A World Population Publication, updated in September of 2022, noted that there are approximately 280 Million registered voters in the United States – that’s out of a population of about 350 million people. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, not really. Not really, because only about 166 million people voted in the last presidential election. That massive number of registered voters is, in large part, due to government schemes that register you when you obtain a driver’s license – not that you really give a damn about politics. I say that with full confidence because despite all of the government engineered hand wringing over voter turnout, still nearly one-third of those registered completely ignore the system.
Of those registered to vote, 36.9 Million are registered as Republicans while 49.1 Million are registered as Democrats. All of the rest are either registered with a minor party or unaffiliated. That means that 194 million registered voters think so little of the major parties that they drift to one of the minor league parties or they just cannot stand either major party. Thinks about that. Of 280 million registered voters nearly seventy percent have rejected both of the country’s major parties.
And yet despite that – despite the Republicans and Democrats combined representing less than forty percent of the registered voters – the two parties absolutely control Congress and the Presidency. Yes, you have members of Congress like Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) yelling at people to get off his lawn, and video dance queen Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DSocialist- NY) and angry bigots like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (DSocialist-MA) who command media far in excess of their contributions to intelligent debate. (Their single contribution is to scare the bejeezus out other Democrats to embrace the absurdities that have become the calling cards of the progressives even though, according to Pew Research Center only a minority of Democrats self-identify as “progressives.”)
In fact, in today’s political world, self-identification as a Republican or Democrat has little meaning other than who controls the flow of legislation. That’s mostly because within each party is a vocal minority that controls enough votes to prevent their party from moving particular legislation. On the Democrat side, the progressives refuse to proceed unless noxious provisions such as the Green New Deal, transgender preference and open borders are included and/or reinforced. On the Republican side “tea party” adherents demand that no quarter be given on banning all abortions, that no appropriations be passed that add to the nightmare of deficit spending and that the borders be closed before any consideration of immigration reform and treatment of the nearly 30 million illegal aliens already in the country. (Quite frankly, I agree with the latter two and support Republican presidential primary candidate Ambassador Nikki Haley’s proposal to provide a nationwide ban on abortions after a certain point and allow the states to determine any further limitations – as suggested but not mandated by the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson.)
Neither party actually tries to find “middle ground” or even a step in a direction that suggests compromise because they prefer to deal with issues as campaign fodder rather than solvable problems. And after all, the next campaign is the only thing occupying the minds of those we elect – absent winning re-election most of the House members would have to take jobs as hardware clerks, latte baristas, or window washers, while the millionaires club in the Senate would be left to counting their millions without insider information to enhance their wealth.
The problems of the 1980’s are still the problems of the 2020’s. Illegal immigration, deficit spending, poverty and the welfare state, high taxes, illegal drugs, and energy dependence. Decades and generations have passed through the Presidency and the halls of Congress without a dent in solving them. In point of fact each and everyone of them has gotten worse while Congress dithers and the political parties point fingers.
It’s not that these problems are nearly impossible to solve. There are practical solutions but in every instance they trod on the toes of those providing monetary support for the politician’s campaigns. For instance:
1. Energy dependence. America has a bountiful list of proven sources of energy: hydropower, coal, natural gas, liquid petroleum, solar and nuclear fission. On a more questionable basis* we have wind generation, hydrogen cells, nuclear fusion, geothermal, and hot air from Washington, DC. So take a wild guess at which sources the politicians are trying to ban and which they are subsidizing. That’s right, those that work they want to cancel; those that are questionable they want to subsidize. A common sense solution would be to utilize all of the existing energy solutions and as new sources become economically viable allow them to replace those that are no longer as viable. That would mean no more tax credits for solar, no more tax credits for wind generation, no more subsidies for electric vehicles and no more subsidies for oil and gas. It would also mean no more government mandates as to the mix of energy sources for retail consumption. The net effect would be to increase production of existing fuel sources at reduced costs, while encouraging increased efficiencies for new sources to where they can economically enter competition for use.
2. Deficit spending. When the government went nuts with its COVID stimulus plans it increased deficit spending by significant amounts which resulted in the Federal Reserve System printing new money to purchase the bonds used to finance the spending. That flooded the market with more money chasing the same level of goods and services – when demand exceeds supply prices accelerate and that is the gateway to inflation. Despite President Joe Biden renewing the order declaring a state of emergency for COVID, COVID for all intents and purposes is over, it has been marginalized. Mr. Biden’s act was done not because of a health emergency but because such an order gives his administration the ability to spend prolifically which it has continued to do. Thus the fundamental cause of inflation -government deficit spending – continues unabated to this day. All of the efforts by the Federal Reserve System to jack up interest rates in order to force an increase in unemployment are for naught**. An article by David Malpass in Tuesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal confirms that.
“The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy is broken. Normalization of interest rates has been needed for years to allow markets, not regulators, to allocate capital. But with interest rates at 5.5% and the dollar strong, the inflation battle must shift to the problem of government spending and regulation. The Fed’s silence on the fiscal and regulatory roots of this inflation crisis, and its insistence on using an antiquated inflation model that blames growth and jobs for price hikes, risks an even weaker U.S. economy.”
It’s not like this is a recent discovery. I’ve been harping on this point in this column since at least August of 2022 not long after the first of the current dozen rate increases were announced. While I agree with most conservatives about the need to eliminate deficit spending I am concerned that any government action that severely effects the money supply will have the unintended consequence of disrupting the economy in precisely the same way and to the same degree that the massive COVID deficit spending did – this time the money supply will fall significantly meaning a sharply reduced amount of money (supply) chasing an inflated level of production and the resulting collapse of prices for goods – a recession. Every business leader faces these kinds of dilemmas on daily basis and the most prudent process is gradualism. In this instance, government spending should be reduced based on estimates projected growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) until such time that deficit spending ceases. Thereafter, with the exception of national emergencies, increases in spending should be limited to projected increases in the GDP – and most certainly based on the current methodology which uses “continuing service levels.”***
Most of the other major problems are susceptible to other common sense solutions. However, solving a problem removes it from the political debate, finger-pointing, proselytizing and demagoging that substitutes as “good governance” today. No the problem isn’t in the system – the system remains as brilliant as the day it was introduced by our Founding Fathers. It is a system of checks and balances. A formula for change but not wildly varying change. A hallmark for stability over the long run. No. it is not the system; it is the people we choose to populate it and of late our choices have been gawdawful. In the prescient words of Pogo:****
“We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”
* I deem them questionable based on their investment cost, maintenance cost, adverse impact on wildlife, reliability, and/or disruption of agriculture.
** Increasing the Fed Funds rate while continuing to increase deficit spending is the moral equivalent of someone trying to drain a pool with a bucket while another is opening the valve to increase the water flow into the pool.
*** Continuing service level budget assumes that the current level of spending is efficient and then increases it based on inflation and population growth. Thus it uses three factors to increase spending none of which are economically sound.
**** For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in the Portland Public Schools, Pogo was a cartoon character. . . oh, never mind, you aren’t going to get it anyway.