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Five Simple Realities Missing from the Campaign

The campaign lurches on, the adds stream endlessly into our living rooms, the robo-calls clamor incessantly for our dollars, candidates get bought and sold, the press obediently acts as if there’s substantive stuff going on, and the real issues of our times go unaddressed.  This is what passes for an election, these days.

Let’s look at some of the realities that are lost in this money-fueled nonsense.

1. Cutting the deficit is no big deal.

The deficit hysteria may well be the biggest non-issue ever to reach a headline.  Yes, it’s a big number, but as the Congressional Progressive Caucus showed in their Budget for All, we can cut the deficit relatively easily, using policies the majority of Americans support.  No need to eviscerate Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Pell Grants, unemployment, job retraining, economic stimulus – all the investments that help the US economy recover from recessions, and helps create an equitable society in which everyone has a shot at prosperity.

So, why has the deficit dominated politics and elections for the last three years? 

Because Republicans are using the deficit as a pretext to gut programs they don’t like; Democrats are inept, complicit and/or stupid; and the press is content to repeat mindlessly whatever absurdities politicians spout.    

2. Tackling Climate Change would create jobs and stimulate the economy:  It turns out, investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy create more jobs  per dollar invested and per unit of energy produced than fossil fuel investments.  If you think about it, this means that each dollar invested in fossil fuel supply or infrastructure instead of clean energy actually destroys jobs.

Clean energy also helps reduce dangerous trade imbalances, contributes to avoiding some $1.3 trillion in health care costs annually, and protects ecosystems from acid rain, toxic pollution and visual impairment.

Oh, and it also would help us mitigate the most cataclysmic disaster ever to face humanity. 

But hey, why talk about all that?  There’s oil to drill (tar sands actually) and gas formations to frack, and mountain tops to be blown to smithereens for dirty oil, gas and coal.  Not to mention campaign contributions to be had.

3. Regulations are good for the economy.

Heresy?  Well, consider this – right now, ten-year Russian government-issued bonds pay over 7%, and Indian government bonds pay nearly 9%, while ten-year bonds issued by the US pay less than 2%. Yet folks are lining up to buy US bonds.  Why?  The rule of law.  A complex set of regulations meant to assure a level playing field makes investing in the US desirable. 

And it’s not just government issued bonds.  Investment in private US securities fetch a premium, too.  Regulation of the financial sector assures a relatively level playing field, transparent markets, and a responsible approach to managing risk when investing other people’s money. 

But for the last 30 years we’ve been dismantling this wealth-generating infrastructure for the sake of ideological purity or sheer graft.  Democrats and Republicans have been actively pandering to plutocrats willing to pay for the right to get short-term gains at the risk of destroying long-term prospects. 

And hey, if you’re a plutocrat, why care if you kill the goose who lays the golden egg?  You can always find another goose overseas.

4. Occupying foreign countries to prevent terrorism causes terrorism. 

You don’t see Switzerland or Austria or Canada getting targeted by foreign terrorists.  There’s a reason for that.  Nearly two decades ago in his excellent book, Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin Barber correctly forecast the impact of cultural imperialism fueled by globalization on fundamentalist societies rooted in tribal cultures. In a sense, 911 was a predictable outcome of this collision.  Doubling down on the collision by combining military imperialism with the ongoing economic and cultural imperialism that caused the problem was … well … stupid.  And costly.

Throw in the “collateral damage” -- that is, civilians killed – that is an inevitable part of any military intervention, and the actions we’re taking to control terrorism are tantamount to setting up an assembly line to mass produce terrorists.   All for the bargain price of some $4.4 trillion.

5. Government is an essential partner in creating jobs and prosperity.

It’s conventional wisdom these days that big gubmint’ cain’t do nothin’ right. 

Odd then, that the two most successful large economies in the world both feature governments who play a substantial role their country’s economy.  China – which has been growing faster for longer than anyone, has a planned economy.  And when the Great Recession struck in 2008, they instituted a huge stimulus program conceived and funded by the government. 

Germany, through it’s Fraunhofer Society, uses government seed money to direct vast investments in applied research – research that has enabled Germany to have a high-wage manufacturing sector that competes with developing nations relying on cheap labor.

Odder still that the three times the US tried the laissez-faire policies espoused by the big gubmint’ haters we got the three biggest economic collapses in our history.

And even odder that this bit of conservative dogma survives its counter-factual history.