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Above all else, we want the government to provide us with economic prosperity. Yet, that’s something that it is incapable of providing. And since our president is but one cog (although a significant one) in the vast American government apparatus, which is but one cog in the multifaceted American economy, which is but one cog in the complex global economy (about 25%), we are selecting our presidents based on a fallacy.
Wake up America! Think a little bit before you vote. The candidate on the favorable side of the current economic situation, usually there by pure luck, will spend an inordinate amount of time asking the question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago." Don't bite!
It's not like the economy is a ship, and the president is its captain. It's not even like the economy is a corporation, and the president is its CEO. It's more like the economy is a herd of cats, and the president is their shepherd.
To clarify, I will admit that certain government policies are probably better for our economy in the long term than other policies. However, to give sitting presidents, or their political party, the credit or blame for the economy as it exists at the end of a 4 or even 8 year term is an absurd oversimplification.
Please don't confuse this post for a thinly veiled defense of President Obama, given the apparently stalled economic recovery. I also felt this way with John McCain four years ago. He had a lot of good things to say, but in the end it didn't matter. The incumbent was a Republican, and McCain was a Republican, and the economy was in a tailspin. End of story.
I encourage you to become a sophisticated voter, if you aren't already. Sure, you should consider the economic philosophies of the candidates, but keep in mind that the president is more likely to influence education policy or the makeup of the Supreme Court, for example, than he or she is to affect your wallet in the next four years. It's nice to think otherwise, because it's always comforting to imagine that someone is in charge, but that's just an illusion.