As you read this, it is now too late to register to vote if you missed the Tuesday deadline. "Don't blame me I didn't vote," for many, may become next year's excuse.
For many Republicans their motivation for voting remains one of "anybody but Obama." They realize at the same time they have little enthusiasm for Romney as an alternative, merely the only alternative currently available. It will remain to be seen if their fear of Obama is sufficient motivation to cast a vote, or if participation will decrease.
Democrats may feel they adequately provided for Obama four years ago and he failed to deliver. Even with rules in place that allowed obstruction of his agenda, many cannot comprehend how he could do so little with so much advantage. His first two years especially highlighted how Congressional rules allow a minority to dictate the agenda. We remain confused as to how 60 votes of 100 cast failed to be a majority.
Regardless of your political orientation it is easy to see why we despair at the thought of another Congress doing little to forward a cooperative agenda. We have come to realize that the individual self-interests of our "elected representatives" trump what is good for America. We have come to realize that ideology is more important than progress. We have come to realize that a minority of perhaps well-meaning citizens has hijacked our political process and it has deteriorated into one of negativity from which we may not be able to redeem ourselves.
Big Bird has become a symbol of those who want to cut government spending but propose only small symbolic reductions. Many call for smaller government, but not their government. Not their Social Security, not their tax deductions, and certainly not their perks of any kind. Here is the horrid truth: A popularly elected government that enacts the austerity moves necessary to correct our deficit spending will not remain in office. Another horrid truth: Gridlock will continue in Congress as they pursue doctrinal purity while ignoring the needs of the nation.
We find ourselves at a terrible crossroads. On one path is a party that wishes to slash spending for a wide variety of social programs that are not worthy of continued support by an increasingly agitated segment of society that sees freeloaders everywhere. This same group wishes to increase funding for military spending far beyond which the Pentagon has requested and inclusive of tanks, fighters and spare engines for which there is no need. Can anyone continue to say "pork barrel"? Is it true we can take billions from social and educational programs yet not manage to save a dollar in defense spending?
Then there is the other party, the one that wants to redistribute your wealth, take what was won by hard work and give it away. They will raise your taxes; seize your guns and probably your property, too. Of course, that is not true, but that is the level to which our national frenzy has risen. While there are very real differences between parties, it is not to the extent their competing propaganda machines have led us all to believe.
Check out some facts rather than forwarding your rabid posts. De-escalate the rhetoric and ask yourself if you really wish to continue this rip 'em all apart blood sport we have engendered. It was with irony that it was recently noted on Facebook someone threatened a "Muslim genocide" without significant notice or comment. Someone good naturedly perhaps made it appear the same person had decided to vote for Obama. He was then threatened. If you do not see the contradiction in American ideals within that, well we have traveled down a path too far.
Here are some facts to consider: Your taxes will be going up and your government benefits will soon be reduced. Either party will have no choice as the hole is too deep. Imagine this simplistic economic lesson: There are three expenditure areas in the federal budget, nondiscretionary which includes our "entitlements" such as pensions and social security and interest payments on the national debt. That amounts to approximately $2.5 trillion.
There is then discretionary spending otherwise known as government. Within government there are two types of spending, those being security-related (military, homeland defense, etc.) amounting to $868 billion and non-security spending (courts, education, highways, agriculture, etc.) amounting to another $442 billion. To save you the trouble of adding it up, it totals around $3.8 trillion in budgetary expenditures for 2012.
Of course, there is always income. In this case we collect taxes and we receive about $2.5 trillion from all sources. That leaves us just $1.3 trillion short of balancing the budget. If we were to eliminate all government we could almost balance the budget. To continue this simple economics lesson, we can only reduce deficit spending and balance the budget with immediate reductions of about 20% of all governmental spending and increases in tax revenue by a corresponding 20%.
Now what are we likely to do? Unfortunately, we shall continue to debate birth control, Big Bird, Abrams tanks and which presidential candidate lies the most or is most or least Christian. We will probably continue to let our elected representatives push their partisan agendas while we lobby them to stake out even more extreme positions that further divide us and make the work of saving democracy even harder. We will continue to know with great pride we have preserved our principles while we let our nation slip away.
Jim Hoffman is a local real estate broker and investor who is trying to move from semi-retired to retired. He needs to retire to devote more time to unpaid interests such as skiing, camping and fishing.