Two-party system 101
Let’s boil down the underlying ideologies of both major political parties in their most simplified form.
Democrats believe in government-supported social services, funded by tax revenue. I.e., we pay a certain portion of our income to the government who in turn uses those funds to pay for public institutions like schools, libraries, infrastructure, social security, medicare, and so on. At its core, Democrats’ guiding principle is that society (e.g., government) should ensure that its citizens have basic amenities like food, shelter, and education, even when the going gets rough.
Republicans, at their core, believe the role of the government should be as minimal as possible, instead putting higher priority on individual freedom. Republicans generally prefer minimal taxation. They are generally opposed to the types of social programs Democrats might advocate for, preferring instead to take home that extra income, and should they need something, they can self fund it and have some efficacy in what exactly they get.
You could say these ideologies are polar opposites. Both hold merit, but prioritize values differently. For now, try your best to assume that the majority of Americans who identify with either party genuinely believe that they are advocating for what’s best for the American people, even if you don’t agree.
The cons and the cons
Both ideologies have pros and cons.
On the Democrat side, the government provides a safety net for all — but on the downside, taxpayers have to pay a hefty price.
On the Republican side, Americans keep more of their money and aren’t financially ‘punished’ for things like owning property or gaining income through investments. The downside: There is no safety net.
Of course, we’ll never have a country where everyone’s on the same page about everything.
Enter: representational government.
In principal, our elected representatives, who hold similar values to their constituents, go to the floors of Capitol Hill, debate and discuss, the end result being a compromise.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Yet, it seems that the compromise our elected officials have come to have left us with the cons of both ideologies, and scant pieces of the pro.
We are both heavily taxed, to the ire of Republicans, while the government programs these tax funds should be going to are decrepit, to the ire of Democrats.
Two tails coin
Case study: A young college student whose parents have lived in the U.S. their whole lives.
The parents have been working and paying tax that are supposed to be going to public schools, including public universities, for decades.
Yet, when it comes time to leverage these benefits, they find themselves facing tough financial decisions.
They can either try and come up with $45,000, the average cost of a public school 4-year education, on their own, or the student will have to take student debt which will ultimately cost that new grad somewhere in the ballpark of $70,000 over time and after interest. That student will spend the first 10 years of their career financially stunted by that amount of debt — what essentially amounts to indentured servitude.
But why? What happened to mom and dad’s tax money?
If the Democrats had it their way, those parents’ tax dollars would go toward public education, their son or daughter would attend the university, get the degree, and start life on their own, debt free.
If the Republicans had it their way, those parents would not pay taxes, and have more income that they could then allocate toward funding their child’s education.
Reality check: The parents pay hefty taxes AND somehow, someone is going to pay for that education.
But it’s not just public education.
The Post Office. Social Services. Our nation’s infrastructure. All of these things are supposed to be funded by tax revenue. And yet, they are all in derelict states.
This raises some serious questions. What is going on here? Where is that tax revenue going, if not into the public services it’s supposed to?
To make matters worse, our national debt is through the roof. That college grad doesn’t just owe $70,000 on their student debt (after interest, because why would we pretend it’s $45,000 when it’s really $70,000?)–they also owe about $69,000 toward national debt. Just think: On graduation day, the student who believed they ‘did the right thing’ by getting a college education, already owes $140,000 before their career even starts.
How will that debt be paid? You guessed it — taxes. Right? It must be.
We know it’s not going toward public services — student and medical debt are crushing the American middle class. But it’s not going toward paying down debt either — national debt is growing exponentially every day. Trillions of dollars are going into some kind of black hole every year. This black hole should be of the utmost concern to both parties.
Democrat or Republican, doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, we are being triple charged for pretty much everything. In the public education example, parents were charged taxes for decades, the student paid out of pocket (or went into debt), and the national debt is growing. Between the taxpayers and the student, that degree’s real cost to the American people is more in the league of $160,000+.
Many will find this to be a hot take, but we need to face this reality. It all boils down to this: Money is power. Money. Is. Power.
The national reality TV show
And politics as we know it are meant to be a distraction.
They achieve this by talking about trigger issues, ones that will never, ever, have a satisfactory resolve. By keeping us focused on these high-emotion, never-ending topics, they can continue to siphon the American people undeterred.
For example, there are many social issues in which the American people are decisively at odds.
A good example of this is the issue of abortion. It’s a charged issue that everyone has a strong opinion on.
Currently, thanks to Roe v. Wade, abortion is legal in the U.S., though states have passed laws overruling that.
This is not an article about abortion. It’s about the fact that we can argue, defend, oppose the issue, and no matter which way the tide goes, half of the country will be satisfied. Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, half the population will be incensed. If it remains in tact, half the population will be incensed.
This is the perfect issue for distraction politics — there will never, ever be a resolve that will put this issue to rest. We talk about it now, and we will be talking about it 20 years from now, come what may.
But by keeping the national discourse focused on this unresolvable issue, it becomes easier to push the real agenda of politicians — money.
While the nation is up in arms about issues that will never have a satisfactory outcome, politicians pass legislation that impacts the majority — and not a 51% majority–a 90%+ majority adversely. These topics aren’t even mentioned by politicians on the campaign trail, let alone the public discourse.
For example, the government has systematically defunded the IRS since the 1980s, convincing the public that it is the evil ‘tax man.’
News alert: The IRS is actually a bunch of nerdy accountants. They are not the ‘tax man.’ They do not decide how much each American owes in taxes every year — politicians do. The IRS is just the body that counts the money from the taxes that politicians have put in place. The hypocrisy of then turning around to vilify the agency that accounts for the policies they put in place.
And who really benefits from the IRS being defunded? Consider this: The IRS has audited fewer and fewer people over the last ten years. But not all audits are equal. It is much more resource intensive for the IRS to audit high income individuals and corporations than it is to audit your average, middle class, W-2 American.
And surprise! Lack of funding has made it harder to audit the wealthiest Americans. It’s true that audits have gone down across the board for all income levels — but it is declining much faster for high income earners.
It’s not a sexy issue, but it’s one that impacts that vast majority of Americans. And unlike the outcomes on the canned talking points politicians waste our time on that have little to do with our quality of life, funding the IRS to be able to audit the wealthiest people in our country would, definitively, increase it.
The people responsible for stripping small town American of good manufacturing jobs by sending them overseas to save a few dollars and not intervening in the opioid epidemic despite the absolute havoc that it has caused on once-thriving communities (but hey, made them some money, and money is power) are the same people who have kept inter-city minorities deprived of social and economic opportunities for hundreds of years.
It wasn’t plantation owners who died in the battlefields on the Civil War for the sake of the Confederacy, despite the fact that they stood to gain the most from victory.
No, it was actually mostly poor whites who didn’t own any slaves at all. Why would someone who doesn’t have any personal gain die for someone else’s ‘right’ to keep slaves?
They wouldn’t. They had to be sold into some other ideology to risk their lives to defend someone else’s wealth.
How convenient, then, that people blame each other, instead of those truly responsible for the tough circumstances they’re both in.
Money. Is. Power.
With that principal in mind, we may want to reconsider the national discourse around politics.
In the 2016 Presidential election, both candidates discussed the future of coal miners in nationally broadcasted debates. Turns out, there are about 80,000 coal miners in the U.S. That is only one quarter of one percent of the population, or 0.25% of Americans. To the other 99.75% of Americans, that discussion was irrelevant. That is a distraction.
Worse still, an easily fixable one.
See, if we really wanted to solve the issue, we could invest $50,000 per coal miner for retraining in the field of their choice — opening up newer, higher paying and less dangerous opportunities for them. That would cost us a negligible 0.001% of the tax revenue generated in 2019 (were it not for that damn black hole).
Instead, we debated it, talked about it over dinner tables, fought with our friends about it, and came to no resolution. In the meantime, bills were passed to defund education and fund the police, which of course, serve the same purpose as the Confederate soldiers did in the Civil War.
It’s no coincidence then, that as the wealth disparities between the richest and poorest Americans have accelerated, funding for police and military have skyrocketed.
In a nutshell, you’re funding the army to defend the wealth of the plantation owne….America’s richest people.
Paying to live
We now pay for our own healthcare, our own education, our own retirements, and Social Security is going to dry up in just a few years…while also paying taxes. We are being double, sometimes tripled charged for these things. Neither party should be satisfied with these outcomes.
Either 1. we don’t pay taxes and pay for these types of services/commodities ourselves, or 2. we do pay taxes and are provided these services through the government using our tax revenue.
You may be surprised to learn that the Founding Fathers were adamantly against income tax. If an American works an 8-hour day, do two or more of those hours belong to Uncle Sam?
Come to think of it, being taxed on our labor and time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, now does it? Income tax was established during World War 1 due to wartime efforts. But it was never undone, and remains to this day. Hamilton must be rolling in his grave.
Instead, they advocated for consumption tax — taxation based on the amount of national resources a given individual or business uses, in the form of sales tax (of course, we have that too, but mostly on the individual basis).
But it was more convenient for the rich and powerful to transfer that tax burden onto the working class, and it remains with us ever since. Plus some additional financial policies that have been quietly passed while politicians keep the nation angry, distracted, and divided.
But riddle me this: Anarchists, ‘radical liberals,’ and Libertarians, the ‘radical right.’ But is there any fundamental difference between their ideologies? If so, please explain it. And yet, they are both considered ‘extremities’ of the opposite sides of the political spectrum.
In a nutshell
By and large, the set up now is that we pay to live. Or perhaps, even more accurately, we live to pay.