Through A Lens Darkly

It seems to me…

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”  ~ Ernest Benn.

I’m constantly amazed how politics can exaggerate and discolor any seemingly obvious nuance.  The clearest of beautiful sunny skies becomes the darkest of threatening scenarios.  This telescopic distortion of issues is dependent upon which end of the lens through which we choose to view an issue with each side castigating the other’s statements as morally reprehensible when if provided the opportunity for perceptual reversal, their behavior would be identically to what they criticize.

Romney is criticized by nearly everyone for “flip-flopping” on issues when a willingness to reconsider previous positions should be a desirable quality in a candidate (though the motivation and frequency of change might legitimately be somewhat questionable).

The majority of people in the U.S. still consider the economy to be our most critical problem.  Why is economic recovery still an issue?  Our economy has fully recovered – end of debate.  If anyone has any doubts about the recovery, check the stock market and corporate earnings.  Yes, some weaknesses remain: unemployment remains higher than desirable and real estate is well below its former high – but these remain specific areas rather than general categories.

Persistent unemployment results from technological innovation and global flattening.  But at around 8 percent, it is only about 2 percent over the point where economists become concerned about inflation.  Short term, another stimulus program would be beneficial but Republicans are opposed to that.  Long term, increased investment in STEM education and research is necessary but Republicans only propose additional reductions in educational funding.

Real estate values were highly inflated and in need of adjustment.  While many people were hurt, the decline in property values was inevitable and overdue.  There will not be any recovery until current debt overhang has been eliminated which could take several more years.  It seems increasingly obvious that neither party advocates corrective policies on financial institutions to prevent reoccurrences of what led to the recession.  Also, neither party, regardless of claims, is able to effect real changes in the market.

The national debt remains a major source of concern.  Democrats favor eliminating subsidies and obsolete tax deductions along with slight tax increases; Republicans want to eliminate spending on anything other than military programs while reducing taxes for the wealthy and corporations.  It doesn’t seem to matter that past programs similar to those proposed by Conservatives only resulted in a debt spiral and increased economic deterioration.  Rather than further spending reductions, wouldn’t the best policy be to invest in GNP growth?

Republicans claim neither President Obama nor Congressional Democrats have made any budget proposals when, in reality, Conservatives have chosen to listen only to recommendations consistent with their own narrow ideological perspectives.  Obama’s repeated requests for passage of the so-called Buffett Rule along with tax reform and reductions in spending on non-essential programs (though exactly what is a “non-essential” program is contentious) have fallen on deaf ears.

U.S. foreign policy has proven effective under Secretary Clinton.  Not only has the U.S. achieved most of its goals, they have been accomplished without swagger or undesirable world attention.  U.S. popularity throughout the world has increased to where we once again are viewed as a respected partner rather than a hegemonious dictator.  al-Qaeda’s leadership, including Osama bin Laden, has been decimated.  Libya’s Moamar Gaddafi has been replaced.  Military reductions are occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Obama has been much more proactive militarily than his predecessor through increased use of drones rather than actual military presence.

The U.S. spends more on national defense than every other nation in the world combined but Republicans advocate still additional increases in defense spending.  Much of their proposed spending would be on obsolete weapon systems used in large land battles of the past.  Someone needs to inform them that just as the Maginot Line proved ineffective, much of what they advocate is equally a waste of funding.  Excessive military spending has proven the bane of many nations in the past.  If they are serious about spending reductions, this is the place to start.

Energy costs are a general concern but Republicans seem unable to accept that carbon-based energy generation does not provide an optimal method of meeting future needs.  They refuse to provide equal opportunities for renewable energy generation and favor extending tax benefits and subsidies to coal and petroleum corporations while rejecting a carbon tax to compensate for costs associated with health and environmental degradation by those same industries.  Carbon-based generation, along with nuclear, will be necessary for quite some time into the future but lobbyists for those industries should not be permitted to dictate future energy policies regardless of how much they donate to political campaigns.  The U.S. needs a comprehensive energy policy but Republicans oppose changes to the status quo.  Conservative thinking prevents consideration of any alternative to the way things have been done in the past.

Healthcare cost continue to escalate out of control but rather than adopt a single-payer system demonstrated by many other countries to be the only system to work, the U.S. continues to have the worst and by far the most expensive healthcare system of any industrialized nation – something denied by Conservatives though proven by numerous studies.  Our current system doesn’t work; it does not provide an adequate safety net for prevention of catastrophic expenses resulting from health-related conditions.  Republicans advocate private medical insurance and elimination of Medicare though Medicare remains our single most effective service at this time and could serve as a model for general healthcare.

Social Security probably is the most effective welfare program we have and has assisted a high percentage of people no longer able to work from living in poverty but Republicans oppose this benefit advocating individual responsibility ignoring that the majority of people live from paycheck to paycheck and unable to save for retirement.  Even those able to save frequently see those savings wiped out by high medical treatment costs.  Yes, changes to the program are necessary but any changes should further strengthen the program, not eliminate it.

There are many other similar divisive issues politicians will drag up.  Needless to say, this is election season and we are going to hear numerous thoroughly preposterous statements and claims from both political camps.  Yes, the lens through which I see these issues is admittedly colored by my beliefs effectively preventing me from appreciating differing perspectives.

I frequently do not agree with President Obama or the Democratic Party which I believe has moved too far to the right[i] in attempting to compromise with the Republicans but it seems so clearly obvious President Obama is our best available option that I do not understand why not everyone agrees.  The election “should” be a total landslide – though I know it will not…

That’s what I think, what about you?

[i] Disclaimer: I consider myself an Independent rather than a member of either party.  Excellent candidates willing to vote for what is best for the country come from both parties but all too frequently are compromised following election by the reality of our political system.  Regardless, I’ll continue to optimistically vote for whomever I believe to be the best candidate regardless of party affiliation.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
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2 Responses to Through A Lens Darkly

  1. auntyuta says:

    I think what Ernest Benn says about politics would exactly apply to the party in Australia who is in opposition at present and desperately aims to get into government. But I guess people have the democratic right to vote such a party into government. A ‘landslide’ for the opposition party is being predicted. I don’t know what would make people change their mind.


    • lewbornmann says:

      I hate to make predictions since I have been wrong so many times in the past. For example, I never considered George Bush to any chance of being elected. Everytime he opened his mouth, he placed his foot in it. And after being such a disaster in his first term, I though voters would certainly by sufficiently intelligent to not voter for him a second time.

      Unfortunately, while there seems to be an upper bound on intelligence, stupidity has no such limitations.


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