Listening to the political junkies discuss the 2016 presidential election more than a year ahead of time is enough to depress just about anyone who has a life outside the political bubble. It will get even worse next year with the avalanche of civic pollution known as campaign commercials.
What sometimes seem like epic battles to reshape the world generally fade to irrelevance very quickly. To take just one recent example, 20 years ago the Justice Department was trying to break up Microsoft because the software giant was perceived as too powerful to be challenged by other firms. Today, of course, all the talk is of Google and Apple with Microsoft struggling to find a niche.
Political reporters seem to enjoy the game of politics far more than the substance of issues. But recent Supreme Court rulings on the president's health care law, campaign finance reform and other topics may force a fundamental issue into the 2016 election. Upcoming rulings on same-sex marriage, immigration and another health care case will add fuel to the fire.
I am far more pessimistic about our political system than most Americans. At the same time, I am very optimistic about the future of our nation. That may seem like an odd combination to some, but I am optimistic because I recognize that Washington, D.C., does not lead the nation.
In recent weeks, I've written about how the "Bootleggers and Baptists" dynamic corrupts regulatory politics. Bruce Yandle developed this concept decades ago. He observed that Prohibition became reality because Baptists wanted people to stop drinking while the ban on legal alcohol put money in the Bootlegger's pockets. The do-gooders succeeded only because the money-grubbers joined their effort.
I recently highlighted an important book that describes how politics really works. "Bootleggers and Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics," by Adam Smith and Bruce Yandle, showed that prohibition became reality because it appeared to satisfy both Baptists and Bootleggers.
The death of Leonard Nimoy saddened millions of Trekkies around the world (including me). But it wasn't just Trekkies who mourned. In the past month, it has become clear that Mr. Spock - the character Nimoy brought to life - had become a cultural icon extending far beyond the Trek universe.
Two-thirds of all federal spending is consumed by just three program areas: Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and National Defense. Because these programs consume most of the budget and are responsible for most of the annual spending increases, there is simply no way to regain control of federal spending without addressing these programs.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has emerged as a serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In response, the Washington Post researched and published a lengthy article on the "mystery" of why Walker dropped out of college.
Recently, while responding to a question about how to get young people involved in politics, President Obama expressed fears that they see politics as a "sideshow in Washington" and should be taught that "government is not something separate from you - it is you."
When gasoline sold at record prices, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said, "I think it's time to say to these people, 'Stop ripping off the American people.'" When the average price of regular gas was close to $4 a gallon, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for Congress to look into breaking up giant oil companies. The claim was that "Wall Street greed (was) fueling high gas prices."
On Monday, President Obama will unveil his proposed federal budget for 2016. Voters should be warned that virtually all the numbers reported in news coverage of the federal budget will be misleading at best.