MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, MD., February 12, 2016 – Many people say they are not interested in politics. They usually expand by saying that they hate politics and politicians.
A simple definition of politics is:
“The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power”
This is as basic as it gets. Any activity related to living in an organized society comes into the realm of politics. As much as you could try not to be part of an organized society, you are part of it. Whether you chose to participate or not, you are part of it.
If you chose not to participate, what you are saying is “I don’t care what happens.”
In some societies citizens are required to participate in politics by voting. Those who don’t vote are denied even basic rights like commerce, use of public facilities and even legal personal business. In those societies you need a document, sometimes labeled “Legal and solvent,” when doing any type of business. Does this guarantee that governance is better?
Of course not. Whether one votes with full grasp of all the facts and consequences or not, one can be wrong. However, critical analysis may allow one to be more efficient and to not regret our decisions. This is nothing more than what happens in real life.
In our society we think of voting as a right and a privilege. We are not forced to vote and most believe that there are no negative repercussions if we don’t. But is that true?
The bottom line is that if you want something to happen, or if you want to stop something from happening, voting is a good way to meet your goals. This is especially true in the coming elections. Besides the presidency, the full House membership and 1/3 of the Senate, there are many other issues at stake. Not the least of it is up to four members of the Supreme Court.
For the past 30+ years, most of the decisions that our executive and legislature have made have benefited big businesses, the oil and gas industry, Wall Street, the health sector and the military industrial complex. We have even gone to bat for them when they make mistakes and saved them from insolvency.
The idea was that we would all be better off if we actively supported the capitalist system.
We have passed laws that allowed corporations to renege on their retirement system for their employees, we have signed treaties that allowed businesses to move their operations outside the US without any financial impact, we deregulated the financial system, we don’t tax inherited wealth to any extent at the Federal level and very little at the state level, corporate taxes are at an all-time low level since the beginning of the 20th century, and the Supreme Court has decided not to put a limit in the amount of contributions to political causes from corporations. These are just some of the actions that we have taken in the last 30 years. The term “we” is appropriate because “we” voted for the legislatures and executive that created the laws and enacted them.
The 2016 elections will decide whether this approach has succeeded. It will reveal whether Americans believe the country needs to increase support to capitalism, leave things as they are, or whether we need to do something different.
Military and foreign policy
Somewhere around 57% of our fiscal budget goes to the military (defense, war and nuclear weapons). Our military budget is 45% of the World’s total. Our latest “air platform,” the F35, will cost us about $1.3 trillion. Despite that hefty price tag, it can’t operate in cloudy weather.
We have been bogged down in a war against people fighting from caves and using XVIII century tactics for 13 years. Those from the right keep saying that our military is working with one hand tied behind their backs. Others say that we should have left long ago.
Our vote will decide whether we stay the course or do something different.
The cost of education has gone through the roof. Even a public university costs several tens of thousands of dollars a year. Some people are graduating with a bachelor’s degree with six figure education debts. Subsidies from states have decreased and public universities are expected to make up the difference and get “grants” from private companies. These private grants come with strings attached.
This paired with the advancement in our society that requires much more sophistication and knowledge to work, has put us in a cross road.
Should we make more money available to universities and even make them not for profit so that we can educate our work force for less, or should we continue to pay high prices for education with the subsequent high education loans?
In either case, we will have to pay for our decisions. In the former case we would have to increase taxes and in the latter we will end up having to bring foreign experts to handle complex jobs or suffer economically from being left behind.
Our vote may decide what pathway we will take.
History tells us that the best times for the middle class in the US were the decades of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Causally, these were the times when the labor Unions were strongest.
Since the mid-70s and for the last 30+ years the influence of Unions has waned. Many felt that Unions had outlived their usefulness and were in fact a hindrance to labor and commerce in general. Right to work states keep increasing and judicial cases keep going against labor Unions.
Our vote may decide whether Unions make a comeback or whether something else will replace them. We may even decide that we are happy with the status quo.
Roe v. Wade and Citizen United are household phrases in the US. They demonstrate the power of the Judicial System in our country and especially the Supreme Court. It is expected that at least four judges will retire in the next eight years.
Our vote will decide what course of action will the Supreme Court take.
The election in 2016 is about far more than the presidential candidates currently touring the country. It is an election that could determine the direction of America’s future.
Whatever your choices, whatever your preference, make sure your voice is heard. Educate yourself on the issues, and most importantly, vote.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, has voted in every election since he became eligible for it in 1980. He is in Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook (Mario Salazar).