On Politics in the U.S.

I touched on a few of these points in a previous post, but herein I expand:

Politicians.  I can’t distinguish between politicians. Republican or Democrat, they’re all the same to me.  It’s a big game and the purpose of the game is for the individuals in the game to maximize their personal gain.  Whether it’s power or money or fame or whatever, politicians want to keep their jobs and they will say and do whatever it takes to do so.  As a result, I don’t believe anything a politician says they believe.

Republicans.  The Republican headline is that they are fiscally and socially conservative, preferring a limited government while ensuring maximum freedom is reserved to individuals.  This is mostly bullshit. 

  • Fiscal conservatism.  Just look at budget deficits for the last 30 years (at least) to see that Republicans are not actually fiscally conservative.  The reality is that they like to spend money just as much (or more!) as Democrats, only on different things.
  • Social conservatism.  If you equate “social conservatism” with Southern Baptist morality, then, sure, Republicans are socially conservative, but they are also just as weak or hypocritical as anyone else.  Just think of Republican leaders caught in affairs or other shenanigans. So much for practicing what they preach.
  • Limited government.  I don’t believe the federal government has shrunk (by any measure) under any Republican leadership in my lifetime.  In their view, the government should be limited…unless it is to pay for the things that Republicans want to spend money on or to enforce their socially conservative principles, in which case, government is great!
  • Maximum freedom.  Freedom is permitted only to those who believe and act in ways that are consistent with their socially conservative principles.  The rest are constrained, but it’s ok, because Republicans know best and the rest should humbly accept the lessons offered by these masters.

Democrats.  The Democratic headline seems to historically have been “Hey, we’re not Republicans.”  Congratulations.  Your lack of definition makes your self-interested amorphism less susceptible to attacks on the basis of obvious hypocrisy, but whatever your selling (this cycle), I’m not buying.

The tax code. I don’t think it’s wise to use the tax code to try to encourage this or that behavior.  So much of modern politics is “how will we use the tax code to favor our constituents or our party’s base at the expense of ‘the others’.”  This is problematic.  I would impose a flat tax with no credits or deductions available to anyone. All transfer payments would need to be specified and paid in outgoing checks from the U.S. Treasury. Subsidies that are currently hidden would be explicitly and openly made to corporations, industries and people, so we all know where everyone stands without tax code rhetoric to blind us.  The ambiguity inherent in the current tax code hides of multitude of sins, which is why politicians love it.

Divided Government.  Given my cynicism, you might think I’m an anarchist or communist or monarchist or antichrist or some other –ist.  On the contrary, governing is the process of establishing a ruling authority over people, and of all the options I have studied (I use the term here very loosely), the framers of the Constitution chose brilliantly. The brilliance of this country (and many other modern countries) is in its structure – division of power.  This division is multifaceted, among three branches of government, between the federal and the states, among the 50 states, between “the people” (the House) and the states (the Senate). This is a tremendously powerful idea, and one that gives me great comfort.  Notwithstanding the fact that sociopaths run this (and every other) country, at least I can take comfort in the fact that there’s no one sociopath who runs this country unchecked.  Division of power ensures that some of the sociopathy on one side cancels out the sociopathy of the other, and we stumble along the edge of tyranny without actually falling off.

Participating in Politics.  Vote for whomever you want for whatever reasons you want, but it doesn’t really matter most of the time. But be watchful for when one person or party gets to be too powerful (or crazy or some other negative adjective), and join or incite the populace to keep them in check. How involved you want to be otherwise is up to you.  In deciding how much time and energy is reasonable to devote to participating or watching politics, I wholeheartedly and wholemindedly endorse and recommend the view espoused in this recent op-ed by David Brooks:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/opinion/brooks-the-stem-and-the-flower.html?_r=0


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