Over the next two weeks we’ll have the opportunity to hear the plans both presidential nominees and their respective parties have for our nation. As the accusations, truth twisting spin and political posturing takes place we can only hope that those who are undecided can find the information they need to reach a wise decision. One not reached from a position of fear, anger nor built on lies, but instead one made from sound facts and realistic hopes.
This nation has been blessed over time with the right leadership at just the right time to guide the country through very difficult times. We can only hope that once again the nation can come together and get behind a plan that begins to turn things around. Certainly in my lifetime I know of no other time as critical as the one we currently face. Our national identity and many of the principles we’ve held closely in the past seem to be brushed aside in favor of self wants. Far too many are treating this election like a sporting event more than making a life altering choice. With so much at stake I wonder what we fear more in the coming election — that the “wrong side” will lead the nation back to security and prosperity receiving all the credit or that the “right side” will unleash all the negatives we heard from the other side and push the nation farther into debt and further into despair?
If the contest is going to be about anything meaningful, it should be about how we are going to correct the nation’s finances, which presents a grave danger to American power and prosperity. The bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson plan offered solutions last year, but will either candidate be willing to address the issues in the same bipartisan manner that all Americans and both parties can get behind? The bipartisan commission of 18 members, including six senators and six representatives, tried to address the country's fiscal challenges, but Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan refused to support the majority's findings and President Obama also declined to pursue the suggested policies. If the solution is that radioactive and our current leaders refuse to even touch it what will it take for the nation to come to grips with these issues?
Can anyone see a path to resolving these financial issues or will both camps simply retreat to their extreme political bases with neither side giving an inch, thus putting America’s future on the line while they play tug-of-war? David Wessel, a Wall Street Journal columnist, recently released a book titled "Red Ink," a handy new guide to understanding the politics of the federal budget. While nobody loves the cost of government, everybody cherishes the things it specifically does for them. Wessel sums up the politics this way: "These diverse financial arrangements have one thing in common: at the end of the pipeline is some real American person who is getting a check or a promise. Most are convinced due to their circumstances they deserve the money and/or the promise granted by Uncle Sam."
On the other side of the ledger from out of control government spending is the lost income from billions of dollars in tax deductions, exemptions and loopholes, for the rich that they too are convinced they rightfully deserve. Such tax bennies are no easier to do away with than reducing beloved spending programs: Congress and presidents know full well seriously addressing both sides of the ledger — spending and taxes — is the only way to correct the course, but until a true leader steps up and makes a convincing case to the American public that both spending and taxes must be a part of the solution, each side will play to fears and cheers of their immediate constituency and the day of reckoning is pushed farther out into the future.
It is for that reason that many people believe the day of reckoning should be addressed now without waiting until the issue is so massive the solutions will be far more costly and painful. With the US debt now nearing $16 trillion and the debt per taxpayer at about $140,000 how much longer can we go on allowing our president and Congress to ignore this crisis? It’s painfully clear neither side can solve the problem alone, but neither is prepared to work together and until that happens, nothing will happen except what we should really be fearing.
America has many problems and the national economy, while topping the list, is but one of the hot buttons in this year’s election. So listen closely over the next two weeks and keep an open mind. Discount the mudslinging, ignore the vicious attack ads and listen closely for what you would consider a reasonable solution to break the stalemate. But remember, only when the plan is equally painful to all will there be something of value on the table and my greatest fear, one I hope is unfounded, is that neither side is prepared to go that far.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.