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Political brinksmanship puts the U.S. at economic risk

We the People collectively need to call our politicians to their noblest aspirations and values as leaders.

Why has the United States lost its place as the world economic leader? I believe the answer is found in dysfunctional domestic politics.
REUTERS/Larry Downing

It appears to me that the current political impasse in Washington is becoming the new normal at the very time we need our politicians to exercise dynamic leadership. We move from one self-made cliff to the precipice of another simply for the purpose of political maneuvering.

dumestre portrait
Marcel J. Dumestre

Implications of strategic political brinksmanship tend to be framed in the interplay of Main Street, Wall Street, the national debt, the world economy, and other buzzwords for complicated, interrelated realities. This type of political stubbornness places our country, both domestically and internationally, at economic risk.  

And I’m not alone in my analysis. Ian Bremmer, founder of the Eurasia Group, has literally made it his business to understand the interplay of politics and economic risk. In his 2012 book, “Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World,” Bremmer takes a look at the political and economic health of countries around the world. His conclusion, not surprisingly, is that the United States no longer serves as the singular stabilizing economic power in the world.  

Neither does China, nor any other one country. More surprising is the fact that neither the G-8, the 8 most influential national economies, nor the G-20, serve that purpose either. Thus, his term G-Zero. No one country, or group of nations, dominates the international economic arena.

Dysfunctional domestic politics

Why has the United States lost its place as the world economic leader? I believe the answer is found in dysfunctional domestic politics. Today’s political impasse is the successor of Eisenhower’s warning about the destructive power of the “Military-Industrial Complex.”  We now have the “Political-Industrial Complex.”

Political power is neither new nor just borne by state/federal lobbyists and superPACS. The danger we face is twofold: massively financed political zealotry and an ever-expanding media platform. Eisenhower could never imagine the amount of money spent today on partisan politics coupled with multimedia outlets fueled by increasingly mobile technologies. The problem is not with media access. It’s the zealotry. A really inflammatory message travels faster and farther than ever before.

We need wise politicians

The stakes are high in this G-Zero world. Political zealotry has critical consequences that affect our domestic and international wellbeing. We need politicians dedicated to productive discourse instead of political maneuvering. What happened to the wise politicians we call statesmen and stateswomen? We need that type of leadership now more than ever.

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This G-Zero world will not last long. Nations that are agile and can adapt to fast-changing world political change and market opportunities will rise to the top.  The new reality is that political partisanship not only impairs us domestically but also prevents us from emerging as the 21st century economic power that benefits our children, the world and ourselves.  We must not give in to zealots on either side of the aisle.

Is America up to the challenge? I think so. My guess is that Bremmer is optimistic as well. And I’ll have a chance to ask him that question on April 17.  He will be in the Twin Cities speaking at the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership’s Forum 2013 at Saint Mary’s University Center. His talk is titled “Rocking the World Order: How Changing Politics, Economics and Geography Impact Us.”  

I believe “Rocking the World Order” requires an America that stabilizes itself by a deep-seated belief in We the People. We collectively need to call our politicians to their noblest aspirations and values as leaders. The Political-Industrial Complex stays in place only as long as we let it. Just as the military should only serve the people, not the defense industry, politics should only serve the people as well. Both are service sectors of society.

Let’s elect leaders to keep it that way. Otherwise, to our peril, we will be left with political zealots in a leaderless world.

Marcel J. Dumestre, Ed.D., is vice president of the Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.  

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