Some Problems with American Politics

I spent a good bit of time before New Year’s
flipping between CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to find out about the progress being
made on the “fiscal cliff” talks. The more I thought about that fiasco the more
I decided to share my view of the problems in American politics.
The average American seems to understand much
more than our elected officials. Married people know if you want a marriage to
work you need to learn to compromise. For the most part the ability to
compromise is seen as a good thing in life – except with our politicians.
In order to get out of the primaries,
representatives have to pander to the extreme elements in their party. That
means politicians take a hard line on many issues. They soften only slightly in
the general election with a goal of winning over as many undecided voters as
possible because neither party has such a stronghold that they can rely solely
on their base to get them elected.
Once the elected officials get to Washington
they’re beholden to those who elected them and the extreme positions they
espoused. The principle of consistency, the psychological
trait that tells us people want to be consistent in word and deed, makes it
difficult for politicians to move from their original positions even if new
data dictates that doing so would be best for the majority of Americans.
Despite what we learned about democracies and
majority rule it’s never that simple because of procedural rules that allow
each party to bring things to a halt or a snail’s pace. While there are good
reasons for these rules, they seem to be abused by both sides and the result is
the gridlock we’ve seen in Washington for far too long.
Another issue is the mentality politicians
seem to have about re-election. It’s almost the same mentality American businesses
now have about quarterly earnings. Businesses can be so focused on the
short-term that they make bad long-term decisions. For example, too often
companies don’t make needed investments in things like technology in order to keep
expenses low and boost quarterly earnings which makes the stock price look good.
In the same way politicians seem to do what’s best for them in the short-term
(i.e., get re-elected) as opposed to the long-term good of the country.
Personally I think term limits would help alleviate
this to some degree.
Lastly, I’ll share what I call “the law of the
gym.” When I was just out of college I was competing in bodybuilding contests.
My weight was around 225 lbs. and I would diet down to about 195 lbs. for
competitions. I quickly learned I could not burn enough calories through
exercise alone to lose those 30 lbs. In fact, exercising too much would
eventually be counter-productive to my goal. To put this in perspective,
consider this – running two miles burns approximately 250 calories or the
equivalent of a Snickers bar. Which is easier to do, run two miles or skip the
candy bar? It was obvious I needed to restrict my diet in certain ways. The
good news was, between the exercise and dieting I was always able to reach my
goal weight.
Let’s apply “the law of the gym” to politics
and our current debt situation. Tax revenues are like exercise; we can’t raise
them enough to get out of debt and raising them too much could actually hurt us
if jobs are lost. Our nation needs to go on a diet – spending cuts – in addition
to our exercise – recent tax increases. To go on spending as we are will only
cause the debt to grow. Hopefully our politicians can reach some compromise and
start reducing government spending so the debt begins to come down.
And speaking of the debt, we’ve become desensitized
to how large it’s become. Hundreds of millions, billions and trillions are
figures that no longer cause us to bat an eye. Only when you compare and contrast the debt to something
can you begin to wrap your mind around it, so here’s a comparison point for
you.  If you spent $1 million a day since
the time of the Egyptian empire you would only pay off a trillion dollars of our
debt. More than 2,700 years at a million dollars a day hardly makes a dent!
Now consider our national debt at roughly $16
trillion. If we could pay it down by $1 million a day it would take us more than 48,000 years to pay it off!
When politicians talk about it being immoral to pass on our debt to the next
generation that’s not as big a problem as passing our debt on to  thousands of generations! How would you feel if we were still paying down the
debt of the ancient Egyptians or Romans?
I no longer consider myself an affiliate of
either party because neither represents my views any longer. There are elements
of each that I agree with but there’s so much with both that I disagree with
that I can’t consider myself a Republican or a Democrat. It’s my hope that
sometime during my lifetime we get a third or fourth alternative to choose from
because right now most of us find ourselves choosing between the lesser of two
Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
4 replies
  1. Michael Lusk
    Michael Lusk says:

    Great article Brian! Now if we could get Washington to feel the same way our country could start the healing process.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.