“The Donald”

I have already made this clear. I do not particularly care for any of the presidential candidates for 2016. Among these, I find Donald Trump to be the most intriguing. It amazes me that he still garners such wide support while providing little to no answers on any of his supposed policies. While I do find Donald Trump to be an endless source of entertainment, he is entirely ill-equipped to hold the office for which he is running. Continue reading

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Get Your Billion Back, America!

If you watch television, I’m sure that you have seen the new H&R Block commercials. Many find them to be interesting, while some think that they are offensive. One of these commercials, however, takes a very aggressive stance on a political issue that many find alarming. Take a moment to watch the commercial.

Perhaps H&R Block is taking a facetious approach to military funding; “Oh, here it is!” Whether you are pro military, anti-military, or somewhere in between, chances are that you are fairly passionate about your stance. This is one of those “hot button issues.” But, perhaps we should take a moment to look beyond the typical mantra that surrounds this issue, and examine the specifics.

In 2013, the United States spent more money on defense than any other country in the world. As a matter of fact, the country outspent the next nine countries combined. Now, this could be considered a great thing. Many people take pride living in a country which is undeniably the most powerful country in the world. But, I would like to propose a question. Lets take a closer look at the top 10 countries.

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Is it necessary to outspend the next largest defense budget more than 5 to 1? Could we outspend them 4:1, 3:1, or even merely double every Chinese dollar spent on defense, and still reasonably assume that we lived in the most powerful nation in the world? The difference that we are considering is a savings of a number in excess of $300 billion a year. If you are not convinced by this, consider that within these top 10 countries, only two could be reasonably considered foes. In an eight to two battle within the top 10, the United States and its allies outspend their foes 84.1% to 15.9%.

To be fair, the United States has, in fact, benefited greatly in some of its past wartime efforts. World War II generated enormous amounts of wealth. But, long gone are the times of great wartime spoils. It would be tough to determine any economic benefits that have come from any of America’s recent wars. It used to be that the victor of war could pillage and plunder, taking what was his. But, this practice has now been replaced with expensive rebuilding efforts to get the defeated nation back on its feet. Military training, costly infrastructure repair, and economic incentives, all of which add to an ever growing military budget.

The Nuclear Option

It has a scary sounding name: “Nuclear Option.” Not only does it sound bad, but it has officially been detonated by senate democrats. But, what is the “nuclear option?” What does it do and what are its implications?

Traditionally, senate rules have, for almost all motions, required 60 votes to invoke “cloture.” Cloture is a fancy legislative term that simply means bringing an end to debate and moving on to the vote. Filibuster, in its simplest form is the delay or prevention of cloture. For much of Obama’s Presidency, democrats have complained, and perhaps rightfully so, that republicans have abused filibuster. The dissatisfaction with republican filibuster, as there has been plenty of cases to be dissatisfied, has led to the democrats detonation of the nuclear option.

So what is the nuclear option? It is simply a rules change. Instead of requiring 60 votes to invoke cloture, it will simply require majority. As the senate has 100 seats, the magic number is now 51 votes. This, in essence, gives the senate majority all power. Instead of forcing the majority to garner the support, through debate, of some of the minority, or opposing view, to invoke cloture, the senate majority can invoke cloture on their own.

There are many implications to this option. In the short-term, democratic nominees will have no competition from the republican minority. It will also effectively remove republican ideas and arguments from consideration, as their opinions will not need be heard in order to invoke cloture. These things are good, or bad depending on your political stance. Republicans will clearly be upset by the measure, while democrats, especially those fed up with republican filibuster, will be happy to clear the cogs of the political machine. Long-term, however, democrats will eventually face these same barriers, as it is highly unlikely that democrats will control the senate for the rest of American future.

Republicans have answered to the democrat driven nuclear option in a couple of different ways. The first of which was essentially an:

“Enjoy it now. You will regret it later.”

The second way in which republicans have answered the “nuclear option,” is the suggestion that democrats are simply trying to provide a distraction from the miserable roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

While there is no way to tell whether this is true, as it is merely speculative, the only thing we can be certain of is that republicans have, indeed, used filibuster quite frequently in the Obama era.

So what do you think? Is the “Nuclear Option” just a distraction from the ACA roll-out, or did republicans push senate democrats into a corner with their frequent and perhaps abusive use of filibuster?

Europe; How Does it Work?

Since the government shutdown, I have made multiple claims about the United States government and its tendency towards overwhelming ineptitude. In one of those claims, I made reference to the European Union’s ability to get things done, even though they have to do it in the face of unanimous consent. To pass a bill in the United States, you only need to garner the support of a simple majority to pass most bills. On rare occasion you might need to garner 2/3 and even more rarely 3/5. The European Union holds 28 member states, and if even one does not agree with a bill being debated, it isn’t passed. And yet, they are much more efficient than the United States.

This is an incredibly unique time in European history. The continent has never seen a period of peace like it has today. Upon thinking through history, it is clear that there hasn’t been a time of peace like today since even before the time of the Greeks. And yet, despite the history of conflict and disagreement, they can come together with different ideas and agendas, and still get things done in a timely manner. How is this possible?

The European Union is set up very differently than the United States. The United States values its “separation of powers.” These are the divisions between executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The European Union is almost the exact opposite. They bring all of the powers into one body, called parliament. In parliament, laws are created, enforced, and deemed “constitutional.” It is the inclusion of powers. This allows more unilateral, and more decisive actions by the governing body, as opposed to the United Sates governing body who seemingly can’t agree between any governing entity.

To be fair, however, the American system was designed to be inefficient. After the United States declared its independence from England, it feared government with such power, decisiveness, and effectiveness. They designed a system that, at least they thought, would give its people the advantage over their government. This is shown time and time again throughout the constitution. Despite its inherent flaws in governing, it worked. It was, in essence, a “Goldilocks” government- not efficient, not too inefficient, but just inefficient enough. Party politics however, as warned against by George Washington himself, has thrown off the equilibrium of efficiency needed in order to do anything we would call governing.

Ultimately, there are many differences between the United States and the European Union. The biggest of these though, is the general desire to get something done. In the face of unanimous consent, countries and representatives are willing to bend their agendas in order to work together. Each and every party is equally important, despite their population or even GDP, because they hold the power to say “no.” This power has lead to a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” system of governing that has proved to work very well. Instead of political representatives that make their living disagreeing and fighting every premise of the opposing view, they typically work together to find similarities they can capitalize on. These similarities act as a fulcrum on which they can balance opposing views.

With only two parties, Americans are forced to assimilate to one of two different ideologies, and one of these parties always has majority. This means that in every governing body, one half of the population is being represented better than the other half, and the half that is being represented better isn’t being represented as effectively as they could with more political parties. Abandoning the two party political system would presumably remove “majority” from any one political party, forcing different specialized parties, that represent a more specific group of people, to work together in order to pass any one specific bill.

Shutdown Aftermath

The government is open again. After two weeks, the United States government actually figured out how to accomplish something. But, what does it all mean? Was anything actually accomplished? What did we learn?

Most of all, what happens next?

Many of you know, at least I would hope, that one of the building blocks of this blog is the stand against the traditional two party political system that the United States has clung on to, despite its horrific inability to govern such a diverse country effectively. This ineffectiveness was embodied in the government shutdown. As outlined in my previous post, the so called “Republican” party is simply too diverse to even agree with itself to come to the table to debate any stance. Party leaders call members of their own party “wacko birds,” while “Republicans”, which are really members of the Tea party and Libertarianism, call members of their own party soft, liberal, and satist.

The one thing that came out of this, more than anything else I have noticed, is that everyday Americans began to pay attention to and take a stance on government. It doesn’t matter which side of favor they fall on concerning the shutdown, whether pro or con, more than I can remember at any other point, people are taking a passionate stance. Some have taken the liberty to call it a “great awakening.” I hope this is true. I honestly hope that this was the fulcrum at which the scales will begin to turn. For far too long, the American population has been lax, at best, when paying attention to and holding accountable their government representatives. Most don’t even know who those people are.

I like to see people upset by our governments shortcomings. Because they are so upset by this one specific case, perhaps they will become aware of some of its others. There are many, I assure you. What I want to see the most though, is the influx of politically minded electorate that overwhelms the traditional two party political system. I believe that the republican party is on the verge of this. If the party becomes any more diverse, it will have no choice but to disband into two, or even three different parties. The political left isn’t too far from this either, with the Green Party, liberals, and even a democratically elected socialist in the U.S. Senate. (Bernie Sanders in case you were curious.)

My point is merely this. The United States is far too diverse to believe that two political parties could possibly represent 100% of the population effectively. It doesn’t matter which side of the isle you find yourself on, left or right, you will always have differing opinions, whether social, monetary, or foreign policies, than others in your party. If we can develop parties that more effectively cater to the specific views of those they supposedly represent, individuals will stand to be better represented in their government.

Government Shutdown

In the wake of the government shutdown, much of politics has reduced to pointing fingers at the opposite side. Republicans blame the senate for not passing their bill, while Democrats blame the Republican led house for not passing a “clean Continuing Resolution.” As a conservative, admittedly, I can place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Republican party for attempting to pass a politically motivated bill that had no chance of clearing the senate or ever being signed into law by the president. But, perhaps blame is the wrong word?

Across social media platforms, my feeds are littered with individuals applauding the shutdown. Some view government as corrupt or broken, and are happy to see the system come crashing to a halt. There are some that applaud the shutdown because they view government as successful when it does the least, and shutdown is the epitome of this viewpoint in their praise of government ineptitude.

How did it come to this though? How is our government so inept? How is it so difficult for the United States to accomplish any task, while the European Union manages to get things done even in the face of mandatory unanimous consent? The answer is fairly clear.

Our government was designed to be terrible, and we have only made it worse.

The founding fathers were terrified of government becoming what they had just so recently fought against. They were terrified of King George’s ability to make unilateral decisions at the snap of a finger. They designed our government, with its separation of powers, to be as inefficient as humanly possible.

It was only made worse when we imposed party politics on this already inefficient system that we can see the building blocks for today’s government shutdown begin to take place. But, it isn’t merely party politics that led the this government meltdown. We have operated fairly successfully until now, with the exception of 30 days in the 1990’s. So what is it? What is the driving factor?

The answer, at least it seems to me, is the two party political system we have today. There isn’t much of an issue when it comes to the Democrat’s side of the isle, though it is clearly to broad to supposedly represent one-half of the nations population, but begins to become more clear when examining the “Republican” party.

Today’s “Republican” party isn’t titled very descriptively. It does in fact represent republicans. These are your typical conservatives. However, it represents two other fairly large movements within it. The Republican party also houses the Tea Party and Libertarians. The range that this one party spans is so vast that cornerstone Republicans, like John McCain, call members of their own party “wacko birds.” There would have been more than enough votes in the House to pass a clean Continuing Resolution, but the more right wing conservatives, who are called republicans though they clearly are not, prevented this measure from ever coming to a vote. Instead of the two sides debating on what should be done, the “Republican Party” can’t even agree on what to debate. Disagreement leads to ineptitude, which is what some of these politicians desired anyways.

Here, though, is the main point I would like to bring up. Have you taken the time to consider the people impacted first by this shutdown? Sure, you may not like government, but what did the guy that picks up trash at your local National Park do? Are you angry at him. Is he the “cynic” or “tyrant” you despise about your government. What about the single mother that works at NIH? Surely she is to blame? No, but surely Smithsonian museums, and all of their employees are the bane of this nation’s existence.

Clearly not. We must take the time to discern between government workers and career politicians. I assure you the latter is least affected by the shutdown. Maybe government is too big, but this is clearly not the way to handle the “problem.” In the long run this will hurt the republican party. The media, and common sense will place the blame on Republicans, and the general population will begin to turn on them. Consider me one of the ones who turned.

Syria; A lose lose

News outlets this week are filled with statements like:

“The Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea within range of targets inside Syria. The U.S. also has warplanes in the region.”

And

“The U.S., along with allies in Europe, appeared to be laying the groundwork for the most aggressive response since Syria’s civil war began more than two years ago.”

These things, to many American’s, are unwanted at best, with the heavy majority saying they do not want any U.S. intervention in Syria. Obama should not be chomping at the bit for U.S. intervention either, having just shucked the wars from the previous administration. But, here we stand, at a proverbial line in the sand drawn up by President Obama himself.

It is very difficult to imagine a way in which this entire situation will turn out well. Americans are hesitant to jump headlong into another conflict in the same exact region that has plagued us for more than a decade. But, if we do nothing, Assad, the brutal tyrant, would stay in power in spite of U.S. threats. This would damage U.S. credibility the world over, sending the wrong message to places like Iran and North Korea. Doing nothing could also lead to the fall of Syrian government to the hands of al-Qaida led rebels, giving the group access to militarized WMDs, which of course would be a terrible thing.

Our lack of response over the last year has upset the Syrian people. They watched as we helped Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Our lack of support led them to accept the help they needed from anywhere they could receive it. Al-Qaida was more than willing to help.

In the never ending argument over whether the United States should mind it own business when it comes to foreign affairs, perhaps we should consider that neither side of the argument seems to work. When we do nothing, there is always someone who will do it in our place. In a world plagued with a rising terror network which specifically wants to take the United States down, letting someone else do it may not be the right choice. Doing something, in the other hand, costs an incredible amount of money, especially in an economy that is already weak.