Why The Democrats And Republicans Haven’t Solved The Nation’s Problems Over The Past 50 Years, While Becoming Extremely Tribalistic And Divisive.
The “War on Poverty” was proclaimed over fifty years ago by Lyndon Johnson, but poverty has only worsened since then under alternating Democratic and Republican leadership. Drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, racism, police brutality, incarceration levels, recidivism, crime, violence, and mass killings have also gotten worse. Our infrastructure has badly deteriorated. We have had repeated foreign policy failures. The question must be asked: Why? The answer is simple, though it seems to have escaped everyone: our presidents, senators, and representatives have never been properly qualified. In fact, they have never been experts in their own right in economic, social, and foreign policy, which is indispensable for competent political leadership. Our political model has been flawed. We have thought politicians with no expertise would receive advice from experts, and that they would be able to come up with enlightened decisions. The unrecognized fallacy in that model is that non-expert politicians will never be able to distinguish good advice from bad advice, nor be able to optimally synthesize inside and outside advice.
The incompetence of both parties and the consequent general deterioration has led to extremism on both the left and the right, and to acrid divisiveness. We used to have incompetence in the center, now we have incompetence at the extremes. Fortunately, the right solutions for the nation would be acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans; it’s just that the right solutions haven’t been identified.
The Democrats are focused on solving social problems (but with no workable idea how to do so), while the Republicans are focused on economic growth and low taxes. The Democrats’ approach is to increasingly tax the wealthy and business and spend lots of money on flawed, ineffective social programs. The Republicans’ approach is to cut taxes and spend less and less on social programs. The result is that our social problems never get solved; yet solving them is the key to greatly reducing taxes and government spending.
The right solution package can only be devised with true expertise in both economic and social policy. Enlightened economic policy would use QE financing by the Federal Reserve not just for bailing out banks, but also for nipping recessions in the bud through big tax rebates, and for education and infrastructure. We can afford much more federal financing than most realize. A proper understanding of QE frees the nation from a misguided, obsessive concern with budget deficits, and allows for much more government spending on social and infrastructure programs without raising taxes. That would appease Republicans and delight Democrats. (QE financing is not inflationary when properly calibrated so as not to cause excess aggregate demand. Furthermore, bonds held by the Federal Reserve until maturity constitute only virtual, not real debt, and do not increase the real national debt by one penny.) What’s needed to solve our social problems is a proper understanding of how to devise truly effective programs to greatly increase the general educational level, and to greatly reduce poverty, homelessness, welfare, unwanted pregnancies, addiction, mental illness, violence, crime, incarceration, recidivism, racism, police brutality, and mass killings. The pedestrian programs offered by Democrats and Republicans have predictably failed due to lack of real insight.
Greatly increasing the level of public education requires 1) an enlightened curriculum for the highly competitive global economy; 2) strict class discipline and lots of homework, both indispensable for academic success (and the formula of all successful private schools); 3) individual academic and psychological assistance for students falling behind. What’s also needed is year-round well-organized arts, sports, and vocational training programs on weekends and during holidays and the summer vacation, to keep our youths occupied constructively and enjoyably in their free time.
Reducing poverty requires (besides an excellent public school education and an economic policy that prevents long recessions and high unemployment) welfare reform. Adults and children on welfare need guidance and stability. That means having well-run, well-supervised welfare campuses with onsite housing, schools, medical clinics, and the provision of socially productive jobs for those unable to find employment in the private sector. (Shuttling people on welfare to and from SRO’s and motels is very expensive and provides no stability for adults or children.)
Reducing addiction, violence, racism, police brutality, unwanted pregnancies, and mental illness requires having four years of psychology in all high schools, along with “group therapy” and “good parenting” classes. Mass killings, invariably perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals, can be greatly reduced only by limiting mental illness and by providing a truly excellent public high school education. Gun control is not the solution, since there are many ways of killing and maiming, and because black markets always exist. In fact, drug laws have not prevented drugs from being readily available. Gun control laws would be similarly ineffective. The emphasis must be put on prevention. It is a waste of precious time to focus on devising gun control and anti-abortion measures, which do nothing to prevent violence and unwanted pregnancies. Prevention requires making all our youth well educated, psychologically literate and well adjusted.
The main point everyone should understand is that the Democratic and Republican parties have failed miserably in governing because their candidates have never been properly qualified and support ideological policies which have little or no chance of solving the nation’s problems. When are candidates truly qualified? When they can explain all the errors in economic, social, and foreign policy made over the past one hundred years, and can explain what would have been the right policy decisions. That is the standard for being properly, truly qualified to be president, senator, representative, governor, and mayor. With truly qualified candidates, we will finally have governments capable of solving our nation’s problems. Blind ideology and superficial, demagogic ideas will no longer be the driving force. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and architects are logically required to obtain an advanced degree and to pass state board exams before practicing their profession. Why should anyone be allowed to run for high office without first demonstrating a high level of expertise in economic, social, and foreign policy? We have voted for presidents with no expertise at all. The disastrous results should be no surprise.
It is crucially important for everyone, including conservatives, to realize that solving our social problems is in the national interest. Therefore, federal financing is essential, especially since state and local governments do not have the means. It should be understood by all that every single American benefits from the elimination of poverty and violence, socially and economically.
The press could greatly help by engaging in the most important form of investigative journalism: looking for truly qualified political candidates, finding them, and giving them exposure. It is wishful thinking that the Democrat and Republican candidates will ever be truly qualified, so the press should not give exclusive coverage to them. It is also wishful thinking that celebrities or billionaires will ever be truly qualified candidates. The press must stop being mesmerized by them. The press has actually been instrumental in the election of unqualified celebrity or billionaire candidates by giving them excessive coverage, at the expense of more deserving candidates. Most of all, the press should focus on candidate platforms, subjecting them to careful analysis. Vague platforms should be called out as instantly disqualifying, while detailed platforms should be given much attention. The press should also hold competitions for the best platforms, submitted anonymously, and hold highly publicized debates between the finalists. Political gems would turn up.
July 2, 2018
© Edward Sonnino 2018