Posted at Americas Quarterly on December 2, 2012
When listening to often negative newscasts in Canada and the U.S., one would think that everything revolves around politics—whether the GOP primary in the U.S., the consistent debate on economic policy, or parliamentary tactics by the Harper government to end debate on controversial legislation. It’s as if all issues or solutions must have a political element.
But Canada and the U.S. have much more to talk about than dysfunctional political conflicts. Both countries have promising futures despite sluggish economic growth projections. Just recently, respected CNN host Fareed Zakaria of the GPS program, presented an interesting take by asserting convincingly that “America is not Greece, Italy, or Japan.” He explains why Greece and Italy are not competitive enough in world markets, and argues how the U.S. remains innovative—by far the strongest economy—in selling its products around the world.
In his editorial, Zakaria then referred to a recent address by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers who illustrated that the U.S.’ economic downturn was not as severe as Japan’s so-called lost decades (1990-2010). While U.S. housing values went down by 33 percent, those in Japan in the 1990s went down by 75 percent. Japan’s stock market value went down by 75 percent, while the U.S. stock market has regained much of the lost value of 2007-08. Zakaria concludes that the economic and demographic potential remains the greatest among the world’s rich nations—and if the politicians discover the will to take on the fiscal problems, the future remains bright.
In Canada, jobs lost in the last recession have been recovered. Canada has the best fiscal outlook of any G-8 countries. The country is resource-rich and has the most stable financial system among G-20 countries.
This does not mean that politics is irrelevant or marginal to the destiny of our nation. Having been involved for over 30 years in political activity, I can attest to the importance of politics and how politicians can make a difference in advancing constructive public policy in the course of the democratic process. The problem seems to be that the political process is more polarized today, and our leaders are less inclined to compromise.
Maybe it is time for the players in the democratic conversation and in the political debate, including the elected representatives, the media, the interest groups, and the voters, to take a look at the bigger picture. They will likely conclude that some countries like Canada and the U.S. have a lot to be thankful for: stable democracies, strong economies, and social safety nets.
As we enter the holiday season, it may be time to become more optimistic and see the glass as “half full.” This way, we may be able to find common ground and debate our differences in a constructive and productive manner as we begin 2012.