. The  only objective of business is to generate profits. It is driven by competition. Success is determined by pushing down the costs of production and charging the consumer as much as possible. The objective of government is to create an environment in which its citizens can realize their potential. This is a far broader, more complicated and nuanced task. Public policy is deeply influenced by our common values and calculated to enhance the common good. It does not aim for the accumulation of personal power in a small group of individuals, but the expansion of every kind of opportunity as far and as widely as possible. Because it requires consensus and the balancing of many different needs and desires, compromise is essential. There is no other way to govern a democratic republic such as ours. Without the give and take of negotiated resolution, we are left with two alternatives, mob rule  or deadlock.  Neither leads to the efficient operation of the gears and levers of our governmental mechanism. It was never designed to work that way.

It doesn’t matter who wins the Presidential election so much, because the party makeup of the House and Senate are unlikely to change significantly. In the zero sum game of politics as it is currently played, the road to a stalemate in the next Congressional session is short and straight. We will have next to nothing to show for the gazillions of dollars spent in election campaigns, except two gangs on either end of rope stretched over an abyss so deep that no matter who pulls the other hardest, all will fall into the void. That’s how it ends when your only aim is to annihilate the opposition – you’d sooner see them go down with you than let them win.

Decades ago, Gloria Steinem observed that women had become, with their increasing economic and educational empowerment, the men they were supposed to marry.   We can start businesses, buy homes, get mortgages, practice medicine, build bridges and serve in the military. We can also run households, raise children, give birth, banish nightmares, heal boo-boos, stretch the grocery budget and be in three places at once. We have to add one more thing to our ever-lengthening “to do” list –  women will have to be the leaders we seek. Centuries of almost exclusive male leadership compel a single conclusion.  They can’t do it alone. Mothers, I ask you – if not us, who?  If not now, when?

‘Til next time, and please vote,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington

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