- - Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Spacey ideologues are alien to the American way

Have you ever noticed how reluctant many politicians are to speak out on an issue until they have had an opportunity to find out what the party line is? They don’t want to be on the “wrong” side of the issue, because that might cost them some political capital. Doesn’t it seem strange that so many politicians are almost 100 percent in line with what the party leaders have to say and appear to be frightened of repercussions from the leadership if they stray from the party fold? I wish I could say that this is a phenomenon that is only seen in one party but, unfortunately, the problem seems to be ubiquitous in America today.

I am always amused when I hear various people in the media trying to characterize my political views. Many say that I am a conservative. Others think that I am a closet liberal, and some say they must wait before deciding on an appropriate label for me.

I prefer to think of myself as someone who belongs to the “logical” party. We have so many overwhelming problems in our nation today that labeling and categorizing people seems pretty trite. I’m reminded of the movie “Independence Day,” starring Will Smith, in which extraterrestrial aliens invade the Earth and suddenly, the Americans and the Russian are allies, as are the Israelis and Arabs and virtually every other group with a long history of fractious relationships. Our problems may not be quite as great as if we were facing an invasion from outer space, but if we don’t address them intelligently rather than ideologically, the end result will be similar — namely, destruction of our society.

Although there are many problems that threaten our well-being, the one that I think could dramatically change life for everyone in the United States and around the world is our growing national debt, which is now approaching $17 trillion. Counting one number per second, which is impossible, particularly when you get into the higher numbers, it would take 539,000 years to reach 17 trillion. This is a number so staggering that it is hard to comprehend, and it continues to grow by several billion every week.

There was a time when we were concerned as a nation about passing on debt to the next generation. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said that it is immoral to do so. Some will say: How can Thomas Jefferson be used as a moral barometer when he is said to have had a mistress who was a slave? I might say that as well if my goal was to deflect the conversation away from this looming disaster.

When certain national leaders minimize the significance of our staggering debt, it calls into doubt their understanding of both history and economics. Our currency used to be backed completely by gold. However, a few decades ago we began to rely more on the faith and good name of the United States of America as our monetary security. If there is a significant downgrading of what that name stands for — which is eminently possible — and if our creditors demand repayment of our debts, the financial ramifications will be devastating and will be felt in every household in America almost immediately.

Reasonable people will have found nothing controversial in what I’ve written so far, while some others will be nitpicking. Logical thinkers, regardless of their party affiliation should be asking: What can we do to avert a crisis? We need to go beyond just recognizing that the problem exists. We need to fix it.

Common sense dictates that if your debt is growing faster than your income, you need to cut spending. Just slowing the rate of expansion of debt is ridiculous when you are on the brink of destruction. Having said that, the problem cannot be solved with budgetary cuts alone. The better way to solve the problem is by growing the economy. This means creating an atmosphere of cooperation between government and business rather than the animosity that currently reigns. We have the highest corporate-tax rate in the world, which is not conducive to economic growth. This is not controversial, and both parties have agreed that it needs to be fixed, so they should just do it. We also need to reform the tax code, which currently is so complex that no one can possibly comply completely with it. Most importantly, the government needs to get out of the lives of the people. Just read the Constitution and see what the government is supposed to be doing. Perhaps that will keep government officials busy enough to restrain their intrusion into every aspect of the lives of the citizenry.

We can join the destructive political fighting that is tearing apart the nation for everyone, or we can more logically choose to fight the entrenched corruption in leadership that is ideologically driven, while seeking real solutions to real problems.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.



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