We Need To Do Better

"And all the news just repeats itself

Like some forgotten dream that we've both seen."

-John Prine

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you think you've heard enough silliness from the national media and our elected officials lately, think again. We're about to head into the height of a presidential electoral season, and believe me, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Offensive sums of money are being sprayed around in this political spectacle at a level that we've never seen before and is painful to contemplate, an estimated $6 billion for the presidential race alone, and much of it comes from anonymous donors.

Think for a moment about what that money is actually being used for, and then imagine what could be achieved with it if it was put to worthwhile purposes.

We can argue over policy and ideology all we want, but what should be crystal clear to everyone is that regardless of what our government does and what our politicians say, we need to do much better as a people than we are doing, particularly people that are in positions of influence and responsibility.

The United States is dealing with tough issues right now, as tough as I've ever seen, and it's no surprise that these are extremely politically charged times. The domestic economy is sputtering in the midst of a protracted malaise, while unsustainable public debts are skyrocketing and global economic conditions are deteriorating.

The average American has seen income shrink over an extended period of time, while savings and investments have lost value over the last decade. Blue-chip stocks like General Electric ( GE), J.P. Morgan Chase ( JPM), Bank of America ( BAC), Cisco ( CSCO), DuPont ( DD), Home Depot ( HD) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) are trading well below where they were 10 years ago.

Poverty is on the rise and the great American middle class is shrinking, while incomes for top 1% of incomes in the country increased in 2010 at double-digits, according to data derived from tax returns by the French economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

Sustainable? I think not.

As a country, we've made bad decisions, and now we're paying the price for those decisions, and we have no easy or good options to choose from. We can slash public spending and we can raise taxes, and even then, we'll probably be slipping further down the fiscal rabbit hole unless we're simultaneously able to revive the economy to restore revenue growth.

We could also take on more debt and spend borrowed money to simulate the economy, but that might not work, especially at a time when so many people are so staunchly opposed to it. We could cut taxes even further, but at some point, it seems like we'll have to start paying for our obligations.

Whatever we decide to do will ultimately result in winners and losers. That makes for tough politics, especially when the situation comes four years after the country's leading financial institutions were bailed out of financial ruin by the federal government to prevent a financial crisis caused mainly by the financial industry from causing our entire financial system to collapse.

Add to that the unpleasant fact that young Americans are risking life and limb in controversial, protracted and expensive military conflicts abroad, and are you emotionally exhausted yet?

Sorry for the doom and gloom. This is still the richest and most powerful country in the world, but that status should give us little solace because our underlying performance on key metrics is dismal.

Our educational system is falling behind. Our health-care system by many measures trails those of the rest of the developed world. Our economy doesn't seem able to grow at all unless interest rates are artificially depressed, and our media is inundated with falsehoods and mind-numbing drivel.

Worst of all, our once grand experiment in democracy appears to be rotted to its core, totally corrupted and incapable of having a coherent and mature discussion or of taking any action that makes any sense to any sensible person.

Meanwhile, our business and financial community is still riven with disgrace as scandals like the Libor-rigging allegations leave people to question whether there is any integrity in the marketplace at all. We are ravaging our environment, while the obvious existence of man-made global warming is still being treated as a serious debate.

The academic integrity of our leading institutions of higher education is in question after revelations of corruption by the business community, and officials at Penn State University have apparently chosen to look the other way in the face of the sexual abuse of children, a sickening outrage that has also been prevalent on a grand scale in the Catholic Church, supposedly a credible arbiter of morality.

Remember during this political season that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result, and the first thing that is required to address a problem is accurately acknowledging that the problem exists.

It's no wonder that President Obama won a landslide election in 2008 on the slogan of "Change." We need to fundamentally change what we are doing. We need to do much better.

Follow me on Twitter @NatWorden

At the time of publication the author owned shares of JPM and GE. He doesn't hold any positions in other stocks mentioned in this article.

This contributor reads:
The Oil Drum
The Baseline Scenario
I Want Media
Zero Hedge
Gregor Macdonald
Chris Martenson
On Twitter, this contributor follows:
Doug Kass of TheStreet
Jesse Eisinger of Pro Publica
Daniel Alpert of Westwood Capital
Barry Ritholtz
Joshua Rosner, managing director of Graham Fisher & Co.
Bob Lefsetz, a music industry blogger