After a car hurtles off a cliff and kills everyone on board, it really doesn’t matter to those in the car who was driving.
That’s what it feels like these days in the U.S. political arena. Romney and Obama are battling it out, but the car is veering further off the road to progress and the fiscal cliff is dead ahead.
I think Congress will ultimately bumble out a short-term solution…again…to avert disaster. But that's the problem – it's always a short-term solution. And it's always last minute. This repeating cycle means there is little long-term planning, and even less tangible progress to get the country back on track.
That's why well known author and investor Jim Rogers recently stated, "I will not vote for either one of them … I will vote the protest vote because all of them have gotten us into this situation."
After Tuesday night's Presidential debate, I'm inclined to agree with him.
Let's take just one huge issue that hasn't been discussed in as much detail as I would have liked during these debates – the bailouts of 2008.
Of the $604 billion worth of taxpayer funds that were either invested, loaned out or used to subsidize then private companies, only $425 billion has been paid back to date.
This image from ProPublica.org show the breakdown, and how the "investments" have generated revenues of just $87.1 billion, or 14% of the total funds spent.
While Obama and Romney have sparred over semantics related to who wanted to bail out Detroit, which cost only $79.7 billion, as a country we're still down $173.7 billion, or nearly 29% of the total taxpayer dollars spent.
So the question is this: is either one of these guys going to help Congress make better investments than those of the past four years, which resulted in a 29% loss?
Now I know many believe the bailouts were necessary to “save the system” – and that they did just that, helping the S&P 500 rally to near all-time highs in the process.
But they also gave Congress and two Presidents (Bush and Obama) the sense that saving the system means punishing the system.
I'm convinced that the same thing will happen in January 2013 when it's time to deal with the fiscal cliff, regardless of whether Obama or Romney wins.
Neither candidate strikes me as having the ability to pull everyone together and strike the right compromises to change the system. More of the new normal isn’t what this country needs, yet I think that’s what we'll get – another round of contentious debating followed by a short-term solution to our country's budget gap.
I hope that whichever candidate wins the Presidency is wise enough to realize – and soon – that citizens and businesses don’t like the constant punishment. They'd rather take the medicine and get on with a real recovery.
Rogers isn’t running, but after Tuesday night I wish he were. The country needs a driver who can get us back on the road.