The campaign this year is the first in four decades without a presidential or vice-presidential incumbent. It is a perfect opportunity for reflection on our national progress and for resetting our course as needed to assure future generations attain liberty and opportunity.
But the candidates have resolutely ignored any big-picture ideas, especially those which might involve hard choices or sacrifices. To listen to the debates, you would never guess that our country is on a financially unsustainable course that worsens every passing year.
Yet the sobering fact is that we have created promises of government aid to elderly and low-income persons that we have made no provisions to pay for. We have conveniently ignored the laws of demographics and economics so much that we have dug a $56 trillion hole of debt and obligations. To pay it off now would require the entire combined net worth of all U.S. households.
We got in this dilemma by electing politicians of both parties who promised us stuff we wanted with vague assurances that someone else, like the rich, would pay for it. But its our children and grandchildren who are left holding the bag. However they deal with this mountain of debt much higher taxes, benefit cuts, soaring inflation, default will profoundly affect the American way of life.
A momentous general election is approaching. Hopefully, we will snap out of our obsession with the trivial and force candidates to discuss how (or if) they plan to handle issues that matter.
Tom Patterson is chairman of the Goldwater Institute, a former state legislator and emergency room physician. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.
Federal Budget: US National Debt
Washington Post: The Presidential Field