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Will Americans be fooled, again?

Whether it’s good old-fashioned sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors or just some basic switch-a-roo, being visually and sometimes mentally fooled can be quite entertaining and oftentimes downright comical. Most of us enjoy to some degree trying to beat the illusionist at his own game. Into which pocket did the coin disappear, where will the ace of spades turn up, how did a bowling ball come from that tiny hat? Illusions can be very entertaining and can have us pitting wits in an effort to foil the scheme with great determination.

So why do our deciphering skills generally relax when we’re not being forewarned that someone is trying to sneak something past us? Why do we fancy ourselves “clever” only when we’ve been formally notified that there is a conjurer among us? Without a flashing neon sign, most of us simply take whatever comes across our path at face value, which is usually a bad idea.

We’re being fooled (at least the attempt is being consistently made) every waking hour of our lives. While we’re watching stage left, the giant elephant in the room is exiting right and possibly taking the future of this great country with it. Inarguably, Nov. 6, 2012, is one of the most significant days this country has faced in perhaps a generation.

In a mere 70 short days, 13 governors will have their political fates determined along with 33 Senate seats, the entire House and, of course, the most powerful man in the world will once again be determined. That day will certainly be no ordinary one for millions in this country as many of us will have the civic duty as well as the responsibility to set the path this country will take for the next four years.

As once again a new election cycle appears, however, the country finds itself neck deep in many more daunting predicaments than have been present in past cycles. Congress, which is constitutionally obligated to pass an annual budget, has blatantly ignored this duty for well over three years. The national debt will top $16 trillion by week’s end. Partisan politics is waging at a level that has never before been witnessed, many times rendering our government inept in every sense of the word. The overall financial health of our economy, which was grimly reflected in a dire report issued by the CBO last week, resembles a drunken seasick sailor, and we’re on the precipice of seeing a nuclear Middle East. Other than that, things are great.

We only have one shot at this. It is very tough to present a convincing argument that this country is on the right track along a host of different avenues. We are standing at the edge of the proverbial cliff, and one more step in the same direction may eliminate any option of returning course or even correcting it. This will be the most crucial voting event in which many of us have ever participated.

Unfortunately, with the preceding commentary being the much abridged yet accurate scenario we find ourselves in, producing an educated voting body at such a critical time is going to be easier said than done. For several electoral cycles now, most campaigns leading up to the election process have resembled nothing more than one giant shell game perpetrated on the voting public, and this time around is proving to be no different.

What are the issues? How does candidate “A” stack up on those issues versus candidate “B”? That is what We the People should expect, dare I say demand, from the candidates whose decisions affect our lives. Instead, while the elephant-sized issues of health care and Medicaid, for example, sit idly by begging for legitimate debate with honest policy ideals, We the People are forced to form an educated opinion of candidate “A” versus candidate “B” based on some sarcastic, idiotic advertisement that accomplishes nothing more than leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth.

Currently, I know a lot about the Obama campaign’s feelings regarding Mitt Romney’s tax returns. What is going to be done, however, in a possible second term that wasn’t done in the first to quell the runaway national debt and reduce the alarming number of Americans who are dependent on social programs and reside in poverty? That knowledge and understanding is very important to me and millions of others in this country. In addition, I’m keenly aware and understandably acknowledge the Romney campaign’s excitement about Joe Biden’s “put ya’ll back in chains” gotcha flub. I don’t care! What are Mitt Romney and the GOP’s plans to improve the economy and avoid the pending double-dip recession? Give me something I can use.

For too long the American people have been forced to “guess” which hand the ball is in. Many times we cast our all-important vote based on who can spin a better speech. Who can concoct the catchiest campaign phrases? Who has the better smile and more soothing voice? Electing individuals based on the shallowest of character traits is, to a large degree, why our federal, state and local governments are as useless as they are. We rarely get down to the guts of an issue and how a candidate will approach such issues; we’re too busy focusing on the smoke and fancy lights.

We’ve reached the point, however, where continuing to vote for the candidate who “seems like a nice guy” is tantamount to falling for the banana in the tailpipe trick. In 70 days we have one more chance. We can’t get fooled this time.

Quote of the week: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”

– Winston Churchill