It’s been interesting watching and listening to the various commentators on the politically-oriented TV channels discussing who won and who lost the midterm elections. Personally, I think the elections were kinda’ like the big tax cut of a year ago. I didn’t win; you didn’t win, and most other Americans didn’t win. Hardly any of the issues that matter to us were addressed, and wins were simply scored in the column for either Democrats or Republicans.
Of course, some issues were considered to be Republican items and others were believed to be Democrat concerns. But, really, most of the issues that weren’t addressed affect all American regardless of which party they favored.
Let’s look at the federal deficit. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, our deficit is $779 billion. That means the federal government will have expenditures of $779 billion more than it will realize in revenue. But, that’s only part of the story. In effect, this year’s deficit actually adds $1.25 trillion to the overall debt because we’re still paying interest on previous years’ deficits, so this year’s deficit has built more interest as each month goes by.
For FY 2019, the estimated deficit will be $984 billion and, like this year’s experience, the net effect will be significantly higher.
Each year’s deficit is added to the accumulated deficits of previous years, and that becomes the national debt. That amount changes second by second, and you can view this by Googling “Federal Debt Clock.” At this writing, the debt stands at more than $21,733,425,228,000. That’s a number in the trillions. If we consider that the U.S. population is roughly 320 million, than simple division shows that, if the debt were divided equally among all people (including infants and the extremely elderly), each of us would owe $67,917, or $271,668 for a family of four.
The above figures don’t include state and local debt. They don’t include unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. They don’t include “agency debt,” which is debt issued by federal agencies (like the FBI or CIA) and government-sponsored enterprises (like the Peace Corps). That debt is “guesstimated” to be $9.57 trillion more. So, if we add that to our individual and family responsibility, plus the accumulating interest for FI 2018, the new figures are $96,875 per person or $387,500 for a family of four.
If this issue was addressed at all, it was certainly not one of the major planks in any platform with which I was familiar.
Our climate is changing. Whether you believe that the change has been caused or exacerbated by the effects of the Industrial Revolution and our continued reliance on burning fossil fuels, which results in production of greenhouse gases, relying on such non-degradable compounds as plastics, really doesn’t matter. The reality is that polar ice caps are melting, ocean levels are rising, and we have been experiencing more and increasingly devastating weather conditions, including those that have led to the fires that are now raging in our state.
Esanbehanakitakojima, an island off the coast of Japan, which was recognized as Japan’s border with Russia has disappeared. It was eroded by wind and weather and then covered by the rising sea level. Coastal areas of Southeast Asia as well as significant areas in the U.S. (parts of Florida and Louisiana, and possibly even New York) are in danger in the near future.
Many parts of the world, including our central valley in California, have been experiencing droughts on a scale not realized before. “Dry” forests everywhere have been more conducive to wildfires that have become ever more destructive. Tornado Alley in the United States has shifted to the east. The Sahara Desert in North Africa is growing. So are other deserts. Rain forests are shrinking, and the vegetation contained within them is a major source of oxygen for our ecosystem. Extreme temperatures are more common. And so on.
It is no coincidence that we see less intense tule fog in our part of the world. As population increases, so does the demand for housing. That means pouring more concrete, not just for the housing but also for the infrastructure and facilities. More concrete means less vegetation to produce moisture in the air.
As we drive around during the winter months, we may be thankful for better visibility on our roads, but we pay for that with greater water restrictions and more intense heat in the summer.
During the campaigns, I heard very little about these existential problems.
I think that politicians, especially on the national stage, shy away from “big issues,” like the two I’ve stated as well as “Big Pharma,” child labor, human trafficking, species destruction, limitations on the types of guns that may be legally purchased, and myriad others because they are afraid of alienating some segment of the population. And perhaps there’s no way to avoid that. After all, we’ve always been a nation divided.
Our clashing interests began with the construction of our constitution when the founding fathers attempted to make the House of Representatives more equitable by declaring that slaves would count as three-fifths of a person. The “compromise” brought support from the southern states.
Eventually, though, that led to the Civil War, a series of bloody battles that pitted Americans against Americans. But, the war didn’t solve anything, except for putting an end to “legal” slavery. The North and South remained divided, and to a greater extent than most people realize.
The current atmosphere has been described as an urban-rural division. The political spotlight is on the different interests of the central “breadbasket” states versus the coastal areas. It is also a class divide, especially as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. And, this year’s midterm elections may show a clash between the young and the old. “Millennials” finally showed up at the polls, and I suspect that their priorities varied considerably from those of their parents’ generation.
Worst of all, I suspect that too many of the midterm votes were simply cast on a pro-Trump or anti-Trump basis. And, local votes were swayed by rumor, innuendo, and hyperbole. In the United States, voting is not only a right and a privilege, it is also a responsibility. Let’s try to keep that in mind when our 2020 ballots arrive.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at email@example.com.