As is the case every two years, it's being demonstrated once again that the Olympics are the opiate of the sports-watching American public. Patriotism is breaking out all over this country as our athletes, particularly the women, rack up gold and other medals at an inspirational pace.
The summer games happen to coincide with our quadrennial decision on whether we as a people want to keep the president we have or vote for another one. And in this exercise, too, we are experiencing a predictable outbreak of wearing our patriotism on our sleeves, regardless of party.
Republican prospective nominee Mitt Romney is given to serving up his rendition of "God Bless America" to his party faithful, while President Barack Obama reminds us that there is nobody like us anywhere around the world.
In his campaign speech in Colorado just the other day, he pulled out all the stops, saying "we've still got the best workers in the world ... the best entrepreneurs ... the best scientists and researchers ... the best colleges ... and universities in the world."
Mr. Obama went on: "We're still a young nation, and we've got the greatest diversity of talent and ingenuity, and people want to come here from every corner of the globe. So no matter what the naysayers tell us, no matter how dark the other side tries to make this look, the fact is that not another country in the entire world would not gladly trade places with the United States of America."
This contagious patriotism does not, however, deter either Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama and their super-PAC surrogates from lambasting the opposition with all manner of accusations, pointedly accentuating the negative in their unprecedented television and radio advertising.
Mr. Obama plays the patriotism card to spur voters to restore their slipping confidence that Americans can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get the world's leading economy humming again. At the same time, Mr. Romney argues that Mr. Obama hasn't a clue about how to do so, and he should be shoved aside to let a successful businessman show the way with real faith in the American way.
For all the expressions of patriotism, both sides agree that the stalemate results from consumer hesitation to start buying again and entrepreneur hesitation to hire again, given the uncertainty about the market for more goods produced. It's understandable, except for one glaring fact.
In the midst of this stalemate, the stock market seems to be thriving, and many corporations are piling up huge profits by managing to get more productivity from fewer workers. As long as they're able to squeeze more of their goods and services from a smaller workforce, the entrepreneurs apparently see no compelling incentive to resume hiring right now.
But maybe this is where the much-touted patriotism of American business ought to come into play. If corporate America has such faith in our system of private enterprise, where is its collective willingness to roll the dice a bit? Why aren't they putting some of those huge profits into priming the pump, calling millions of workers who have lost their jobs back into the workforce? If they're against governmental pump-priming, why don't they step up?
The answer from corporate America, and its banking and investment allies, is that governmental regulations hinder their ability to grow. Resuming hiring in the absence of a guaranteed market for the increased goods reemployed workers would produce, they say, would be too risky. But isn't risk at the heart of the capitalist system that its defenders constantly crow about, as they pat themselves on the back as the true engines that make it work?
Mr. Obama continues to blame the Republicans in Congress for failing to act on his proposed plans for infrastructure restoration that would create many thousands of construction jobs. If those House Republicans are so disdainful that such governmental stimulus can break the economic stalemate, it seems reasonable to suggest that they put their money where their mouths are.
It's past time that corporate America and their banking cronies take the risk they always boast of, and start putting our unemployed and underemployed back on the job.
It would be the patriotic thing to do, and might well make them even richer.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email is email@example.com.