10/17/2011 09:30 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Forget Global Warming, What About the Towering Inferno?

When are the American people and their tribunes in the press going to get serious about the real problems that we face? As currently constituted, our government and financial system are absolutely, categorically, systematically and mathematically going to destroy our way of life. This has nothing to do with left, right, or center, conservatives or liberals, Democrats or Republicans, Labels or No Labels, believers or non believers, birthers, truthers, or witches. This is "settled science". We are massively spending more than we are raising and committed to spend even more. This is a true man-made disaster.

The current level of federal government spending is out-running revenues by approximately a trillion and a half dollars annually, over 40% of the budget. Social Security, designed to serve a population with a life expectancy fifteen years lower than today, if not a "Ponzi scheme", is an actuarially predictable disaster. Medicare and Medicaid, enacted when doctors made house calls and before development of the costly procedures and treatments largely credited with extending life expectancy, never anticipated supporting such expensive and extensive medical services. Consequently we are drowning in a rising tide of red ink and face a tsunami of unfunded entitlement obligations. Unless (as it might seem to some) policy makers are counting on a nuclear Iran wiping out a third of our population and our "problem" thereby going away, there can be no debate about the consequences. This is not a warming crisis; it's a meltdown.

Politicians like to flatter us with talk of the "wisdom of the American people". Who are they kidding? We are total saps. We have been electing and re-electing politicians who pander to our differences over such things as gay marriage, abortion, tax "fairness" (whatever that is), ethanol, public prayer, and evolution. Recently, we have been hectored by a bunch of carbon dioxide spewing wind bags, most of whom have never had a real job or tried to make payroll, debate whether raising a half trillion dollars in taxes and spending a half trillion dollars in stimulus will mitigate our economic problems or end civilization as we know it. Is this the sound of fiddling while Rome burns?

The time for simple belt tightening, repealing the Bush tax cuts, soaking the rich, "praying out the gay", or cutting out that illusive waste and fraud is long past. Only a total restructuring of what government does, how it does it, and how we pay for it and a serious reappraisal of the institutional structure of our private sector can save us and provide any hope that the next generation can enjoy anything approaching the standard of living of its predecessors or the access to opportunity hitherto fundamental to the American way of life.

To think that we can achieve such fundamental change with our present political leaders defies credulity. To have presided over and actively participated in the devolution of our public and private institutions to such a degree involved an unprecedented combination of incompetence, cowardice, irresponsibility, dereliction of duty, and outright corruption.

We only get a crack at the princes of government every two, four, or six years. We have to make the most of it. Every politician seeking reelection or higher office should be asked three questions: Where were you while America's leadership squandered our patrimony? What useful purpose has your term in office provided the American people? What specific contribution could you make to the future design, implementation, and leadership of a profound process of institutional change in American government and our system of democratic capitalism?

If they tell you where they stand on reproductive choice, sexual preference, prayer in school, or evolution, or call their opponent a communist or a racist, vote for the other guy or gal. Our leadership really can't get any worse.