Originally published at TheTippingPoint.tv
In three presidential debates there were three major issues notably absent: the environment, the War on Drugs and getting out (and staying out) of military conflict around the world. Instead both President Obama and Mitt Romney redirected all three debates, even the one supposedly dedicated to foreign policy, to the domestic economy.
Campaigning on and discussing the economy is useless because it is a “ghost issue.” The economy doesn’t exist as a singular topic or policy and the president of the United States cannot fix “it.” An issue as complex as the economy cannot be adequately addressed with a one or five-point plan. Neither candidate can predict the future and neither of them are economists—which is a theory-based science anyway.
Either candidate campaigning on their economic mastery as if it is something they can flip a switch on is downright deceptive because the issue of the economy is actually not an issue; it is a component of every other issue—particularly the environment and America’s wars here and abroad.
Global warming is real and incredibly expensive. Flooding is real, decimated crops are real, leveled homes are real and when species go instinct—be it the tiniest and most obscure bug—the real economic effects are felt throughout the food chain. The BP Oil Spill disaster in 2010 cost the taxpayers billions, The drought that plagued the Midwest this summer is costing taxpayers $10 billion. The “Frankenstorm” about to hit the East Coast? The earliest estimate is $1 billion to tax payers.
Like all other great American wars, the War on Drugs has been incredibly profitable for a few but expensive for the majority. Drug prohibition creates entire micro economies in both the black market and law enforcement. The national trend toward privatized prisons has incentivized the prison lobby, one of the most powerful in the country, to push lengthy jail sentences for nonviolent crimes stemming from drug prohibition. Through Unicor, prisoners work for less than $0.50 an hour producing a mass of consumer goods—all at a cost of around $40,000 a year or more per prisoner to the American tax payer. The murderers who control the drug trade fatten their wallets with the high price of illegal goods while the most impoverished Americans risk their freedom and often their lives distributing the drugs on the streets to make a modest living. The cost to the American taxpayer is high and variable. Public defenders, publically funded trials and incarceration costs are only a few of the costs the American taxpayer bears in the prosecution of nonviolent drug criminals. Mexican cartels and domestic criminal organizations have the ability to control the price of drugs much in the way OPEC controls the price of petroleum. The drug industry has been and will always be blessed with high demand and these groups will continue to earn billions of illegal, untaxed dollars while we destroy the lives of young Americans who could have potentially added tax-revenue as educated workers.
And finally, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to pound our domestic economy. These two wars alone have cost the American taxpayer $1.3 trillion and counting. President George W. Bush is the first president in the history of the United States to cut taxes during wartime. For eight years the United States reduced its cash flow while simultaneously ramping up spending, turning a surplus into a deficit. The Arab Spring should be evidence enough of what little influence we actually have in the Middle East and how truly un-American our wasteful interventionist policies have been.
In the meantime, the outdated Electoral College system and cash flow from the Citizens United ruling have narrowed both the Democratic and Republican campaigns to a single-issue single-state campaign. The billion dollar question this year is really “Who do the people of Ohio think can best ‘control’ the global economy?” rather than taking a rational and fiscally conservative look at the many wasteful policies and ideologies that actually affect the “economy.”