Take The Quiz – Has The Political Class Ever Resolved A Major Issue?

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This quiz asks you to name the approximate year or era of the following New York Times headlines. After the headlines, you will see when those headlines appeared and you may begin to recognize a pattern, namely, after decades of paying for thousands of politicians to go to Washington, the value and successes we have gotten in return is pretty measly:

  1. Calm In The Middle East Urged by The President
  2. Cigarettes Peril Health, U.S. Report Concludes, ‘Remedial Action’ Urged
  3. President’s Farewell Sees Threats To Liberties In Vast Defense Machine
  4. Congress Expects Accord This Week On Tax Cut Bill
  5. House, 382-4, Votes To Help Consumer
  6. OPEC Parlay Weighs New Oil Price Rises and Cuts In Output
  7. Sun Powered Airplane Crosses Channel
  8. AMA Says Plan Would Drive Many Doctors Out Of Medicare
  9. City’s Teachers Perform Poorly On State Exam
  10. Tax Plan Offered To Curb Evasions, Raise $237,000,000
  11. Jerusalem’s Fate Held Main Issue In Settlement Of Palestine Question
  12. North Korea Calls U.N. Order Illegal
  13. President In Midnight Statement, Take Up Oil Scandal, Promises Facts Will Be Revealed, Guilty Punished, Special Counsel From Both Parties To Bring Our Truth
  14. U.S. Forces Take Control In Baghdad, President Elated, Some Resistance Remains
  15. 178 Nations Reach A Climate Accord, U.S. Only Looks On

As you might expect, every one of these headlines could have occurred today. Middle East strife, a military budget and industry out of control and wasteful, no energy breakthroughs or coherent national energy policy to make us energy independent, bad teachers, health care problems, tax issues, failed government bureaucracy in the consumer protection field, North Korea, political class corruption, etc. It makes you wonder what these people in Washington have been doing all these decades if the issues we have faced through the years are still unresolved today.

Okay, let’s see how you did on the quiz. The headlines are repeated below along with the first paragraph of the New York Times article that followed the headline and some brief commentary after each headline capsule:

1. Calm In The Middle East Urged by The President – April 1, 1954: President Eisenhower called on Israel and Arab states to restrain their extremists and permit other nations to help them settle their disputes.

Commentary – Fifty seven years after Ike issued his plea, the two sides are no closer to a long term peace agreement than back in 1954. Fifty seven years of fruitless negotiations, resulting in untold suffering and deaths on both sides as a constant state of conflict has existed since this headline. No one in he political class has found a way to solve this problem since Ike’s plea.

2. Cigarettes Peril Health, U.S. Report Concludes, ‘Remedial Action Urged – January 12, 1964: The long awaited Federal report on the effects of smoking found today the use of cigarettes contributed so substantially to the American death rate that “appropriate remedial action” was called for.

Commentary – One of the primary drivers of bad health and high health care costs in this country today is the millions of people that smoke tobacco products in America. While the rate of smoking has come down over the decades, millions still smoke to the detriment of their own health and the health care costs of us all. The government correctly  identified the threat over 47 years ago, the political class has yet to come up with a way to eradicate the threat and the associated costs.

3. President’s Farewell Sees Threats To Liberties In Vast Defense Machine – January 18, 1961: President Eisenhower cautioned the nation in a farewell address from the White House tonight to be vigilant against danger to its liberties implicit in a vast military establishment and a permanent armaments industry unparallelled in peacetime.

Commentary – this statement is really scary, given Ike’s military background. Here was an insider to both the political class and the U.S.military correctly forecasting that unless kept in check, this “military/industrial complex” would continue to eat up more and more resources even though there was no world wide war or conflicts going on, wasting resources while endangering our freedom.

Unfortunately, his accurate warning went unheeded by the political class, so much so today that our military budget eats up about 25% of the revenue the Federal government collects. This 25% is far too much for the defense needs of the country today, resulting in an overgrown Pentagon bureaucracy, foreign deployments of U.S. troops that are not needed, and billions of dollars of taxpayer waste every year.

4. Congress Expects Accord This Week On Tax Cut Bill – February 17, 1964

Commentary – No need to go through the first paragraph of this article since it is basically the same as the many other historical tax cut tax cut articles. Forty seven years ago the political class was still wrestling with the proper tax code to have and that wrestling match continues on today. The constant adjusting and fighting over the code has resulted in a tax plan that is overly complex and overly simple to cheat on, resulting in unfairness across all income ranges.

5. House, 382-4, Votes To Help Consumer – February 2, 1968: The House passed today a comprehensive “truth-in-lending” bill designed to give consumers full and clear information on how much they pay in interest and other finance charges on loans and credit purchases.

Commentary – Hey, wasn’t this one of the main reasons for Obama to push through the Dodd/Franks financial industry reform bill last year? Wasn’t that bill and the consumer protection agency bureaucracy it created supposed to do the exact same thing? What happened between last year and 1968, why do we need this new consumer protection law when we had one back in the 1960s? Didn’t anybody in D.C. learn anything from 1968’s action?

6. OPEC Parlay Weighs New Oil Price Rises and Cuts In Output – March 27, 1979: Pressure for another large increase in world oil prices built up today at the opening of a meeting of oil ministers of the Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Commentary – given that gas prices have risen considerably in just the past year, it appears that 32 years after this headline appeared, the political class and its useless Department of Energy are no closer to removing us from these OPEC threats than we were back in 1979.

7. Sun Powered Airplane Crosses Channel – July 8, 1981 – After several earlier unsuccessful attempts, the first solar powered plane succeeded today in crossing the English Channel.

Commentary – The crossing was accomplished with only the solar power the plane could generate during the flight. The plane contained no batteries to store any solar power it created and there was no other means of power on the plane.

Thirty years after a solar powered plane proved viable and successful for quick air flights, how come the political class, Federal government, and its Department Of Energy have not been able to find a way to solar power a car that never leaves the ground, given that some English folk thirty years ago powered a plane just on solar?

8. AMA Says Plan Would Drive Many Doctors Out Of Medicare – October 4, 1995: After months of public silence, the American Medical Association expressed the concern about Republican proposals to redesign Medicare, saying new limits on payments would make the program unattractive to many doctors.

Commentary – as with the other headlines, this headline could have occurred quite recently, specifically right in the middle of the Obama Care negotiations. It is an issue now, it was identified in the Times as an issue sixteen years ago, and nothing was done in that time frame to make it a non-issue by the political class.

9. City’s Teachers Perform Poorly On State Exam – November 16, 1999: Not only does New York City have a disproportionate number of uncertified teachers, but those that do pass the state certification exams tend to score much lower than their counterparts in the suburbs and upstate.

Commentary – Nowhere has there been any evidence or glowing reports about how effective the New York City schools are today. It could be that their schools are temples of learning but if not, twelve years after the world knew the city teachers were not measuring up, nothing has apparently changed.

10. Tax Plan Offered To Curb Evasions, Raise $237,000,000 – December 6, 1933: Broad based tax reforms designed to increase the Federal revenue by $237,000,000 and prevent avoidance and evasion of the internal revenue laws was recommended by the House Ways and Means committee. 

Commentary – Seventy eight years after trying to get tax evaders under control, we are no closer to that goal today than we were back in 1933. A March, 2008 issue of Money magazine quoted an IRS study that estimated that the Federal government fails to collect $197 billion every year from tax cheats. Thus, nothing has changed in 78 years except the number of zeroes in the amount of money the government fails to collect as stipulated by its own tax laws.

11. Jerusalem’s Fate Held Main Issue In Settlement Of Palestine Question – December 21, 1949: The place to study both sides of the Palestine conflict is in Jerusalem. Here are two distinct cities, as far apart in aspect, time, outlook and way of life as they are near in space.

Commentary – Sixty two years later, Jerusalem is still the same flash point of conflict and hatred that it was back when Truman was President, eleven Presidents ago.

12. North Korea Calls U.N. Order Illegal – June 28, 1950

Commentary – 61 years later, nothing has changed, North Korea still defies the world with the only major difference being is that now it is a nuclear player, certainly not an improvement from 1950.

13. President In Midnight Statement, Takes Up Oil Scandal, Promises Facts Will Be Revealed, Guilty Punished, Special Counsel From Both Parties To Bring Our Truth – January 27, 1924: President Calvin Coolidge will name special counsel representing the Republican and Democratic parties to prosecute those guilty of fraud in connection with the leasing of oil lands in the Naval reserve areas of Wyoming and California.

Commentary – Eighty seven years ago the political class and the oil industry were already in bed together, cutting deals, both illegal and legal, in order to benefit themselves rather than doing the right thing for the country. Today, the same things goes on, with oil companies always making hefty donations to both political parties to influence government behavior to their benefit, with the latest embarrassment being the fact that BP oil donated more campaign money to Barack Obama in 2008 than any other candidate.

14. U.S. Forces Take Control In Baghdad, President Elated, Some Resistance Remains – April 10, 2003: Much of Baghdad tumbled into American hands on Wednesday as Saddam Hussein’s image was pulled down from pedestals and portraitures around the city. But American and British commanders said the war in Iraq, including the battle for Baghdad, was not over and faced critical days ahead.

Commentary – this was probably the easiest headline to date, given the Baghdad reference but it is important to include anyway. Unfortunately, the estimate of days ahead became weeks ahead which became months ahead and seven years later we are still there, spending money, and losing troops to sporadic battles. Why we are still in country, given the current President’s pledge to get us out quickly, is a mystery.

15. 178 Nations reach A Climate Accord, U.S. Only Looks On – July 24, 2001: With the Bush administration on the sidelines the world’s leading countries hammered out a compromise agreement today, finishing a treaty that for the first time would formally require industrialized nations to cut emissions of gases linked to global warming.

Commentary – This one was included to show that the American political class is not alone in being unable to accomplish much of anything. Although this treaty was signed over ten years ago, it has been reported that the vast majority of the signers of the treaty have failed to make any significant headway into reducing their emissions even though they signed off on the treaty. Thus, even when political classes around the world have clear cut objectives and goals, they still can’t seem to be able to get anything done.

Pretty depressing. Decades go by and the major issues of our times go unresolved. Dirty politics, tax evasion, complex tax codes, Middle East hatred, an out-of-control military, the continuing energy crisis, the lost war on drugs, North Korea, escalating health costs, failing public schools, etc. No issue ever gets resolved despite the American taxpayer spending TRILLIONS of dollars and suffering through thousands of ineffective politicians.

What should be done? The follwing steps would be a good start:

  • Step 1 – do not allow anybody or any organizations to contribute to election campaigns unless they were a single U.S. citizen. This would help remove the influence of businesses, unions, PACs, and lobbyists from political decisions and hopefully, make those decisions more focused on solving problems and not politicans’ reelections.

  • Step 2 – this step would set up a review process that would remove Congressional committee members from their committee posts if their committees were unable to meet at least minimal standards of performance for their committee’s responsibilities. For example, given the lack of a functioning and effective energy policy and the failure of the Department of Energy to deliver any value to the American people, Congressional energy committees would be prime candidates to be re-staffed with new people.

  • Step 3 – impose term limits on Federal politicians so that they they focus only on the nation’s issues while in office as opposed to focusing on their reelection. Also, the current Congress has members that have been in Washington for decades, the same period when the major issues of the country have not been resolved. Thus, these long term politicians can now be considered part of the problem and not part of the solution. They need to be removed via term limits and fresh people with fresh ideas and fresh enthusiasm brought in.

Hopefully, in the next twenty, thirty or more years the New York Times articles headlines above are not still as relevant as they are to us today, i.e. a monument to the inability of American politicians to solve a problem.


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