Tag Archives: United States

Can a Return to Isolationism Solve America’s National Debt Crisis?

U.S. debt from 1940 to 2010. Red lines indicat...

U.S. debt from 1940 to 2010. Red lines indicate the Debt Held by the Public (net public debt) and black lines indicate the Total Public Debt Outstanding (gross public debt), the difference being that the gross debt includes that held by the federal government itself. The second panel shows the two debt figures as a percentage of U.S. GDP (dollar value of U.S. economic production for that year). The top panel is deflated so every year is in 2010 dollars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The increasingly partisan struggle over America’s mountainous national debt and budget crisis reminds me of a famous quote by the Roman political theorist Cicero:

“The budget should be balanced, the treasury refilled, public debt reduced, the arrogance of officialdom tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt”

With the current outrage over the outsourcing of middle-class jobs to China and Mexico, insistence on acting as the world’s policeman resulting in foreign entanglements ironically causing more problems than they have solved; and never-ending foreign aid to foreign nations during a domestic economic downturn, is it time for the United States to return to its original foreign policy of isolationism during this time of economic crises?

Isolationism is a foreign policy of non-interventionism and economic protectionism in which a nation refuses to enter alliances or international agreements with other nations in hopes of avoiding wars not related to direct self-defense. Nations practicing isolationism avoid all foreign entanglements and focus all their resources into self-advancement within its own borders.  Can a return to this way of thinking ultimately solve America’s national debt crisis? Is a return to isolationism even possible today?

– TERRANCE MULLINS

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Greece, Destroyer of Worlds.

Eurozone map in 2009 Category:Maps of the Eurozone

Since the end of the Cold War, the nations of the world have become increasingly interdependent. Interdependency is the idea that relations among states within the international system are mutually dependent and inextricably tied together. In theory, interdependency will lead to peace as war among the dependent nations is no longer feasible. A perfect example is the European Union and its pacifying impact on Europe. The history of Europe is as long as it is violent. Nevertheless, the region has been relatively peaceful ever since the nations of Europe became economically interdependent.

However, interdependency has a dark side. In this new era of globalization, sovereign nations can find themselves held hostage by the economic policies of other states. Imagine the impact on the world economy if Saudi Arabia decided to cease all oil production or if the United States instituted a trade embargo on all foreign products. The current Greece debt crisis is a real-world example of how the economic policies of one nation can severely hamper the economies of the entire Euro-zone, the United States, and the world.

With the aftermath of the recent economic recession and the impact of international trade agreements on domestic economies, should not the United States, as well as the nations of the world, strive to be self-sufficient?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

The Presidency and the Bully Pulpit

Public Opinion -- April 22, 1874

Public Opinion — April 22, 1874 (Photo credit: Cornell University Library)

Bully pulpit, a term first coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, refers to a political office, specifically the White House, as a powerful platform from which to advocate a political agenda. In other words, the President of the United States is in the position to use his office to rally public support or sway public. Currently, Pres. Barack Obama has been using the bully pulpit in an attempt to educate the American people concerning public policy .

The framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended the president to have the power to influence public opinion in the way advancements in communication technology now allows. However, the framers never intended for women to vote or for for the United States to declare itself the worlds policemen. Nevertheless, here we are. Do you believe it is appropriate for the modern president to leapfrog the Congress and talk directly to the American people in order to influence public opinion on public policy?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

Weekly Poll: How is Congress Handling the Benghazi Incident?

Some prominent members of the Republican Party in the Congress have harshly criticized the Obama administration for its mishandling of the incident in Benghazi on September 11, 2012; even calling for a Watergate-style of congressional investigation. What do you think?

Is Broken Government The New Normal?

The western front of the United States Capitol...

U.S. Capital Building

Divided government is a situation in which one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress. Relatively rare until the late 20th century, divided government has become the norm as support for political power consistently ebbs back and forth between the two major political parties by the American electorate. Some political organizations view divided government as beneficial since it inherently increases checks and balances between the President and Congress. However, as the recent debate over the impending fiscal cliff revealed, divided government makes it difficult for the US government to function effectively. In fact, it can now be argued that nothing can be achieved by a divided government without urgency to avert a national crisis.

The framers of the US Constitution envisioned the establishment of a working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. They did not create a system of perpetual gridlock. We must remember that political parties, the actual catalyst for divided government, did not exist at the time of the constitutional convention nor was the U.S. government designed with political parties in mind. George Washington said it best:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.

The very nature of the unintended American two party system makes divided government the new normal. As such, is divided party government effectively synonymous with broken government?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

The Irrelevancy of Facts

English: Barack Obama at the Fort Worth Conven...

English: Barack Obama at the Fort Worth Convention Center during his presidential campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Dave Delay)

In politics, a campaign strategy is a strategy to communicate a candidate’s platform in order to win an elected position. In a perfect world, candidates running for public office would merely explain to the electorate why they, the candidate, deserve their votes. The campaign strategy would simply be on the merits and the electorate would be well informed on the issues thanks, in part, to an objective and competent news media.

However, it is not a perfect world and the electorate is not well informed. As such, political campaigns heavily rely on the spinning of facts and the spreading of misinformation to win elections. Negative ads and spin doctors (i.e. campaign surrogates) now make up the core of the successful political campaign. Facts are now increasingly irrelevant to both the political campaign as well as the news media.

The result is a campaign agenda to depict Pres. Barrack Obama as a secret Muslim communist-socialist-fascist who not only hates America, but has secret plan to destroy her. Equally, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is portrayed as a heartless non-Christian über capitalist who not only hates workers, but has Machiavellian plans to destroy the American middle-class.

Whom do you blame for the seemingly irrelevancy of facts that has saturated political campaign strategy?

–TERRANCE MULLINS

Voting and the Mystery of it All

Cropped version of :Image:Iraqi voters in Bagh...

Cropped version of :Image:Iraqi voters in Baghdad.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is voting a form of conventional or unconventional political participation?  I guess it all depends on your definition of . . . voting.  For years I’ve been telling students about how my mother voted for Bill Clinton (first run) because she liked his hair (to be fair, she had also expressed the opinion that she thought Senator Robert Dole—Clinton’s opponent—was too old to be President).  I also explain to my students why her comments could be so troubling to a son that teaches political science and who, incidentally, both worked on the Clinton campaign as a partisan staffer in Illinois and contributed to the Glass Ceiling Commission Report (sponsored by Senator Robert Dole of Kansas) while working at a California think tank in the early 1990s.

I share these stories with my students to illustrate the conundrum that I believe voting presents to academics and pundits alike.  As a form of political participation it is routinely mentioned as one of the most conventional forms of political behavior practiced by Americans.  A search of the thesaurus on the term “conventional” results in usual, established, standard, normal, etc.  In other words, one would truly expect that voting is something done often and by many or most people whenever presented with an opportunity to do so.  The problem is that in most elections most people who can don’t vote—that is by casting a ballot.  Voter turnout (the actual percentage of eligible voters who vote in a particular election) in non-presidential elections rarely rises above fifty percent.  In many local elections voter turnout is lucky to rise above twenty percent (many municipal elections fall into this category).  Even if we just limit our discussion to people who vote, does my mother’s selection of Bill Clinton based on youth and attractiveness, and yes, years of party identification as a Democrat biasing her selection from the get-go, actually deserve to be compared to a person’s comparison of candidates on important policy differences?  What if someone just walks into a voting booth, closes their eyes, and just starts poking holes in the ballot—is that voting?

In my estimation, if we used that actual meaning of the word “conventional” as our metric, voting would have to be listed as a form of non-conventional participation, right up there with attending political meetings, and participating in a demonstration (and let us not forget donating to a candidate or campaign, running for office, or even contacting an elected official, just to name a few).  Truth be told, I just happen to believe in democracy as a form of government.  I just don’t agree with the emphasis placed on voting at the expense of all the other ways a person can participate in governing—themselves, their workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and even nations.  What do you think?  Does the material in your textbooks and course lectures support or detract from my basic thesis?  I would like to know.

–DENNIS FALCON