Public Comment

Commentary: How Relevant is the Economy?

By Marvin Chachere
Tuesday March 25, 2008

Self interest precedes community interest. Therefore, when the votes are cast for our 44th president each of us will choose the one who is more likely to improve our personal well being. So, if the economy means a collection of everything that will enhance one’s financial situation—then of course, “It’s the economy, stupid!” And the presidential nominee who waves this slogan best will win….again.  

But, wait. The economy that presidential aspirants, Congress, the Federal Reserve, economists and the punditry refer to is an abstract entity with pervasive reach full of surprises and intractable forces, resting on a mountain of data acquired from a vast range of activities. Economists prowl huge forests of numbers associated with stuff like national income, markets, business and international trade, considered to be economic indicators, and arrange their findings in verbal tableaux depicting the current state of things and suggesting future states. Their world is dominated by markets and the accumulation of wealth whereas our down-to-earth world turns on need and access.  

In economic discourse metaphors and inconsistencies abound: a lazy economy must be stimulated, a sinking economy must be propped up, a tottering economy must be bolstered, a weak economy must be strengthened, and so forth. The president tells us the nation is strong and yet each month tens of thousands lose their jobs. In Congress deficits are as acceptable as earmarks. No one wants to say “recession” but the president admits to a downturn and urges a stimulus package that will give borrowed cash to the working poor and continue tax breaks for the super rich.  

The ancient Greek idea of the economy as household management is stretched to the fantasy point as our leaders use it to cover management on a national and global scale.  

To what extent do numbers associated with national income, markets, business and international trade impact daily life? Do ordinary people care whether economics is a science, soothsaying, wishful thinking or plain boloney? Who cares? Most of us are too busy making ends meet. 

If there is a connection between the economy as conceived by our ruling classes and my personal well being it’s too complex for me to trace; the line between a surging (or plunging) stock market and my wallet is not only dim but tenuous and convoluted.  

I’m not so stupid as to act on the state of the economy as touted by contentious specialists who mix voodoo elements with trickle-down promises, rational, mathematical and sophisticated indeed, but no more reliable than tea leaves. 

My vote for president will not signify my concern for the economy but my hope for my own and my children’s well being.  


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.