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Political brinksmanship puts the U.S. at economic risk

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

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.

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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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/05/2013 - 05:19 pm.

    My Larger Concern

    While a lot of people are concerned about Republicans and Democrats not playing nice, I’m far more concerned with how they get along.

    For a generation both parties have pursued job exporting free trade agreements, low taxes on capital gains and dividends, financial rules written by and for Wall Street, as well as watching the slow steady decline of the middle class. Obama has offered to cut Social Security retirement benefits, in the face of wide spread opposition by Republicans as well as Democrats and independents.

    There is too little difference between these two parties. You’d almost think it was the same wealthy elites that are financing both of them.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/05/2013 - 06:31 pm.

    Dysfunction, the new norm for the Republicans

    With the republicans at the extreme of dysfunction the only way they feel they can protect themselves is to be against everything, at all cost. The leaders they have are weak. The party is not a party but many groups of political zealots who don’t know anything but their way or the highway. Some of them don’t even like their own party. The moderate Republicans have been driven out of the party through purity tests. Many can’t even speak their own mind until they leave office. Many are tired of no progress and are leaving the party. Their policies have been time proven to be failed. Their messengers run, lose, and then state they didn’t want the job anyway. The only reason Boehner got his job is because no one else wanted it. Locally they can’t even pay their own bills, which is ironic in that they are “fiscal conservatives”. It is a party based purely on myths, no substance, only myths. For years they tripped over each other to see who could say “in the tradition of Ronald Reagan” first. It turns out it was during Reagan’s time the US started to decline, they know it, and now they don’t bring it up. It was all just another Republican myth. They have their war on women, minorities, and common sense so they are going nowhere fast. The rebranding they are going to try means nothing more than a semantics game with no real changes being planned or made. I see more losses in 2014 for the Repiublicans.

    • Submitted by Dustin Dumestre on 04/10/2013 - 12:00 pm.

      Obvious Liberal


      Obviously you hang out on the far left. Take a look around you, everything you said against the republicans can be said about all democrats. Your political ideology has failed you in every way. There is no difference between republicans and democrats in this new political order. It is apparent you have only done your opinionated “research” from one side of the spectrum. Wake up! If We The People would realize that it is the tax paying citizens against the politicians we would be much better off. People need to start helping people again. People like you are the reason this country is in political & economic chaos! Stop spewing the lefts agendas. Just to let you know, this is coming from a true independent.

      WAKE UP!

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 04/06/2013 - 08:38 am.

    Editorial comment

    This is one of those pieces about which if I were the editor, I would say, don’t describe what you are thinking, tell us what you think. I yield to no one in my disgust for politicians, but I just don’t think that it’s all their fault. I do agree that American business has become excessively risk averse, something that’s entirely understandable given the recent history of our economy. We have become frightened of the future, something that manifests itself in our political discourse in a variety of ways, I have no real solution for this, nor do I think one can be found in our politics. But it is a problem that somehow must be solved.

  4. Submitted by myles spicer on 04/06/2013 - 11:32 am.

    Agree but…

    Clearly our politics are disfunctional (and pretty disgusting); however I think and even larger factor is not the demise of America, but rather the world is catching up, and we may never be a preeminent again (the wolrd is flat). In the industrial age, right up to WWII, the development of an industrial society was capital intensive and required lots of parts (like natural resources, industrial plants etc). Now we live in a technological age — and ideas, developments, technology can more easily migrate around the globe — and it has. Even emerging third world countries have some pretty sopisticated technology (India is a good example)

    We have the skills and ability to create new products, but the manufacture is so automated (sometimes analogous to printing), and can be done so cheaply, that type of labor may stay offshore. In fact, the number of workers needed now (along with increased productivity) may mean we will always have a bit larger unemployment rate going forward.

  5. Submitted by David Frenkel on 04/06/2013 - 12:14 pm.


    No mention of the Billion dollar lobbying influence in DC. Outside influences certainly rule in DC. Regardless of how you stand on the issue look at how the NRA is driving the gun control issue and it is no coincidence it spends millions making its influence known.

  6. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 04/06/2013 - 05:13 pm.

    Yes, it’s easy to forget how completely corporate money is running our country today because they have become such masters at disguising it. Both parties (but especially Republicans) are answering to a power that has little to do with “we the people.”

    • Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/06/2013 - 09:35 pm.

      the dysfunction is …

      coporate arrogance. Corporation be they business,issue focused, or sports seemed to put their own interests before the collective. The only hope left are the unions but then again that’s the way it always was.

      • Submitted by Dustin Dumestre on 04/10/2013 - 12:12 pm.

        Unions… Really?

        Unions are a thing of the past! Unions are equally to blame in all of this. My personal opinion is union leaders are a major contributor to the overall problem. Public sector workers do not deserve to make more than their private sector equals. Union wages a bloated and promote laziness!

  7. Submitted by mark wallek on 04/07/2013 - 09:39 am.

    It’s the new America

    Lack of service for the citizens, self service for congressional members, pandering to the corporate reelection dollar is what occurs now in our august halls of government. I remember when the maxim ” A healthy, educated, well fed nation is a strong nation.” We want to simply capitalize on the slogan value of that statement now, because we are none of it any longer. Many working people, i.e. the under 60,000 a year clan, feel betrayed by their nation, and wonder why a member of congress, who is theoretically paid by we taxpayers, can have super healthcare, a really big home and a pay raise as our economic circumstance continues to erode? There are a couple paths open to our future, based on our past and current choices, and none are pretty. The classism inherited from the british, from whom we also get our history of racial strife, is coming back with a vengeance, and if people thought the violence of the anti-Vietnam protests was bad, it will be as nothing if we’re going to get back on track and have a human centered society one again.

  8. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/07/2013 - 11:13 am.

    Just a thought “Lack of Judicial review”

    Perhaps our judicial system is the real elephant in the room? The level of approved Gerrymandering has allowed the creation of pockets of radicals that can hold the entire country hostage to their beliefs, we have a Taliban of our own sort and the judicial system which should be there to insure we all play fair has chosen to ignore the fundamentals of the political landscape by allowing this uneven playing field. How is it possible that you would have pockets that are nearly 100% Radically Right of left? Not possible in an normal statistical probability.

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