In just a few weeks the presidential campaigns will kick into a higher gear and we’ll have more media coverage than anyone cares to actually be exposed to. Already the ads have started. Obama is all over my Pandora stations and anti-Obama PACs are on the TV. But things are only going to get worse.
And the only thing anyone will be talking about is the economy. I’ve already talked about why that shouldn’t matter at all and what kind of economic situation we’d need to be in for the campaigns to even matter. Though those conversations will undoubtedly dominate headlines (along with unimportant things about Romney’s past and misrepresented statements from Obama’s 2008 campaign), there are some real issues that no one is ever going to talk about.
There are certainly more than three, but these are the concerns I have the most:
Campaign reform and term limits
Politics took a few steps back in progress when PACs were suddenly allowed to collect unlimited amounts of money from anyone, including corporations. We will see in the presidential campaign that tons of money will be spent with likely no measurable improvement in either candidate’s odds of winning. But local elections, and Congressional ones can be heavily influenced now by one individual’s checkbook. Worse though is the continued pandering to donors that our Congressional representatives continue to do. Planet Money has a good profile of how much time is wasted on this process. Part of the problem could be fixed with reforms to the campaigning process but what is really needed are term limits. If our elected officials didn’t spend all their time worrying about getting reelected, they might for once represent the interest of their population.
Odds of this becoming a real issue: 1/100
At the macro level our education system looks to be in good shape. We have some of the best schools in the world. People come from all over the world the study in the US not only due to our economic strength, but because of the quality of education that can be obtained here. Things aren’t so great everywhere though. We’ve got schools being dishonest about graduation rates and salaries. They’re saddling students with a huge debt burden and the schools carry none of the risk of their students being able to pay it off. Public schools are facing huge cuts in the midst of state budget crises. And all the while we’re graduating fewer scientists and engineers than we should be for a nation teetering on the peak of its prosperity. For now, a college degree is still worth the time if you’re smart about where and what you study. But how long will that be? The education system from K-PhD is in need of an overhaul on an Obamacare scale. But who will touch it?
Odds of this becoming a real issue: 1/80
We like to say Romney has no foreign policy experience. But that’s as far as the conversation goes. When the media starts talking about foreign policy all they really mean is Israel and the wars. Campaigners just shift the conversation from there to defense spending and everyone forgets that will are still playing world police. Not only are we still engaged in two conflicts, but our friends in Israel want to use the multi-billions we’re giving them to pick a fight with Iranians (who are kind of asking for it to make things worse). All the while our president is slowly shifting our military resources to Asia instead of truly scaling it down. Why is it that no politician will stand up and say, “the reason the most of the developing world hates us is because we keep meddling in their business?” We don’t have to be isolationists, but we’re viewed in many parts of the world as war mongers. Foreign policy isn’t just about conflict, but because this has only ever been a superficial issue even in non-election years no one knows anything about it.
Odds of this becoming a real issue: 1/50
Based on the odds, none of these issues will be actual points of contention in presidential campaigns or even your local representative’s elections. But they should be. The media plays a crucial role in making sure we talk about these issues and others like tax reform (not tax increases, real reform) and what role government should play in the economy. We aren’t framing conversations this way though. Why? Because even our very own populous doesn’t care about them. But if we could show them how these issue do affect the individual citizen, you would probably see them start to care a lot more.
Don’t get your hopes up though. Instead, expect an economic pissing match, stupid stories about how much someone’s shirt cost (she ain’t alone people), and some kind of lousy story about how both of them went Harvard Law. You know, things that matter.