With the mid-term elections less than a month away, I'm starting to feel a building sense of doom. Our country is facing genuine problems and I worry that present political trends are only going to make these problems fester.
I won't play Nostradamus and predict whether Republicans are going to win the house or senate. I will ask, does it matter? If they do reclaim power, it will be by feeble margins compared to what the Democrats currently possess. If Democrats are barely able to function in the face of unanimous Republican opposition, why should the Republicans dream that once they have power, the Democrats are suddenly going to be trying to help them pass laws? We are now firmly in an era of kamakazi politics. Republican's are likely to make gains, and think that their strategy of just saying no to everything is a good one to continue if they are a few seats short of taking over either house. Democrats, if they lose control of either house, are going to say, "Hey! The Republican's made us look ineffective by never giving us a single vote. We'll show the same unity in opposition now that they are in power and they'll now get to become the unpopular scapegoat party!"
The timing couldn't be worse. Our national debt is set to devour our future. We've ignored it for twenty years, always trusting that somehow things would work out. It's like obesity; you put on twenty pounds in your twenties, and hey, it's no big deal, you were skinny anyway. Then, in your thirties, you add another ten pounds. But, while you understand you aren't in great shape, the extra weight isn't affecting you that bad. You still live your life more or less normally. And, look around: Everyone is putting on extra weight. Then, in your forties, you add more weight. Hmm. Maybe this is starting to be a problem. Your doctor's been telling you this for twenty years, but now is when you're starting to notice that you're having trouble breathing walking up a flight of stairs. You think, maybe it's time to do something about your weight. Maybe not get skinny again, but watch what you're eating more, maybe take a walk a few times each week. You'll be okay if you can just stay where you're at. It's not like you're so heavy that you need one of those wheeled carts to get around the grocery store. Then, in your fifties, you're riding around on the wheeled cart, still planning to excercise once your gout clears up. And, in your sixties, you're dead.
Our deficit has followed the same pattern. When we first started running it, no big deal. When we got worried about it in the 90's, we did a few years of excersize and got it back under countrol. Then, life got stressful again with the whole 9-11 thing and discipline went out the window and we were back at the deficit trough. Now, we've reached the point where we've gotten so fat and flabby, deficit-wise, that we have to get in shape immediately or we'll become so weak that we won't be able to save ourselves.
Do democrats have a plan to help us escape our debt trap? Nope. Their only plan is to complain that Tea Partier's didn't complain about the debt when Bush was in office. (Though, while I don't consider myself a tea partier, I certainly was talking about the debt during this time.) Do republican's have a plan to deal with the debt? A few here and there have actual plans, but only a few. For the most part, I've noticed in interviews lately that they are vaguely promising to cut spending... except for defense, or social security, or medicare. And, presumably, they won't stop paying interest on the national debt. So... they are admitting up front that they consider 98% of the budget untouchable. This is like promising to drink a diet coke while your heaping up the plates with meat loaf and mashed potatoes and chocolate pie at Bronco Billy's Big Boy Buffet Barn.
If you're obese, the prescription isn't arcane. Eat less, excercise more. Our debt has a similar simple fix: Cut spending and increase tax revenues. But, most obese people (including me) find that they lack the discipline to stick to the formula. Under what possible imaginary scenario are we suddenly going to elect politicians with the discipline to rescue us from our debt?