Arguably, the most important news story in the world today is the current Presidential race of the United States of America. I know a lot of people reading this article are going to tell me differently. I know you’ll argue that the most important news story in the world today is an under-reported genocide, a war in the Middle East, space probes, or a cure for a disease. And you’re right. Those are terribly important stories. But that’s why I added the prefix “Arguably”.

America isn’t the greatest country in the world. Because what is “great”? That’s just a vague word we apply to everything – from cupcakes to cryogenics. And America definitely isn’t blessed by God, either. When did He ever say so? I must have missed that memo. All too often these are the only two ways I hear America described: blessed by God, and great. But that’s misdirection from the blatant truth.

What America really is – and there really can’t be even the shadow of a sliver of a fraction of a doubt here – is the most influential nation on the planet. Everything America does affects every other nation more powerfully than the effects of those nations on America.

Example: the housing bubble, its subsequent burst, and the resulting European bank failures. The United States started a recession that went global. In other words, America screwed up, and more or less the whole world got screwed, too. This is why, even if you’re not American, even if you have no interest in the nation or its people, it is still directly relevant to you. In fact, your life may be dependent on its security and economic health.

And today, that security and that economic health, in turn, are dependent on 2012’s Presidential race between Democratic representative and President, Barack Hussein Obama, and Republican representative and former Governor, Willard Mitt Romney. Yes, his first name really is Willard. And no, he doesn’t like to be called Mittens. But that’s never stopped anyone.

These are two people who represent two political parties that are so starkly contrasted, so polar opposite and extreme, that in the past four years there has hardly been any overlap at all in policy and function. It’s like looking for the gray in a black and white chess board. You’re just not going to find a whole lot of it.

These parties and these people, so separate and opposed as they are, have just as conflicting ideas of what America is, and should be. This is the crux of my argument. So brace yourselves. After the election this November, you’re going to see either a wildly deformed America, or a progressively better one. Either one could be trapping the whole world in a choke hold for the next four years.

The best descriptions of these possible futures were given by Willard Romney and William Clinton at the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention, respectively. And, strangely enough, both Romney and Clinton asked their audiences to vote for the same thing: the strengthening of the middle class, which has been proven to bolster the economy. But the paths they believe will take us to that goal of economic prosperity couldn’t be more antithetical.

Here’s Bill: “We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that ‘We’re all in this together’ is a far better philosophy than ‘You’re on your own.’

That’s a pretty good snapshot of the Democratic Party, and President Obama’s political philosophy, specifically.

Now compare it with Mittens: “In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class. Family income has fallen . . . but health insurance premiums are higher. Food prices are higher. Utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices, they’ve doubled. Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before. Nearly one out of six Americans is living in poverty . . . His policies have not helped create jobs. They’ve depressed them, and this I can tell you about where President Obama would take America. His plan to put taxes on small businesses won’t add jobs. It will eliminate them.”

The funny thing is, there are no Obama plans to over-tax small businesses. But Mittens and his cronies are dead set on convincing voters that he will. Why? Because Willard actually believes in the trickle down theory of economics as the best – in fact, only – method to increase the middle class. But trickle down doesn’t work. It leads to the deregulation of large businesses, which allows those businesses to take stupid risks, and screw over the world when they mess up. Willard can’t admit that. No one would take him seriously. So he has to fluff up his position with attacks on Obama.

Now I’m going to divert for a moment, and attempt to tie all of this together.

Before he hanged himself in 2008, writer David Foster Wallace had a story he used to love to tell. He included it in novels, used it as a commencement speech, and routinely brought it up at readings and parties. It’s about fish. And it’s deceptively simple. Two fish are swimming together. Another fish swims by them and asks, “isn’t this water great?” The first two fish look at each other and say, “what’s water?”

The point is, notice things. Be aware. You may not have a vote or a say in the American presidential election, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you, that it doesn’t help to define the world you inhabit. If the Dow Jones can drop by half in less than a year and drag the rest of the world down with it, imagine what could happen if a president was elected who routinely unchained businesses to continue to take the stupid risks that caused the recession in the first place. Understand the world you live in.

This is the most important story in the world this year. This is water.

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