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.
It's apparent to anyone willing to look that a wide gap has grown between a Washington/Wall Street political class and the nation they want to rule. Less clear to many is the reason why.
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."
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While recognizing that it's important to fight terrorism with all of the tools at our disposal, the American people are having a hard time finding good guys in the story about the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
Another week, another controversy in official Washington.
Many pundits assumed that this would be the year that comprehensive immigration reform became law. The conventional wisdom was that President Obama's re-election and his strong showing among Hispanic voters would force Republicans to go along.
Most stories about the president's health care law these days are about the challenges of implementation and the complexity of setting up exchanges. But that's not where the action is.
Despite a tough couple of weeks, President Obama's job approval ratings are holding up fairly well. As I write this, 47 percent of voters nationwide offer their approval.
There are many ways to describe the enormous gap between the American people and their elected politicians.
The news from Boston over the past couple of weeks has been the stuff of nightmares.
Mitt Romney's secretly recorded comment that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on the government" and "believe they are victims" isn't the only reason he lost the presidential campaign.
Gun control advocates sound puzzled by congressional resistance to relatively modest gun control legislation. Many cite a poll showing 90 percent of Americans support more background checks and suggest the National Rifle Association is the only reason Congress won't implement the will of the people.
President Obama handily defeated congressional Republicans in the political fight over his health care law. But the law will now face a much tougher opponent -- the creativity of Americans determined to gain more control over their own health care decisions. The end result will be a system much different than the president hopes for -- and his opponents fear.
To borrow a phrase, mainstream America and Washington's political class have become two nations separated by a common language.
A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators has proposed an immigration reform plan that appears to broadly reflect what voters would like to see. But there's a catch.
Following the school shooting horror in Newtown, Conn., our nation shares a heartfelt belief that something must be done.
In Washington, many are celebrating the deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Some, like The Washington Post, are hailing the "strong bipartisan votes (on) a big, contentious issue."
Tax reform with lower rates and fewer loopholes would be good for America and popular with voters. But substantive reform won't come any time soon.