At this point I would be preaching to the choir to tell you what will happen on 01-01-2013 if no deal. Every American in every wealth class will be affected or another. But if the American people, all income levels from the penniless to the multi-billionaires do not learn what participating in a democracy is all about, whether or not we go over, the fiscal cliff is a foothill compared to the one we are likely to go over before the end of the decade.
I am referring to the Democracy Cliff. American Democracy is shutting down. The friction, as it were between the parties and the civilian Americans also divided on many issues has slowed the turbine that turns America from gazelle to tortoise levels and is on the brink of stopping. On CBS’s program Sunday Morning, some commentary from Ben Stein was offered where he quoted his late father, economist Herbert Stein. Ben was referring to eliminating interest on mortgages as a deduction on one’s federal income tax, claiming (1) that’s the last thing the housing market needs right now and (2) the rich don’t need a mortgage, they can pay cash for a house. The quote was Behold, my son, with what little wisdom the world is governed.
After I watched Bob Shieffer on Face the Nation interview Simpson and Bowles on their views of the fiscal cliff and then a round table discussion, I went to my computer and did a Google search on Herbert Stein. Kudos to son Ben for his input and for the quote, but I wish he had brought up a far more significant quote by his father: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. This can apply to something as mundane as the proper way to build an inheritance for [your] children is to build a business or other source of residual revenue that continues after your time on Earth is up, and pass that on to your children, rather than a lump sum of money that they will inevitably p— away. But there is more than money at stake when we don’t build something to last forever.
How quickly we forget H. Ross Perot and his third party candidacy in 1992 claiming GHW Bush and Bill Clinton both had it wrong. Perot’s wisdom is not to be taken lightly. I don’t always agree with him, but he is no dummy. What he is, is a dictator. And for that reason I could not unite with him even on things I agreed with him—the price of H. Ross Perot is too great to pay even for good ideas. Look at the collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of Caesar. Or the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler. When problems, mainly economic, but others as well, become the centerpiece of our nation and there are no solutions to be found, dictators tend to sell their bills of goods very effectively. Ultimately, you get the problem solved, but the price you ultimately paid is your freedom.
Our Founding Fathers chose representative democracy over establishing the American government as one large-scale New England Town Meeting for many reasons; but the number one reason is to prevent the masses from voting out democracy and supporting a dictator. Dictatorships are made of iron and democracies are made of glass. A democracy can vote in a dictator, but living under a dictator, you cannot vote in a democracy—blood has to be shed. To implement Herbert Stein’s philosophy, both the Roman and Weimar republics were not built to last forever, and therefore they stopped, and the respective dictators moved in. The $64 Trillion question is: Was American Democracy built to last forever?
As civilian participants, we take a stand, hopefully we are educated enough to take an informative stand, on the issues affecting our daily lives. Then in November, we cast a ballot for the candidate who best represents our global stand that evolves as the sum total of all our positions on all the issues. The majority wins and the representative does it our way about ninety to ninety-five percent of the time but has five to ten percent leeway to override us if we, the people are headed toward a fatal mistake. The representatives themselves are supposed to be continually on the debating floor exercising the Platonian dialectic where thesis and antithesis become synthesis, the synthesis becomes the new thesis, it has a corresponding antithesis…and the process continues until a reasonable state of equilibrium. Today’s debating floors are war-soiled battlegrounds instead where the two parties, moreover the two sides go to war and try to outlast their opponents until one side cries uncle. Many of my fellow Republicans are just as guilty of this as everyone else. The result is the wheels of democracy are slowing down to a stop. If they do come to a complete stop, what’s next?
To paraphrase Herbert Stein, If American Democracy cannot go on forever, it will stop. If it stops, a dictator is the only thing that can get it started. Take a look at the biggest issue facing us now, what we call The Fiscal Cliff. We cannot tax our way out of debt—need I say more. Ironically, most of the very rich are more than willing to pay more taxes. The Boehner republicans do not want even the rich ones willing to pay more taxes to pay more taxes; and they have a point, it could shut down job creation. And whether or not we end up balancing the budget on the backs of the rich or the backs of the middle class, one thing’s for sure—we cannot balance the budget on the backs of the unemployed. We cannot spending cut are way out of debt; well, that’s a half truth. In theory we could, but it would take a generation or so to kick in. As I have stated, we have a constitutional obligation not to leave elderly and disabled out on the streets with no means of support and it is too late for many of the afore mentioned. It would have to start with those in their early twenties entering the work force now to be forewarned they will not have entitlements in their old age so save now; but we cannot turn our back on those currently on Social Security and Medicare who cannot survive any other way. And we are very limited constitutionally on methods of raising revenue outside of taxation. Even the bipartisan deals led by Obama and Boehner, should they shake hands and Boehner blinks on tax increases to the rich and Obama blinks on entitlement reform, at best will reduce the deficit. I have not seen one proposal yet by either side that can raise the $16 Trillion necessary to cure the deficit. Why should anyone make the sacrifice if [we] get nothing in return? And we don’t have thirty-three years (one generation)—we’ll be bankrupt like Greece long before then.
So the closer we get to fiscal collapse of some sort, if not this cliff, something else, the closer we come to the day when democracy can no longer put this country back on track and we open the main gate to America for a dictator to come in. I do not pray we go off the fiscal cliff, but I worry more about the Democracy cliff; in comparison, the fiscal cliff is a foothill.
How can we avoid going over the Democracy cliff? Nothing instigated by our elected officials or other politicians, liberal, moderate, or conservative, can make a difference. It cannot be initiated by those on Wall Street; they may be the problem but to disable them is throwing the baby out with the bathwater—even if we become small-business friendly as I envision, these small business will need world-wide big businesses serving as their respective supply chains for a long time. It cannot be solved on Main Street, unemployment and failing businesses has made them too weak to lead us through. The solution rests on us guys and gals—Elm Street and Mockingbird Circle. If our senators and congressmen won’t open the floor to Platonian dialectic debate, let’s do it ourselves. After all, it is our government (said by Lincoln at Gettysburg). People love to congregate with other people. We discuss kids, jobs, social climbing, sports, cars, music, and that should continue. But let’s redirect some of that positive synergy toward the issues. Let’s host house meetings and prototype them as microcosms of the New England Town Meetings. Let somebody state a thesis, somebody else state the antithesis, and create a synthesis. Let’s develop neighborhood consensuses, and support candidates who support those consensuses. If there are no candidates that foot the bill, let’s come up with one of our own. Have him or her register with the political party best suited for the consensus and support him or her to get the wheels of democracy moving again and make a U-turn away from the Democracy cliff. My fellow Americans, time to take back your country!