a letter to my daughters

24 August 2004

Dear Ruth and Leigh,

Television news and journalism in general are once again engaged in their multi-year candidate worship.  For at least two years out of every four – one half of your adult life, you will be reduced to trying to glimpse the actual news amid the incessant nose-hair picking and fawning over and eviscerating of the candidates and not-yet-candidates and used-to-be candidates for President that all news outlets in the USA subject us to.  (For more on this, see my letter to Fox News at “TV NEWS”.)

I feel compelled to explain to you what I believe matters in all this cacophony and blather and to explain why I vote the way I do.  You can take from it what makes sense, whether the practical or the ideological or the whimsical – or none of it.  You are welcome to offer your own views and even to try to persuade me toward them, if we differ.

The general election, and not just the presidential election, is about government.  Keep that thought as long as you can through this.
The high-profile offices never lack for candidates.  I submit that the candidates are essentially indistinguishable in several respects, from Libertarian to Communist and everyone else in between.  They are universally motivated by self-promotion, publicity-seeking, and ego.  A couple of Presidents during my childhood sort of bucked this principle – Truman the Democrat and Eisenhower the Republican.  In more recent times, Jimmy Carter the Democrat and George Bush the First were less ego-publicity motivated.

The candidates of all parties are pretty much the same in their genuine good intentions.  I don’t ascribe malicious intentions to very many, and these (Carol Mosley Braun, for instance, and Patrick Buchanan) are mostly screened out by their own parties early in the contests.  The ones who face off in the election generally do have the good of the country at heart.

The same generally goes for the candidates running for Congress, too.  And for those who want to be state gubernators and state legislators.  They all have good intentions.  But so did the old lady who put her rain-drenched Chihuahua into the microwave to dry him off.  There are some things you can’t do with a microwave oven.  And there are some things you can’t do with a government.  The government, like the microwave, just isn’t built for everything that appears to fit and isn’t the tool to accomplish every good intention.

At this point it’s pertinent that I quote an essay I wrote, which is found in its entirety at “HOME TO ROOST IN AUGUSTA.”  The impetus for that essay was the disclosure in late 2002 that Maine will have a billion-dollar budget shortfall by the middle of 2005, but what it says about state government applies equally to the federal government, and that is this:

What has come home to roost in Augusta – disguised as a billion-dollar deficit – is a flock of assumptions which, taken together, comprise the misconception that every problem must be solved by government.

The first, usually erroneous, assumption of a governor and a legislature is that there is even a problem in the first place.  In every culture there is a population that is never satisfied and always indignant.  These are the people who are the most skilled at badgering the legislature and the ones who most deserve to be ignored.

The second assumption is that every problem raised by the perpetually indignant must be resolved, and the third is that it can be resolved.  Then comes the assumption that it cannot be resolved without government intervention.

Nevertheless, real problems do exist but are not properly the government’s business.  Not all problems have solutions.  In rare instances, though, all of the first four assumptions are correct.  Sadly, those real problems which can be solved and are deserving of government attention are trampled in the stampede to assuage the shrill and self-righteous.

The fifth assumption is that the appropriate intervention is a law, and better still if it is law that creates a new program or bureau, new and complicated regulations, a new entitlement and, with it, a new generation of people dependent on the government for their financial survival.  (That would be lawyers.  Silly you, you thought I meant the poor.)

Even if the first four assumptions are correct, the fifth should be viewed with the greatest suspicion.  Our legislators should first be assuring that requirements and constraints written into current laws are being met (enforcement).  If a new law is still needed, a simple directive or prohibition should be the preferred response.

Seldom are these initial assumptions questioned at all by our lawmakers.  (Can’t we call them something else?  Calling them lawmakers implies that their purpose is to make more laws.  Aren’t they also responsible to dismantle laws that should never have been passed in the first place?)

The sixth assumption in the flock is that a decisive law is politically too risky, wouldn’t pass, and so it must be substituted with a watered-down compromise.  Therefore, even if there is a problem deserving of government intervention, our legislature avoids being forthright in addressing it.  Politics necessitates compromise to assure that nothing so extreme as to be effective becomes law.

The next assumption is that the legislators are excused from writing any law themselves but must pass “enabling” legislation, handing that task of actual lawmaking to the fourth branch of government, the un-elected, unregulated regulators.  The eighth assumption in the succession says that the regulators, (acting on the will of those whom we’ve elected, who are acting with the passive assent of the soon-to-be-regulated), will achieve through rules what the legislation might have achieved in simple language.

If any of these assumptions were challenged honestly, the legislature would be enabling far fewer snarls of incomprehensible regulation and would have much more time to govern effectively.  Naturally, the federal government has provided the bad example that most states follow, (and by following, flattering Congress that it deserves to be emulated).

The Constitution of the United States authorizes the federal government to regulate interstate commerce, conduct foreign affairs, coin money, and provide for the national defense – and little else.  It never occurred to its authors that the government they gave birth to would conceive anything so blurry as Social Security or the Internal Revenue Code.

Over the years I have considered the candidates whose names appear on the ballots and have asked myself not whether they had good intentions, for I believe they do, but whether they have the right intentions.  The role of government is not to redress everyone’s complaint or equalize everyone’s inadequacies or resolve every misfortune.  The role of government in this country is to remove the barriers to self-determination.

Two political parties wield power in the USA right now.  As much as I wish they weren’t the only ones, that’s a fact.  At least one other party has much more appeal for me, and I voted for its candidate in 1972, my first presidential election.  (That’s the Libertarian Party and John Hospers was the candidate for President.)  There are some things that rub me the wrong way about the Libertarians, but their sense of government is much nearer what it should be.

There is another persuasion that holds even more appeal in most ways but doesn’t have an organized political presence, and that’s the Objectivist view.  It is maintained by the disciples of Ayn Rand.  Both the Libertarian and the Objectivist ideals hold to a principle that was fundamental when this country was founded – almost a “Duh!” to anyone alive back then: It was simply a given that a person was responsible for his own survival and responsible for the consequences of his actions or inaction.  People who were truly in need (and, it’s true, who were also humble and appreciative) received charity and didn’t have to fear starvation, unless a whole region was going under at once and there was no way (no “infrastructure”) to publicize the need or extend help.

This word, “responsibility,” is the chief element that has been forgotten by our candidates, by our parties, by all levels of our governments.  And this is where the parties frustrate me equally, but for different reasons.  The Republicans frustrate me because they do, to an extent, act to over-protect big business.  There are way too many “laws” (enabled regulations) that remove the risk of doing business for the really big corporations.  I defend the right of anyone or any corporate group to enjoy the wealth from the success of a good idea.  Henry Ford deserved to be rich.  Bill Gates deserves to be filthy rich today.  With that right come two responsibilities: the responsibility to treat the world with respect and the responsibility to take the bad with the good – with the right to become fabulously rich from an idea also comes the right to fail utterly and miserably.  Corporations should not be protected from those responsibilities.

I don’t see evidence that the Republican Party has prostituted itself to big business to the degree that the Democrats whine about.  It’s ludicrous to believe that big business could be so well-protected without the complicity of a majority of the Democrats anyway.

The Democrats frustrate me in their denial of responsibility in a different way.  Democrats have pandered to their “constituency” in a sort of reverse prostitution.  They have promised so much for so long to so many people that there is a renewed class system in America, and I give the bulk of the credit to the Democrats since FDR, with the complicity of an adequate number of Republicans.  They have perpetuated a class of victims.  They have chiefly done it by segregating black Americans into a block of victims who have been conditioned to await rescue.  But they have enfolded everyone else they can recruit who is disaffected by low wages and low self-esteem and who wants to hate the rich (although everyone wants to be one).  (See my long personal account in “THE HOUSE OF JOSHUA”.)

Another class system is also being created and is more insidious than the racial polarization sponsored by federal meddling.  The extremes of this new class system are, on one end, the lawyers who create the regulations that no one else can comprehend and with them the lawyers who specialize in interpreting sections of the regs, and at the opposite extreme, anyone who is not a lawyer and who doesn’t have the money to put one on the household payroll.  In between are, of course, people who have the money to keep a lawyer at least partially employed.  Also in between, are a precious few defiant individuals who are going about asking: Doesn’t somebody have a problem with this?

For lawyers will always be paid.  We pay some to write the regulations after Congress or a state legislature has passed “enabling” legislation - make the will of the legislators somewhat mysterious, and we pay another set of lawyers in the “public sector” - virtual priests and high priests – to de-mystify it for us.  What makes it insidious is that the process is deemed entirely acceptable by the non-lawyer classes, the slaves, as it were.

Creating classes and pandering to them and promising to solve all their woes, even those woes they didn’t know they had until some victim-creating Democrats painted pictures of evil-looking Republicans for them, is not the role of government.  Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, said “You cannot help a man by doing for him what he could and should do for himself.”  This is still quoted as a guiding principle of the Republican Party, as is Jefferson’s line: “That government governs best which governs least.”

It is not for our government to hobble and in a sense forbid the creation and accumulation of wealth any more than it is for our government to promote and in a sense assure the creation and accumulation of wealth.  The Democrats demonize those who are wealthy (except those who contribute heavily to the Democrat Party).  Wealth, in the Democrats’ lexicon, is almost certainly obtained by trampling little people.  There must be a penalty for being wealthy, they reason, and that penalty is in the form of enforced charity in the form of punitive taxes.  So the Republicans counter by trying to help the wealthy shelter their money from the plundering Democrats, and the result is a criminally-complicated income tax system that punishes all of us.  (And everyone who goes to Congress and doesn’t make the dismantling of the Internal Revenue Code the first priority ought to be taken out and shot!)

George Bernard Shaw wrote that a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.  That’s obvious, of course, and cute.  But it’s also sinister.  A Scottish professor alive around the time of the American Revolution, Alexander Fraser Tytler, gave voice to the sinister side of Shaw’s equation:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the worlds great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.

Amazing that Tytler could have teased this assessment from the history of the world up to his own time.  How precisely we have followed his prediction in this country!  This, as you can guess, is the reason we have a billion-dollar shortfall in Maine revenue projections.  (See “MAINE STATE BUDGET SOLUTIONS” at DamnYankee.com.)  I don’t argue that voting ourselves largesse from the public treasury is always in the form of welfare checks and Medicare and housing subsidies.  It also takes the form of grand public works projects and public funding for the arts and gigantic bureaux of education – anything that the state or federal government pours funds into (but less than promised) for the so-called common good.  Even though a proposal might serve the common good, it must be treated with great suspicion, not of its intent, but of its effect.  Its effect is not only its success in raising some standard but also its cost in dollars and in dependency.

This is why I think the Democrats have the wrong ideas about government and responsibility.  It’s my responsibility to provide for myself.  It’s my responsibility to tough it out if I can’t afford the gizmos that my friends have.  It’s my responsibility to make myself useful enough in the community while times for me are good that when times are bad the community cares about me.  It’s my right, under the Constitution, to capitalize on a great idea and live comfortably ever after, or to fail in the attempt and live poorly ever after.

The Republican Party has, at least, a vestigial memory of that principle, usually generalized as a tendency toward smaller, less-intrusive government.  (The Republican Party of 2004 looks more like the Democrat Party of 1964 than like its own historical precedent.)  The Democrat Party still believes that government intervention is the solution to every inequity and every inadequacy in the country.  The Democrat Party believes that I would not practice charity on my own if I weren’t taxed to fund redistribution schemes.  The Democrats are furious that I don’t know how to pick my charities properly.  They’re right in that.  If people were left to decide how to apportion their philanthropy, most charities loved by Democrats would be woefully under-funded – but nobody would be starving or denied an education.

A book reviewed in Newsweak earlier this summer, (and the issue has been discarded so I am at a loss for its title), argues that the two big parties are typically very close on the issues and complains that more compromise is needed in Congress.  It’s true that Democrats and Republicans are alike in their determination to solve our problems, even the ones we don’t know we have.  They even agree on what most of those problems are.

Here’s how compromise works, and why it must not be encouraged: The Democrats have decided that what every household needs is a pig.  Pigs are ecologically sound; they take up little space, they consume solid waste, they can be domesticated and provide companionship, they reproduce willingly, promoting neighborliness between pig owners, and one pig eventually provides a freezer full of food.  The Republicans have decided that what everyone needs is a Chevrolet.  They are economical to buy and come in a variety of colors to let owners express their individuality, they provide reliable transportation, they’re safe to sit in during a storm, and they can easily be repaired with readily-available parts.  Neither party is willing to go completely to the other party’s idea.  So they compromise.  After years of Congressional debate and insipid analysis by Katie Couric, Congress rolls out its prototype.  It has the snout of a pig, an engine in place of a mouth, hooves on the left and wheels on the right, a lightweight metal body (with smiling Congressmen waving gaily from the interior – the prototype has bullet-proof glass), a round, hairy rump, an anus spewing exhaust fumes, and a curly chrome tail.  It goes in circles, possibly because the hooves aren’t synchronized with the wheels, but that minor detail will be cleared up in the next Congress.  It's called a Pigrolet, and it comes with a 7,800-page instruction manual that can't be followed without the help of lawyers.

There are plenty of legitimate arguments about America’s role in the world – should we have attacked Iraq or not, should we be exporting our jobs to China or not.  (Remember that quasi-Libertarian, Ross Perot and his “giant sucking sound”?  I voted for Perot in 1992, thus helping Clinton to his first term.  The Reform Party, which was founded around him, is now desperate to survive.  It has tried to chart a course around issues, rather than principles, and has endorsed Ralph Nader in 2004.)  There are other arguments about our worldwide presence for which the government is not the culprit – should we be exporting Hollywood’s worst trash, not to mention Coca-Cola and Barbie makeup, to Asian countries where those things inflame the passions of America-haters?

But these are not the questions that define the election for me.  Nor do the perpetual debates over abortion or guns or church-and-state or homosexual marriage (see “MARRIAGE” at DamnYankee.com).  I don’t lean Republican because I’m told to by Pat Robertson, any more than I would lean Democrat because I was told to by Pope John Paul.

George W. Bush is creepy or dangerous to some, (mainly to those, it seems, who didn’t think Bill Clinton was creepy or dangerous).  For some he’s an airhead (and Al Gore isn’t?!) with a Harvard (liberal bastion)/Yale education, (where the degrees cannot be purchased no matter who you are).  He’s scary to the rest of the world because he isn’t wishy-washy.  (He didn’t pander to French oil interests…)

He doesn’t scare me, except to the extent that he’s too kind to the Democrat side of Washington and hasn’t moved quickly enough (and probably never will) to shut down a few hundred government agencies and tell the workers to go home and quit bothering us.  And it’s that assessment of the role of government, (that there’s way, way too much of it), that would prevent me from ever getting elected to Congress or the state legislature.  I wouldn’t be able to stomach sitting around playing accounting tricks when the real work to be done is to return power and responsibility to the people by dismantling, not tinkering with, government.

But I do continue to feel the responsibility to vote.  And I generally vote Republican, in order to slow, as best I can, our march from abundance and selfishness toward complacency, apathy, dependency, and bondage.  Especially given the idiotic rules under which Congress operates, vesting inordinate power in the majority party, I hope that majority party is Republican, given that it can’t be Libertarian.  And given that all candidates are pretty much equally well-intentioned and equally self-serving and mostly dishonest, then I don’t much care whose name is on the ballot or what he or she promises in order to attract my vote.  Unless I believe the Republican candidate is an idiot or is corrupt, that’s who I’ll vote for.

You have wondered… I hope you have wondered… why your parents and grandparents (both sides) have pretty consistently been Republicans.  I think this expresses why.  It’s not that we believe that Republicans are infallible or perfect or the saviors of America’s destiny.  It’s not that we’re single-issue voters and the Republican Party has the right line on those “polarizing” issues.  I don’t care about single issues.  And incidentally, it’s not the Republican Party or a major segment of its elected members who are interested in legislating morality or “invading the bedroom.”  There are those in the party who pander to the fascist-religious faction in the country and would return to no beer sales on Sunday and that sort of thing.  I care whether we will collapse as a nation during my lifetime, or yours as well.

Does that mean I don’t care about drugs for the elderly or the environment or minorities or shoe tariffs or election reform or crime or oil prices or veterans’ benefits or genetic engineering or guns and animal rights or the right to use abortion as birth control or the rights of fetuses?  Of course I do.  But I don’t believe that any of these is sufficient cause to extinguish liberty in this country.  I don’t believe either party is going to resolve a-one of these matters or that the two parties will resolve anything by (God forbid!) compromise.  In fact, the greatest benefit of the two-party system is probably gridlock.  I don’t believe that most of these issues even merit government action.

If I’m more comfortable in a community with a high ratio of citizens who own firearms, and especially if I choose to use them myself, does that make me dangerous?  If I like the taste of meat that isn’t sold in the supermarket, I may hunt and kill it myself instead of contracting with someone else to kill and butcher meat for me the way most people do.  I spare a chicken and shoot a duck.  This is called being rational.  How am I more dangerous to animals than a Democrat who hates guns but buys beef from Argentina?  Rationalizing is twisting reason or facts to fit prejudices.  Don’t I care about the kids killed at Columbine High School?  Sure, and about the kids killed when a Chinese school was buried in a land slide in July.  But I don’t condemn randomly-chosen gun owners any more than I condemn the practice of farming or the farmers who created the mud fields uphill from the Chinese school.  To condemn me in the aftermath of Columbine is to condemn all farmers in the aftermath of the mud slide.  You have to rationalize something fierce to make that kind of connection.  Guns cause crime like flies cause garbage.

I am especially annoyed that, if I say I approve of genetically-engineered corn or irradiation of food or drilling in Alaska, I am assumed not to have a conscience.  For, to the irrationally indignant, people with a conscience must be passionate about things that matter to all of us.  Perhaps, but people with a conscience also have a responsibility to get the facts, and the science on genetics and irradiation and ecology does not justify impassioned, ill-informed, one-sided politics.

I don’t agree with the indignantly passionate that the health care crisis is caused by the excessive salaries of 150,000 health care executives in the USA.  Take all their salaries away and there is still a crisis.  I don’t agree that reverse discrimination is equal opportunity.  I don’t agree that I must be against, against, against in order to be a responsible citizen.  And I’m not against forcing non-profit status on certain industries, insurance being one of them.

I do have some pessimistic suspicions about this country’s fiscal viability in the near future (ten years or so), and the Republicans will be as guilty of a calamitous collapse as the Democrats for failing to heed the warnings now.  Woe to the President in office at the time when the fiscal house of cards finally comes down.  He or she will have had only the slightest influence on the events leading up to the collapse, but will be blamed with vehemence, as Herbert Hoover was for the Great Depression.  (What house of cards?  There is no longer a system of money in this country, only promises to pay.  IOUs.  Paper money and copper-nickel coinage have no intrinsic value, and digital money can be evaporated in a burst of electrons.)

One other thing that troubles me, often associated with Republicans, is the scandal of corporate executive pay.  First of all, it would not affect the deficit one iota if 90% of obscenely high CEO salaries were diverted to the public treasury.  (There are so few such individuals, as a percent of population.)  And it’s not Republicans’ protection of corporations from failure that explains such sick salaries.  (Funny, but those in government who defend the argument commonly put forth – that those salaries are needed in order to attract the most highly-qualified corporate leaders – are the same ones who also believe that the most highly-talented government leaders can be attracted for mere six-figure incomes, such as the salaries of Congressmen or bureau-chiefs or commissioners.)

Insanely high corporate executive salaries are a soaking of the consumer, including consumers of unnecessary products like Coca-Cola and "designer" clothes to needed products like health insurance and protein.  There is no excuse for such pay except that they can get away with it.  And they can get away with it because their boards of directors allow it.  If this scandal results in a public backlash in the form of legislation to curb such salaries or legislation to further restrict the ability of a company to make a profit, then corporate America will have brought it upon itself by failing to police its own kind.  Absurdly promiscuous corporate executive compensation schemes, however, are not an election issue.  They’re an issue between me and the companies I patronize – or refuse to patronize because of their disgusting practices.  Therefore, I don't buy products from companies that insult me with prices that support such greed.  It's an issue between me and the producer of the product, and I see no place for the government in that argument.

And how do I feel about tax breaks for the wealthy?

According to the August 2004 Congressional Budget Office report, of the 2004 federal individual income tax burden:

the top 1% of income earners have a 32.3% share, (account for 32.3% of tax revenue),
the top 5% account for 53.7% of the taxes that will be collected this year,
two thirds of individual income taxes this year – 66.7% – will come from the top 10% of income earners,
the other one third of the income taxes collected will come from 90% of tax filers,
the top 20% of income earners are paying 82.1% of all federal individual income taxes,
the bottom 80% of income earners are paying 17.9%,
one hundred percent of the tax liability falls on the top 60% of tax filers,
the bottom 40% of tax filers, even though most have taxes withheld from their pay, are, as a group, in the negative tax category – they receive more than they contribute.

You cannot “cut” the taxes of someone who does not pay any.  You can redistribute wealth, but in my opinion government should be up front about it and not use the tax system to create negative tax brackets.

Here’s my tax code:
If an income tax is to be constitutional, a few hundred thousand lawyers and accountants (who probably draw down salaries roughly as obscene as a like number of corporate executives and probably make even less of a productive contribution to society) are going to have to find real work.  Because the neutral, equitable system would be a one-page tax code.

Amount of income exempt from withholding and exempt from tax: $15,000 per year per person, whether wage earner or dependent.

Tax on the amount over $15,000 per person: 5%
The Treasury would have to recommend to Congress an actual figure in place of the $15,000 and in place of the 5% (my arbitrary figures) that would accomplish a revenue stream equal to the appetite of Congress – presumably equal to its current appetite, to start.

Thus, if Horace lives alone and makes $25,000, he can know that $15,000 of income is not taxable and he pays $500 tax on the remaining $10,000.

If Charisse makes $20,000 and has a child, Jamie, she will pay no tax because there would be no tax liability on the first $30,000.  (The tax code would have nothing to do with redistributing money to her.)

If Charisse and Jamie get together with Horace and declare themselves a household, their combined $45,000 income would result in no tax, since the three exemptions of $15,000 would equal their combined income.  There should be no withholding and they wouldn’t even file a return, just keep good records.  If Horace took a better job and earned $45,000 and Charisse quit working, their three exemptions would still excuse them from any taxes.

And so long as they declared themselves a household to Horace’s employer, he would be exempt from withholding on that first $45,000 of income.  But when he gets an even better position paying $75,000, then 5% of the amount over $45,000 will have to be withheld and he’ll pay $1,500 in income taxes.  Of course, it will be withheld at the correct rate as he is earning it, so his half-page tax return will result in nothing owed, nothing refunded.

Then when Jamie grows up and both parents (or whatever they are) end up living under Jamie’s roof, and Jamie is earning $300,000, Jamie will declare Horace and Charisse as dependents and will pay in taxes 5% of $255,000 for a tax burden of $12,750.  For Jamie’s boss, Lin, with a husband and four kids but receiving $6.2 million in one year, $90,000 will be exempt from tax liability and Lin will fork over $305,500 in federal income tax on the remaining $6.11 million.  It won’t matter whether Lin’s $6.2 million comes from working, from investments, from yard sales, or from lottery winnings.

A family of four making less than $60,000 won’t have to think about federal income tax.  Everyone else has to fork over 5% of the amount that exceeds $15,000 per person.

There will be no lines in the tax code to provide tax relief to people who have mortgages or children in college or who have medical expenses.  There will be no lines in the tax code to penalize people who save more of their income, who marry, who own more property.  Itemized deductions represent expenses of living pretty much shared by all people, so no one is especially unique just for having a mortgage.

Money earned overseas by U.S. citizens will either be taxed there or here.  Same with money earned here by non citizens.  It won’t take lawyers to write the tax code nor will it take any to interpret it.  They’ll have to find other jobs.  Until Congress is interested in my tax code, my opinion on Congress’s tax reforms is: Don’t change anything until you change everything, and get it right when you do.  Tax breaks for the wealthy and more welfare for the not-so-wealthy are non-issues for me.

So, I have this choice:
1. Not vote at all on the premise that I dont make a difference.
2. Vote for more rapid growth of socialism (rising government control, full-employment for lawyers and accountants, and promises of comforts and social justicethat wont ever really materialize.)
3. Vote for less rapid growth of socialism.  Voting either 2. (Democrat) or 3. (Republican) will count infinitesimally, but it will count.
4. Vote for the occasional candidate who represents retaining the founding principles of the USA, (the occasional independent or Libertarian), knowing that my vote is a show of defiance and that such a candidate will not be elected.

And so I end this ramble as abruptly as it began.  If you have the stomach for it, watch the candidate coverage.  See how they sound in light of the things I’ve said here.  See whether it sounds as thought they can govern or sounds as though they can mostly make vacuous promises.  See whether they talk about governing at all, or whether they mostly talk about why the other guy can’t.  See whether either candidate for any office, president, senator, or registrar of deeds, is as evil as the opponent wants you to believe.  If they’re all pretty much alike, vote for the type of government you want.  Or let me know what you think.