I'm beginning to recognize more and more the futility of the political process. Yet I watch as Obama cheerleaders on one side of the fence and McCain cheerleaders on the other get all excited about their man, and conclude that if the other wins everything will become a horror. It's quite a spectacle to watch, and interesting to me to think that I was a part of the spectacle not so long ago.
Part of it is the uniformity of opinions amongst the major candidates. There are so many issues that the candidates pretend to disagree about. But for now I'll just consider the two primary issues of the day. These are the economy and the war.
The economy is struggling mightily these days. Mostly because of government intrusion in my view. The typical leftist type of response would be to have more government intrusion. Have the government back all the failing banks by creating money our of thin air to sustain them. As a Democrat Obama naturally supports the massive government takeover and move to socialism. McCain, the ostensible Republican, agrees. Both candidates share virtually identical positions on the solution to our economic problems.
Now, it is true that Obama wants to roll back some of Bush's tax cuts for those making over $250K (while passing further tax cuts for the middle class), while McCain wants all of Bush's tax cuts to be permanent (though he voted against them, because he was concerned about deficits). In my view these are quibbles relative to the economic problems we're facing.
Should the top marginal rate be 33 or 38%? It's a worthwhile question. I prefer lower. But what about the staggering and stifling growth of government that has been marching onward for the last several decades. We have created enormous additional bureaucracies that are not only expensive to run, but are harmful to economic growth. Yet the politicians tell us what we want to hear in saying that there is no need to pay for any of this. No tax increases. We can have it all. We can run $500 billion deficits annually with no consequences. This is a road to disaster, and neither candidate indicates they are interested in doing what it takes to fix it.
In the past 8 years our long term debt obligations (mostly from Social Security and Medicare) have ballooned from $20 trillion to $53 trillion. The former head of the Government Accounting Office, David Walker, calls this a tsunami of debt that could swamp our ship of state. He's so desperate to get this message out, and so frustrated with the politicians unwillingness to address this issue, that he's trying to take the message directly to the American people. Where are Obama and McCain on this issue? Busy offering the American people tax cuts and an expanded war machine. These are our choices for president?
The war issue is also obviously directly relevant to the economic crisis. And yet there is no significant difference between the candidates on the war. Both are calling for increased troop levels in Afghanistan. Both support sending more resources to Georgia to continue prop up the government we've installed there, aggravating the Russians. Both want to continue bombing missions in Pakistan. Both are threatening Iran.
There has been some disagreement about tactics. McCain supported a surge, and thinks the surge is responsible for all the recent improvement in Iraq. Obama apparently was not in favor of the surge. But neither candidate is talking about how we're going bankrupt as a nation spending $1 trillion annually on overseas military operations. Nobody is talking about how our meddling all over the world creates the very resentment that makes us unsafe. We sustained military dictators in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many others, and when people from these countries react violently we don't understand why, so we pump billions of dollars into further intervention hoping that will solve the problem. This is the strategy of both McCain and Obama.
My liberal friends worked tirelessly to see Democrats sweep in in '06 because of the war issue. They succeeded. What do they have to show for it? Obama tells them what they want to hear, and makes them feel great. But nothing changes, and all indications are that nothing will change. Why do they still get so excited over Obama?
My conservative friends just hate big government telling them what to do and meddling in their lives. So they worked tirelessly and succeeded in the early part of this decade, electing Bush and a Republican House and Senate. What do they have to show for it? Government that is bigger than any government that has existed in the history of humanity. Unprecedented fiscal irresponsibility. Abortions are still widely available with few restrictions. Government sweeping up their phone conversations, internet habits, and preventing protesters from collecting video or audio. Threatening to build walls just like the old Soviets. Requiring papers for travel (you soon will need government permission even to travel to Canada) just like the old Soviets. Campaign finance reform, which greatly restricts access to the political process (see Stossel's depressing 20/20 segment on that covers this. Part 1 is here. I believe Part 4 covers campaign finance reform). Incumbency rates even higher than the old Soviets.
Obama or McCain? This is not a choice. Sadly Americans cannot recognize this. They'll wave their flags and jump up and down again in 4 years, 8 years, and 12 years, talking about hope and change, while things continue on the same path they would be on regardless of who wins.