"No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems -- of which getting elected and re-elected are No. 1 and No. 2. Whatever is No. 3 is far behind".
Thomas Sowell, Economist
Are you tired of all the divisiveness that exists in the current political climate? A divisiveness that has leaked out into many other areas of life: talk radio, churches, the media, dinner parties, etc. Are you tired of the mounting national debt we are adding to every day? See if you agree with what I believe to be a major cause of both the divisiveness and the increasing national debt.
Let's start with the divisiveness by first pointing out what is NOT causing it.
It is not caused by the natural disagreements that occur about particular policies. We disagree about all kinds of things, but they don't usually cause a national splintering.
And it is not caused by our politicians, as individuals. The vast majority of them want what is best for our country. Thinking about the presidents during my lifetime, I believe this is true of all of them. So the divisiveness is not caused by politicians who are evil, or who want to secretly do harm to the United States.
Also, it is not caused by us non-politicians, as individuals, because most of us want what is best for our country.
So what is the main cause of the current political divisiveness? I believe it is due to the fact that we have only two major political parties. Here's why.
The parties are built around getting elected. This seems rather obvious and rational. If you don't get elected, you can't do nearly as much political good as someone who did get elected. But there are a number of unfortunate sides to this. For example, many politicians from one party will tend to denigrate or even lie about politicians of the other party, hoping that this will improve their chances of getting elected. These attacks upon each other leak out to the rest of us who frequently parrot them thus creating divisiveness. For instance, former Republican Senator Bob Dole, an honorable man, once told President Bill Clinton that the opposition's job is not making deals but "making the president fail, so he could be replaced as quickly as possible." This type of political posturing is clearly not in the best interest of the country, but are the result of political parties doing whatever they can to get elected.
Furthermore, take any topic related to the government such as; what should we do to combat terrorism? Or what should we do to improve the health of our citizens? There are not two sides to any of these issues – there are many ways to look at them, and many possible solutions to them. But because there are only two major political parties, the parties eventually have to come up with a position on each such question. Since the voters then have to choose between one of two policies, a divisiveness results. Usually, they will defend whatever policy their political party came up with, even if they might agree with some aspects of the other parties' position.
So why does having two dominant parties result in a large national debt?
Once again, it has to do with the fact that the political parties are built around getting elected. Thus, many candidates and politicians tell people what they think will get them elected, rather than telling them what policies they think are best for the country. Most of us are naturally lazy, and would love to get a 'free lunch', especially if no tax increase is involved, or if the 'rich' will be paying for it (which never seems to happen, but it sounds good). So candidates like making political promises that putatively give us a free lunch or two.
Thus, both major political parties commit us to a fraud; a fraud that we are so used to it doesn't even seem fraudulent anymore. And that fraud is deficit spending. In the federal government, there is no Constitutional mandate to have a balanced budget. So rather than having the courage to say that if we want a certain new program, or we want to increase spending on a program, we'll have to either cut spending somewhere else, or raise taxes, both Republicans and Democrats increase spending without usually doing either. But the piper must always be paid.
This deficit spending will cost us in numerous ways. For instance, in 2009 the national debt is around $12 trillion. Since the US has about 110 million households, this comes out to each household's portion of the debt to be $110,000. No, you don't need new glasses, the arithmetic is correct. One way this affects us is that for the 2009 fiscal year, we paid $383 billion in interest on the national debt, about $3,500 per household. This is the 4th highest expenditure in the US budget.
And the current administration expects to add $9 trillion more over the next decade. So by around 2020, the US national debt will be about $21 trillion. Then, each household's portion of the debt will be $200,000, and the interest on that will be $6,700 per household. Is this sound fiscal policy? No, it is fraud, and we and our children will pay for it. And both of the major political parties have contributed to this.
Are there political candidates who ran for the presidency who actually said what they think is best for the country and did not tailor their messages to get more votes? Yes. Without giving names, it is safe to say that none of them became our president. I don't think that a candidate for the presidency can get elected if he or she says what they truly believe.
What are some possible solutions? You'll have to wait for part 2 to find out.
Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.