“America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight.” President Andrew Shepherd in The American President.
Unfortunately, one of the major underlying problems we have in this country is the increasing number of Americans looking for the easy way. We see this so frequently that this penchant for easiness seems the norm.
Naturally, politics is part of this “dumbing down” process. Statements of principle get reduced to sound bites for the same reason McDonald’s needed to invent a cash register for employees who are functionally illiterate and innumerate. But those employees can differentiate icons for Big Mac, Quarter Pounders with or without cheese, etc. Sound bites are the icons of politics. Political sound bites are often designed to be harder to differentiate than McDonald’s icons.
So even the simple appears complicated to people who are not used to actually thinking. Thus we see the attitude “Why bother? They’re all the same anyway?”
This problem is social and cultural. It does not lend itself to a political solution. However, there are exacerbating factors that can be addressed, thus reducing voter apathy.
One factor is the economics of this political process of ours. In 1930, for example,was paid the then unheard of sum of $80,000, while President was paid $75,000. When asked about that, The Bambino replied in his typical somewhat off-handed, slightly cocky way, “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover.” Indeed! The Sultan of Swat hit another home run with that statement.
How do Ruth and Hoover relate to this discussion? Market economics works in mysterious ways. The Babe’s salary in today’s dollars would be around $1.5 million. So Hoover was making roughly $1.4 million.
Now, assuming such a player even exists, can you imagine a ball player of Ruth’s caliber today accepting a one-year contract for a “mere” $1.5 million?! Maybe 50 times that if the team was lucky. But Obama earns $450,000 a year plus some perks, expenses, and overpriced (to the taxpayers) vacations. In inflation adjusted terms, his salary has been reduced. OK, some presidents don’t even deserve that amount. But that’s not the point here. The president’s salary is roughly one-third of what it should be by the inflation adjusted 1930 base while the latter day Babe’s is maybe 50 times what it should be.
So one answer is: Why would any competent person choose to run for president (or any other public office such as U.S. senator, governor, mayor, etc.) when the pay in the private sector is so much more? Hence, if people don’t vote out of disgust with the quality of candidates, this may help explain why.
Yes there are, as usual, exceptions. Romney for instance, has proven his ability to successfully compete in the private sector, so income isn’t an issue for him. In cases such as FDR and JFK, money wasn’t an issue either. Though in their respective cases their mother and father made sure their children had all they wanted—-not just needed. As a humorous side note, during the heated 1960 Democratic primary, JFK turned the issue of his family’s wealth to his advantage. He said, in that wonderfully humorous way of his, “I just received a telegram from my very generous father who said, ‘Don’t buy one vote more than necessary! I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for a landslide.’”
Of course there are other factors: Voter fraud and redefining voter eligibility so an incumbent can get normally ineligible persons to vote for him. For instance, no ID required for a driver’s license.
Again, from an economic perspective, when the supply of something increases, the price declines. Price is a measure of worth. So when the federal government and some or all of the state governments make it easier to vote, that increases the supply of voters which cheapens the voting process. Each person’s vote is worth less as a percent of total votes cast.
That is not to say we should have to pay to vote. We should not. That is a right. But what is cheapened is that now with half the states letting illegal immigrants get drivers licenses, that is all they need to vote. American voting is for real-—that is legal—-Americans, not everyone who happens to be here.
The process is now like bringing “ringers” into a game to play. Or it’s like prisoners being released early so they can pay for their releases by voting for the person granting them their releases.
These electoral ringers increase the lines at the polls. So, on top of each vote being worth less, the cost in terms of time and aggravation increases.
Meanwhile, the great father in Washington is hiring 5,000 attorneys to be ready to meet challenges all over this land. The role of these government lawyers-—and it will be interesting to see how many are, on Election Day—-authorized to practice law where ever they are sent to create havoc. That’s a great use of taxpayer dollars! It makes one miss the good old days of Watergate.
We do indeed get the best government money can buy. And that means I get the government non-voting Americans deserve. Real (legal) Americans, please, let’s vote.
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