It was widely reported that this past weekend Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, along with two of their children, had lunch in Beverly Hills to celebrate Arnold's 64th birthday.
Shriver, a Democrat, and Schwarzenegger, a Republican, have always been able to put aside their partisan politics and present a "unified front," but given the conditions of their recent split, this lunch was perhaps more impressive than an emergency meeting of the European Union or any late night debt ceiling session on Capital Hill. In fact, based on the last few weeks in Washington, the recent debt crisis and the current state of our economy, it seems that this couple (or ex-couple) has some insight into focusing on the job at hand and managing partisan politics that we all could stand to learn from.
When we hear the rhetoric and political posturing coming out of Washington that fuels the media these days, when we hear terms like "inexcusable default" used in the same sentence as "United States," and when we experience the often angry and divisive "us versus them" mentality that many of us harbor, it sounds as if we have a whole lot of "irreconcilable differences" at a time when we can least afford to.
Economies are governed part by science, and part by art. And even though we don't understand the confluence of variables well enough yet to "get" the pure science -- let alone understand the nuance of the emotional components that make up the art of our current economic situation -- when we consider that in 1933 unemployment was 37 percent for non-farm workers, and that economists widely agree that they don't know exactly what caused the Great Depression to go on for so long in this country, maybe we can accept the fact that being "right" and being angry -- and certainly being partisan -- doesn't serve any of us. We can all sit back, read the history books, argue over Keynesian economics or blame Herbert Hoover's "do nothing" economic policy or the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, or blame FDR's anti-competition and pro-labor "spend and grow" efforts as the causal factors for the Great Depression's deep roots in American soil, or we can let history serve as a wake up call that renders us all adult enough to know exactly what is at stake right now.
As long as playing the blame game and being "right," as long as partisan agendas, political posturing and stubborn attitudes take precedence over finding real, working solutions, then we're not coming together for the sake of the kids. And unlike Schwarzenegger's four, as he called them, "beautiful children," President Obama, along with Democrat and Republican leaders, have well over 300 million beautiful children to lead -- all of whom want jobs, a healthy economy and "happy parents" working in unison.
And in the future, none of us want economists pouring over the data and speculating as to why it took so long for the United States to recover from the most recent economic collapse. Quite frankly, if it gets to that point, none of us will care who was "right," or who was rich, who was a Democrat or who was a Republican, who got a tax break, or who fathered a child with a member of his staff for that matter. Because it will be too late.
It's time for a new deal. Otherwise we will all find ourselves in Hoovervilles debating Keynesian theory, Obamanomics, political ideology and the economic Great Oppression that dug into the bitter soil of 2008 and took root. What we need to do is step back from all of our anger and finger-pointing, from our class-hatred and personal agendas, and consider that it was reported that in Beverly Hills on Sunday, Maria picked up the tab for lunch and that Arnold had recently dropped his efforts to fight her claim for spousal support. Under the circumstances, that is some meaty bipartisan compromise. And it should be one hell or a wake up call for the rest of us. Hey, it was even reported that Arnold and Maria's kids were smiling.