Don't be distracted by nonsense and nonissues in November's election
With less than six months to go until the election, I'm increasingly struck by just how important it is.
As both an independent and a political cynic, I'm not encouraged by the choices for president. I'm sure I'll be as equally underwhelmed when the rest of the candidates for other offices get their campaigns under way this summer.
But while I'm not excited, I'm doing my best not to be distracted from the main focus. As was made famous by the Bill Clinton campaign, it's the economy, stupid, the economy.
It remains stagnant. We might not technically be in a recession, but you couldn't tell it from the news:
-- The housing market is still slow to return. Despite a small uptick in new housing starts and a weak effort by the government to convince banks to help people out with their mortgages, too many folks remain underwater. With millions owing more than their homes are worth, the market remains depressed. Lower home values shrink the tax base, which leads to the next item.
-- Budget shortfalls continue to hold many goverments in a death grip. Municipalities and states struggle daily to maintain service levels with less revenue, partly because many have fallen victim to the Washington-induced mantra of pay for everything for everybody -- just do it later. The handful of folks who are trying to live within their means continue to have a tough time because of the reduced tax revenue, and this next item.
-- People have not returned to work in meaningful numbers. It's hard to figure out exactly what the jobless rate is anymore with the way the parties spin the numbers, but I know this: It doesn't take but a few moments of perusing the Internet to see that professional jobs still aren't available. That means a lot of people are underemployed and earning -- and spending -- less, or they have given up even looking anymore.
-- Our kids suffer as well. School systems are getting a double whammy between collecting less property tax and sky-high fuel prices. Several area systems have announced cuts to the number of days, furloughs and layoffs.
-- Our national debt is at the incomprehensible stage. Your average person has no idea how much a trillion dollars is, much less $15 trillion. Someone once sent me a neat little graphic that explains it though. A million dollars in $100 bills will fit in a briefcase. $100 million will fit on a wooden pallet. $1 billion is 10 of those pallets. A trillion? A thousand of those. You'd need a large warehouse to hold it all. If you triple-stack the pallets you could get $3 trillion in one warehouse, which means you'd need five warehouses full to hold the cash to pay off our national debt.
Put another way, if you divide $15 trillion by the 300 million people in America, that's $50,000 each person owes, and I don't know about you, but I'm a little shy of that right now.
This is the tip of the fiscal iceberg that looms in front of this country. The phrase may be tired, but the country is at a crossroads. The road to the left is the path to a cradle-to-the-grave nanny state and we end up like Greece. The path to the right continues to break the backs of the poor and the middle class until we end up in a true plutocracy, rule by the wealthy. The path in the middle takes us back to compromise, a balance between limited government and personal responsibility, where both businesses and individuals prosper.
That is the historic challenge we face. This is the importance of this election.
It's not gay marriage. It's not high school pranks. It's not who treats their dog better.
It's the future of the nation.
Let's focus on that.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.