Bill Clinton’s successful presidential election in 1992 ran on the campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid!” coined by his strategist James Carville. The campaign used the prevailing recession in the US to block the re-election bid of George H.W. Bush. From a 90% approval of the senior Bush’s job performance, it went south to 64% disapproval rating, days after the ground war in Kuwait. Carville hammered on the importance of the economy at every chance. Voters were worried about their finances and through successful messaging, the campaign piqued voter emotion to realize the negative impact of economic factors such as their wages, employment, savings and retirement accounts on their financial wellbeing while they saw their government spend on war.
In a recession, it’s easier to make the voters realize the importance of sound economic management like the above example. However, since voting remains an emotional exercise in reality even if it should be a highly rational exercise where we have to summon our Makatwirang Mak or what Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman calls System 2 (the effortful thinking), presidents who are doing okay in the economy don’t always get re-elected, or in our case where there’s no re-election, their endorsed candidates don’t quite make it.
How we have been choosing our presidents
Let’s take a look at our own fairly recent history. Fidel Ramos (1992 – 1998) was able to do a good job in making our economy pick up but his endorsed presidential candidate Jose De Venecia lost to Erap Estrada (1998 – 2001). Erap was ousted after only 2.5 years in office and then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over. In fairness to the former Economics teacher, a handful of experts opine that she did well in taking care of our economy. She got herself elected in the next presidential polls (giving her an almost 10-year term 2001 – 2010) but under a cloud of doubt for electoral fraud with her “Hello Darci” moment. She endorsed Gibo Teodoro, but Noynoy Aquino won. PNoy (2010 -2016) did a good job in getting our country’s first ever investment-grade rating, allowing our country to borrow funds internationally at lower interest rates and made investors look at us more seriously. We were no longer the “sick man of Asia” but Asia’s next tiger economy. He endorsed Mar Roxas who lost to Rodrigo Duterte. The incumbent (2016 – 2022) is not formally endorsing any presidential candidate but his daughter is in tandem with the son of the late dictator, whom he dissed as a weak leader, among other things.
And why is it that even if the economy is picking up, continuation of the regime does not usually happen? It’s because citizens get impatient with the progress. It is a combination of the impossible election promises and the fact that from where we are, that developed country status will really take a loooong time, especially if we keep putting into office populist leaders – in today’s lingo – the budol candidates who picture themselves as the champion of the common tao and put all the blame on things outside of themselves, usually the elite. They picture the elite as the villains even if they (the budol candidates) themselves are actually on top of the elite class! Mind-boggling, right? But somehow, voters buy it.
The economy, stupid
It’s usual for budol candidates to just use the “class war” tactic in getting themselves elected. The rich versus the poor. An emotional electorate is enticed to blame someone for his misfortune. Couple that with the simpatico and charming candidate giving away money (now in the form of pa-premyo to those who will attend rallies and share social media posts, and that’s on top of the troll farms), promising to solve deep-rooted problems in a matter of months, to give free this and free that with no clear source of funds, plus other Machiavellian tactics using lies, deception, and crime.
Although greed among the rich definitely contributes to the sorry state of our economy with worsening income inequality, the biggest contributor to our economy’s inability to take off is corrupt governance, something that takes time to address. But this is not so easy to sell to a hungry and angry voter. A quick solution of money on hand and someone to blame is much more attractive.
But there’s hope. I am very inspired by some friends who share stories of patiently explaining to people in their circle and even those they encounter in restaurants, gasoline stations, community pantries, etc. how they should not count on those who will give them cash and other promises of quick solutions to their problems.
Despite disheartening January 2022 results showing the most unqualified candidate on top of the surveys, there are numerous groups and institutions publicly showing support for the candidate who is most likely to improve our economy and the general wellbeing of our country. One of them is the group of economists and I am proud to say that I am one of those who signed this statement.
The three main points enumerated for our choice of president are the following:
(These are short versions, please read the official statement to see their entirety.)
- VP Leni brings solid economic and legal background necessary for crafting policies to accelerate economic recovery.
- She has genuine concern for the plight of the poor and marginalized through decades of work as a human rights lawyer for grassroots organizations even before entering politics.
- She has a proven track record of hands-on leadership and good governance, as evidenced by the efficient and responsive programs of the Office of the Vice President such as her responses to covid, typhoon, and other crises, making her work 18 hours a day, something Manang Imee dismissed as either a lie or being stupid.
Robredo is the candidate we can trust to have a transparent governance. Note that her office has earned the highest Commission on Audit rating for the third consecutive year. There are no promises of quick fixes but a promise of good governance. If you have been reading my articles, you know that I am a fan of good design. In my previous articles, I have discussed the importance of Choice Architecture and nudging (using design to help people make the right choices for themselves more easily). When it comes to improving our economy, good and transparent governance will make it easier for citizens to access services such as health, education, etc. that will make it easier for the hardworking to go up the economic ladder, walang palakasan.
We will know where our taxes go and we will happily pay our dues to help our economy grow, instead of wondering if “tax evasion is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it!”
Robredo’s integrity will also give our country that much-needed credibility on the world stage. This will be instrumental in revitalizing our partnerships in the global economy and asserting our national sovereignty in the region, especially where the West Philippine Sea is concerned. Wow! I can almost smell the PSE index going to 10,000 levels when we get our act together and do the right thing.
In the end, it’s really the economy, sweetie!
- Join me in my live show Money Lessons with FQ Mom on Thursday February 17, 2022. My special guest will be the beautiful Mariel Bitanga of Simply Finance. We will discuss money matters for women, young couples.
2. To learn more about your money behavior, get your copy of FQ Books and for your loved ones too. The principles you will learn from here are not only applicable in your financial life but all the other important aspects of your life. https://fqmom.com/bookstore/
3. If you haven’t taken the FQ Test yet, or have taken in on or before August 2021, it may be time to take the test again.
This article is also published in Philstar.