The National Debt
The National Debt is an invisible problem and should be the #1 campaign issue in every Presidential and Congressional race. This paper addresses the ramifications of the debt, misconceptions about it, and possible solutions.
The National Debt
Three clichés apply to this election season: 1. The Emperor has no clothes. 2. The elephant in the room. 3. You can't see the forest from the trees. Why? Because the number one campaign issue for every Presidential and Congressional race should be our National Debt! It's somewhat of an invisible problem, so perhaps that's why it doesn't get more attention. Or, maybe it doesn't rate because most politicians incorrectly associate it only with cutting programs and services - which is never popular with their voters.
Let's consider just some of the ramifications of our 19 Trillion Dollar National Debt:
A. To fund the national debt, the U.S. needs to print money or borrow from other countries. If we continue to print money, that devalues our existing dollars resulting in inflation. If we continue to borrow from other countries such as China and Japan, our credit risk will eventually rise; this will require us to pay even higher interest rates until the inevitable day comes when we can't.
B. Taxes will have to continually increase to pay the ever-increasing the national debt.
C. Government services - such as the maintenance of bridges and roads and other infrastructure - will have to be curtailed, or eliminated, as the national debt grows and becomes a greater percentage of the overall budget. Worse yet, should we need to defend ourselves against a foreign enemy, or recover from a natural disaster such as a major earthquake, we might not be able to afford to do so.
In this election season, the most flagrant disregard for the national debt was, in my opinion, articulated by Senator Elizabeth Warren. At the Democrat convention she stated "America isn’t going broke. The stock market is breaking records. Corporate profits are at all-time highs. CEOs make tens of millions of dollars. There’s lots of wealth in America..." True, there's a lot of wealth in America, but the wealth Senator Warren cited is mostly non-government wealth and does little to reduce our national debt!
As a country we can debate our issues 'till the cows come home' but it's all for naught unless we get our financial house in order - otherwise we can afford them. For example, why even talk about new programs such as government sponsored college or day care as long as we have trillions of unfunded liabilities?
Many politicians offer the concept of 'economic growth' as the solution to our national debt problem. Economic growth is certainly something for which we should strive, but it's not something we can count on. 'Japan's Lost Decade' is the perfect example. This term was coined by economists because Japan, despite their best efforts, had little or no economic growth in the 1990's; and, with growth continuing to be sub par for most of the 2000's, many experts have said that Japan's Lost Decade really lasted for 20 years (Ushinawareta Nijūnen).
Now it's fine to identify a problem, but it's pointless to do so without forging a solution. The best plan I've seen to get a handle on the national debt was published by well-known Libertarian, Television Host, John Stossel. In his most recent book "No, They Can't: Why Government Fails - But Individuals Succeed," Mr. Stossel presents a well-thought out plan in which he does not shy away from making tough decisions. In my opinion, Chapter 13 titled "Budget Insanity" should be required reading for all presidential and congressional candidates. For those who have an aversion, for whatever reason, to Mr. Stossel's plan, a internet search will identify three other viable plans: Simpson-Bowles, Domenici-Rivlin, and Solutions Initiative. With such a wealth of solutions, our lawmakers have no excuse to continue to ignore this serious problem.
When evaluating your Presidential and Congressional candidates, at the very least, be sure the national debt is front and center on their radar. A very astute college senior, Matthew LoCastro, put it best. He said: "Why re-elect those who created this debt?"
Congressional Gridlock and Mandatory Term Limits
The following two short pieces address the topics of Congressional Gridlock and Mandatory Term Limits. The ramification of the problems are addressed and solutions are offered.
When our country's credit rating was lowered several years ago, the inability of Congress to pass legislation - due to gridlock - was cited as a primary reason. Gridlock is the product of highly partisan members not willing to compromise with each other; they are usually so partisan that they don't even take the time to reach across the aisle to get to know their fellow members. This is a travesty because it's very difficult to find common ground - the starting point for compromise - without first having established a foundation of mutual respect.
Solution #1: Voters need to elect members of Congress who are flexible; non-career politicians and first-time candidates are ideal because they tend to be less partisan.
Solution #2: Congressional members from opposing parties need to take a cue from President Ronald Reagan. They need to spend time becoming acquainted with as many of their fellow members as possible - particularly those of the opposing party - to build a foundation of mutual respect from which to find common ground and forge compromise.
Mandatory Term Limits
Many voters are often surprised to hear that terms limits do not exist for members of Congress. Perhaps they assume that since such restrictions apply to most every other political office, they must also impact the House and Senate as well. The concept of having a cap on the number of years a given individual can serve in Congress is actually a perennial topic of discussion among the political elite - as few can defend the process of electing the same person year after year, sometimes even decade after decade. That’s certainly not what our Founders could have intended.
The primary reason cited in favor of Congressional term limits has to do with the fact that an incumbent’s actions necessary to get re-elected are often at odds for what’s best for the very constituents who put him or her in office. For example, an incumbent up for re-election may feel pressured to support an issue important to a campaign contributor or their party’s platform, even it that position is not in the best interest of the people they were initially elected to represent.
Ideally, members of Congress would get elected only once, do the job, and then return to their livelihood - allowing a new person the opportunity to serve. This would work fine in the Senate where existing terms are already a lengthy six years; however, in the House, where terms are only two years, it would be beneficial to extend that to six years as well. Otherwise, the short two year term could potentially be a disincentive to run, not to mention the fact that lawmakers would probably find it difficult to accomplish much of significance in such a limited time.
All previous attempts to enact term limits in Congress have failed. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because members of the House and Senate would have to vote on the change; it’s asking someone to vote themselves out of a job. The solution is to enact term limits that don’t take effect until about 15 years from now. Perhaps then it might have a chance of passage.
However, for now, term limits don’t exist, so it’s still up to the electorate to NOT re-elect their Senators and Representative time and time again. It’s still our responsibility to exercise our vote to give someone else a chance. Let’s make the most of this very important opportunity.
"Embarrassment Of Riches" and "Cut Them Some Slack"
Each piece is a positive and non-partisan commentary on the state of the 2016 Presidential Election.
Embarassment Of Riches
Many have expressed their dislike for the 2016 Presidential Candidates and intend to cast their vote for the lesser of the evil. Voters need to stop looking at the glass as half-empty and see it as half-full. Then they will realize that the top-tier candidates actually present an ‘embarrassment of riches.’
Imagine how great it would be if a former President had the opportunity for a ‘do-over.' All that wisdom and experience garnered the first go-round, could be applied to do things even more effectively the second time. Enter Secretary Clinton. Sure, her husband was the President, not her; but we know she also benefits from that learning curve. And, President Clinton’s administration was awfully good to Republicans; welfare reform, a balanced budget, reduction in the national debt, need I say more?
Imagine how great it would be to elect a President who would clean house in Washington, D.C. - someone who would start everything fresh with no ‘establishment’ baggage – in other words a non-politician. Enter Donald J. Trump. It’s wonderful that he’s so accomplished – having earned billions in business. It's equally wonderful that he has a gift for expressing, with great simplicity, what others are hesitant to say. He's also blessed with an entertaining sarcastic sense of humor, which permits him to engage those not otherwise interested in politics. And, his Republican-lite views on healthcare, LGBT rights, and social security certainly appeal to many Democrats.
Imagine how great it would be to have a Presidential nominee who incorporates aspects of both parties and shares the views of the majority of Americans – someone who is fiscally-conservative, socially moderate to liberal, and wants to end nation building and stop policing the world. Enter Governor Johnson. Many say a Libertarian can’t win; but if all those same people said he could, he would! Most want an end to gridlock in Congress. What better way to achieve that than to elect a third-party candidate?
So, when you’re trying to pick your Presidential candidate, rather than thinking about their weaknesses, consider focusing on their strengths. You just might have a hard time making up your mind because they are simply an ‘embarrassment of riches.’
Cut Them Some Slack
Can we please, as a nation, simply cut our Presidential candidates some slack? If you believe in the stories in the Bible, you know that, time and time again, God has chosen imperfect people for positions of power. Why should our Presidential candidates be any different?
Secretary Clinton certainly has gotten herself into more than her share of scrapes. However, please let’s not forget one of the most important principles in the American justice system: innocent until proven guilty. And, to date, the Secretary has not been found guilty for any of her irregularities.
Gary Johnson was not familiar with the word Aleppo when used on it’s own without reference to it being a Syrian city. OK, so he may never win a geography competition, but such a minor gaffe should not preclude him from running for President as has been suggested by some.
And then there’s Mr. Trump. He never said that ALL Mexicans entering the U.S. are rapists; in fact, before he paused to breathe from that now infamous statement he added: “And some, I assume, are good people.”