Last night our daughter Megan called me and my wife and asked about the 2020 Presidential election. She felt like she didn’t know enough about what was going on in the political realm, so this was a topic that she wanted to briefly discuss. She is currently studying Advertising at Brigham Young University and is planning on graduating in April next year. As a student, her life revolves around going to class, studying for tests, and socializing whenever she feels she has time in her busy schedule.
While she didn’t have a lot of time to debate this topic, she did express a desire to know more, especially since she wants to vote. The election of 2020 would be her first time, and she wanted to be informed.
If you ask my wife what my favorite topics to talk about are, she would probably say politics, photography, and trading in that order. She and others have had to gently remind me and my brothers to discuss this topic without them, meaning, “Go somewhere else and talk about this where we are not!” My brothers and I – and to some degree my three sisters as well – are very passionate about our political beliefs, which range from conservative (me) to liberal (Todd).
Since Megan has witnessed our somewhat heated debates before, she prefaced her desire to know more with, “I don’t have a lot of time now to discuss this, but I do want to talk about it more when I come home for Christmas.” “Great!” I told myself. “I can objectively lay out the facts of my side so that I can encourage her to my way of thinking.”
Today’s writing lesson is to do exactly that.
At first, this seems to be an overwhelming and daunting task, to write about political philosophy in such a way as to persuade someone to believe as you do. If you’ve ever had political discussions with others, you know how difficult it can be to change someone’s opinion. Usually, because they already have one. By admitting that your opinion may be wrong by embracing the new ideas of others, you open yourself to ridicule and derision for believing such things, and so we tend to dig in our heels. We find ways to craft our arguments around our belief system, and many times we struggle to articulate exactly what we think or feel.
And that is the crux of persuasion. Do we try to appeal to someone’s sense of logic, or do we try to stir up feelings to make an emotional argument?
I think it’s a little of both.
Let me start with a few statements in order to start the discussion.
Our current federal government is too big. As of November 2019, our national debt is over $23 trillion, and our national deficit – the difference between revenue from taxes and spending on government programs – for the 2018 fiscal year is $779 billion. Those are huge numbers, almost unfathomable, so let me describe to you visually what those numbers mean.
If you put $100 bills on top of each other, a stack of one million dollars would equal about 3.3 feet or the size of a regular chair. A stack of one billion dollars would be 0.63 miles high, which is taller than the world’s tallest building at 0.51 miles. Now, a stack of one trillion dollars would extend 631 miles into the sky, which is roughly 2.5 times the orbit of the International Space Station. And we have 23 stacks that equate to our national debt.
How many times have you seen a stack of $100 bills? For most people, only in the movies or on TV, so the reality of how much money that is is beyond our comprehension. And yet, we have politicians who insist we spend trillions and trillions of dollars more for social programs, and it just doesn’t make any sense.
Where is the money going to come from? Well, some people think we could always print more, but when governments print more money to pay off their debts, the value of that money actually goes down. That’s what Germany did in the 1920s after the rest of the world imposed huge debt obligations onto that country to pay for World War One. There was such hyperinflation in Germany that a wheelbarrow of German marks was needed to buy a loaf of bread. Clearly, this was unsustainable, which ultimately led to World War Two after Hitler came to power.
Still, others think that the uber-rich should pay more in taxes, but even if we confiscated 100% of everyone’s money who makes more than $200 thousand a year, we would not have enough to pay for everything that our government has promised to pay.
While the staggering size of US debt should be reason alone to have less government, there are even more compelling rationales to limit the size of our bureaucracy. Did you know that our very own government disagrees on how many federal departments and agencies there actually are? The Administrative Conference of the United States lists 115 agencies in the appendix of its “Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies, but notes:
[T]here is no authoritative list of government agencies. For example, FOIA.gov [maintained by the Department of Justice] lists 78 independent executive agencies and 174 components of the executive departments as units that comply with the Freedom of Information Act requirements imposed on every federal agency. This appears to be on the conservative end of the range of possible agency definitions. The United States Government Manual lists 96 independent executive units and 220 components of the executive departments. An even more inclusive listing comes from USA.gov, which lists 137 independent executive agencies and 268 units in the Cabinet.
In a 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, one senator noted that “The Federal Register indicates there are over 430 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies in the federal government.” The online Federal Register Index for 2015 depicts 257, with even more for 2019.
Don’t you think our government is too big when we cannot even agree as to how large it really is?
And yet, there are politicians who completely disregard these numbers and want our federal government to do even more. To confiscate even more taxes – but only from the rich, because saying that everyone should pay more would be extremely unpopular – so that we can take care of those who should be taking care of themselves just doesn’t make economic sense.
The demise of the Roman Empire came from the internal collapse and corruption that arose within Rome’s ruling class. The vast obligations of support as their armies conquered new territory became too heavy to bear, and so the savvy politicians stopped trying to help the citizens and worked only to protect themselves. They granted favors, using money and prestige, to certain constituencies so as to hang onto power, and they demanded tribute from others to pay for their excesses.
We are in a similar situation now, and we are in a fight for our very existence that, at any given moment, could collapse around us. We have seen how fragile our infrastructure is, from hurricanes that pound our coasts to forest fires that destroy entire communities.
Our democracy is threatened when political correctness demands that we suppress free speech in order to protect the sensitivities of those who might be offended.
Being told what to do and what to believe by the elite ruling class is not freedom, but oppression.
The ruling class demands more of our hard-earned wealth that comes from days and weeks and months working at jobs that barely pay the bills, and sometimes not even that.
We rack up more debt because we envy the success of others and want for ourselves what they have already obtained. Yet, we don’t hold our politicians accountable for continuing to sustain and support a government bureaucracy that spends more than it takes in.
When a politician who is not a politician (who gets to decide who a politician really is, anyway?) is elected because they want to “drain the swamp,” the knives come out and an entire administration is hated for everything that they try to do. All in an effort to protect themselves, and all going down the same paths that others before them have gone.
We know how the Roman empire collapsed, and yet as a civilization, we are heading down that same road of ruin. We are making the same mistakes and allowing fallible mortals to determine our fate as a nation, but as long as the righteous few continue to uphold the God-given rights and freedoms of everyone, we stand a real chance of succeeding.
As our very existence as we know, it is increasingly threatened by those who are unhappy with the past and wish to destroy our future, the moral argument for less government and more personal accountability has never been more important to win than it is today.