The first two debates — I am writing this the day after the vice presidential debate — did not deal with poverty and how to overcome it, the $16 trillion national debt and how to reduce it, and the military-industrial complex and how to tame it. You may have your own frustrations in this election, but those are mine.
I have never seen so little enthusiasm in recent memory for either of the candidates heading up the major party tickets. Why?
Progressives are disappointed that President Obama did not fight for a single-payer health care system or a single-payer option, which would take some of the profit away from the sad circumstance that people get sick. Moreover, getting away from an employer-based health care system would liberate private enterprise from a horrible burden of insuring employees, thus making business more completive in the world market.
Progressives are also disappointed that the president did not support his own debt commission, Simpson-Bowles. If President Obama loses on Nov. 6, in my view the chief reason will be his failure to provide leadership on the national debt. A great visual for President Obama would have been taking the debt clock, used effectively by Mitt Romney, and coming up with a plan to turn the escalating numbers the other way.
Progressives are also disappointed that President Obama sent in more troops into Afghanistan, thus prolonging a war that was already our longest. If you can figure out the end game and how we are going to prevent the Taliban from taking over and making life hell for women, I am sure the president would love to hear from you — because in 2014 we are simply going to walk away from the mess we helped create. In 2008, there were other options; e.g., using surgical strikes instead of a large army.
Progressives are disappointed in the use of drones, which kill so many innocent civilians.
Conservatives are disappointed with the Romney-Ryan ticket because there is also no plan for reducing the national debt, at least one with specifics. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles after serving on this commission. Mitt Romney also does not support the commission's recommendations.
It seems that both men will not agree to one dollar of additional revenue, even to reduce the debt. And both men want to increase defense spending beyond that which the military even wants, without telling us how they are going to pay for this.
Many conservatives — not the neocons! — are frightened of Romney's hawkish tone, and fear more wars. Saber rattling about Iran is making most of us nervous.
Most of all, fiscal conservatives — and I count myself among them — are disappointed that Romney's economic policies will not reduce the debt. Reducing taxes without being specific about cuts in spending and what "loopholes" would disappear sounds just like more political spin. Where are the specifics about the tax deductions that would be reduced?
And both Obama and Romney seem like chickens when it comes to entitlements. Is it so scary to say that we need to raise the retirement age and freeze cost-of-living increases until we get our fiscal house in order? Apparently so. Is it so scary to say that all Americans should pay an income tax to have "skin in the game," however small that tax may be for low incomes? And that the rich must pay more? Apparently so.
In my opinion, we need a third political party. Our two major political parties are really two wings of one party, bought and sold by lobbyists and corporate interests like the defense industry. We need a party that speaks with moral clarity about the pressing issues of the day — especially debt, a corrupt tax system, our endless wars and the profits they generate for powerful interests, and a health care system that is more efficient in creating profits than healing the sick.
I don't know if I will hold my nose on Nov. 6, but I sure won't be jumping for joy either.
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist