Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Political Debate we SHOULD be having...

Do you agree this presidential campaign has become completely distorted by focusing almost exclusively on the candidates’ personalities instead of the issues? In my view, it has descended into little more than highly dishonest, sound-bite attacks and counterattacks by both the Obama and Romney campaigns. 

The larger issues at stake in November have all but been forgotten. 

Intentional misdirection by both political parties, with the focus on the cult of personality rather than issues, is exactly what’s wrong with American politics today. There is an important ideological debate about America’s future that needs to be taking place — and isn’t — while we continue focusing on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and Obama’s birth certificate.

Rather than concentrate on the real issues, both parties have diverted our collective attention away from the discussion we should be having, instead, creating a polarization pitting us against each other in what amounts to little more than a pathetic economic class warfare sound bite brawl. 

The bottom line is the attacks — on both sides — are largely untrue and/or irrelevant. However, the lamestream media has abdicated its responsibility to objective journalism by failing to point this out in favor of amplifying the blatant partisanship exemplified by Fox News and MSNBC. 

No matter what the Obama campaign says, the truth is Mitt Romney was not running Bain Capital after February 1999. And even if he had been, outsourcing jobs to ensure the company’s survival — and the jobs that remained here in the U.S. — is not sleazy, but smart business.

On the other hand, recent Romney ads accusing Obama of heaping government grants upon his political supporters were so blatantly distorted they earned Fact Checker’s highest score for lying publicly — Four Pinocchios.

It’s underneath all this mudslinging where the rubber needs to meet the road. Obama makes the case that the U.S. economy needs investment — in infrastructure, education, training, basic sciences and future technologies. According to the president, those investments have traditionally been key drivers of American growth and have helped people build businesses, create jobs, and invent the future.

Like Ronald Reagan in 1980, Romney strongly argues that America desperately needs tax and regulatory relief. He contends the country is so overburdened by government rules, regulations, mandates, taxes, and debt, that it’s difficult for business to even function, let alone grow and prosper. Romney wants to cut taxes for all, reduce regulations and streamline government. According to him, doing so will awaken America’s entrepreneurial giant. Considering the sustained period of economic prosperity we enjoyed beginning under Reagan, who did this, and which benefitted Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, there is merit to that argument.

But the bottom line is, both points of view are not only valid, but are steeped in truth. Wouldn’t it make for a great campaign if our nation had a sustained discussion centered around these ideas rather than when Romney left Bain Capital or Obama’s Social Security Number? That would produce a mandate to move in one direction or the other — and with the help of a newly elected Congress committed to more than partisan politics, possibly a new strategy could emerge utilizing the most beneficial parts of each.

In either case, both the president and Romney would have to convince American voters they could create long-term deficit reduction. Whether Obama plans to invest our tax dollars in infrastructure, or Romney intends to cut taxes, each needs to articulate a serious strategy of fiscal reform based on real numbers — not political expediency. 

We need a tax and regulatory structure that creates a positive business climate, with strong incentives so business can flourish. This will create the jobs that create the paychecks that create the tax revenues our local, state, and federal governments depend upon to meet our needs and deliver all the services we take for granted.

America is much worse off now than it was when Reagan took office. Our aging infrastructure is crumbling around us and needs to be rebuilt. Education continues to decline. Other countries are surpassing us in scientific research because our current educational system fails to produce enough qualified graduates.

Our nation now spends much less on infrastructure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) then we did when Reagan took office. By 2009, federal funding for research was half the share of GDP that it was in 1960. Spending on education and training is lower as a percentage of the federal budget than during the 1980s. The education establishment forced more money to be thrown at the problem, rather than addressing its root cause, but the percentage is lower is due to out of control spending.

The result is we’ve fallen seriously behind as global competitors. In 2001, the World Economic Forum ranked U.S. infrastructure second on the planet. In its latest report we’re 23, now spending only 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure. By comparison, Europe spends 5 percent, and China, 9. In the 1970s, America led the world in college graduates. By 2009, we were number 14. Annual growth for research and development spending —public and private — was 5.8 percent between 1996 and 2007. In South Korea it was 9.6 percent; in Singapore, 14.5 percent; and China, 21.9.

A strategy for solving these problems is the discussion we should be having as a nation — not when Romney left Bain, or the size of Obama’s vacation entourage. For example, should we rebuild and expand the Interstate Highway System? Should we embrace Charter Schools, stricter discipline, and other educational innovations so teachers can teach rather than baby-sit? Will that produce more qualified graduates for research? Should we secure our borders so taxpayers can stop subsidizing illegals? The list goes on. 

These are the kind of issues the lamestream media should hold Obama and Romney’s feet to the fire about, along with their political parties. But it’s up to us to force that discussion into the open by choosing not to be distracted by the intentional media sideshow. 

America’s future depends on us doing so.