Logical Answers to Political Problems

Most Americans share the same concerns when it comes to basic institutions in their everyday lives. So why do politicians steer clear of discussing these issues on the national stage?

| January 2017

A number of public policy institutions in America are unsatisfactory. They cannot all be tackled at once. But in his book, Five Easy Theses (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), James Stone presents some of these large issues — education, healthcare, social security, and more — in a light that makes clear some basic solutions. Stone remarks upon the failure of majority leaders to speak loudly about five very real concerns that hang over the everyman of the American people. He admits that none of the answers can be found in a day; some obvious answers seem politically unachievable at this time. But that doesn’t change the fact that the topics are worth a debate and silence on these issues helps no one.

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Let me explain the title of this book. Americans, on the whole, are deeply dissatisfied with the inability of our government to solve a host of obviously consequential problems. Some are genuinely hard to solve because they don’t have solutions that equitably resolve nasty tradeoffs between winners and losers. But the paralysis today is worse than that. Our system can’t even seem to deal with eminently solvable problems.

This book is about five of those. It presents straightforward answers to several of today’s most important public policy issues. Or, more precisely, it asserts that straightforward logical answers to some issues are staring us in the face, yet there is no political path to their resolution. I hope you will declare this an unacceptable state of affairs. Worse still, the key issues are too seldom part of what passes for political debate these days. Politicians in both parties steer away from exactly the subjects they ought to be addressing in favor of sound bites, “gotchas,” and mini-matters. My book title, I admit, is slightly facetious because the logic of the five issues is not entirely beyond debate and the politics may appear hopeless. But I wanted to make the point that these are issues politicians should stop running from. An alternative title for the book was Too Big to Touch. Please don’t mistake the conversational tone or intentional lack of bombast in what follows for a belief that the recommendations offered here are of small consequence or could be readily enacted. Together, they are transformative and thus would be heartily resisted.

Americans disagree about many things, and so it shall always be, but I would wager at pretty good odds that most of you share the concerns embodied in these five questions:

• Are you confident that Social Security and Medicare will be solvent enough to meet their promises when you and your children need them?