America is still one of the greatest countries on the planet with a strong foundation of democracy. But, there’s mold in the closets. The musty shag carpet reeks of stale Budweiser. And the popcorn ceilings have to go. Only that the popcorn ceiling is our electoral process.

“There must be some conspiracy out there involving the rich and powerful, the things our government is doing just don’t make sense!” remarked a close friend who stayed with me over New Year’s.

I replied, “No. it’s just highlighting how messed up we’ve let the system get, and a lot (not all) of people in political power are just not that bright. And also imagine, who would want the job? It’s like running for president of the Home Owners Association. There’s a certain type of person that applies to these jobs, not unlike the resting bitch face person at your local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).”

When I came back from Afghanistan in 2002, and later left the Navy, things started to bother me. I’d ask myself, “How, can we, as Americans, keep people offshore in Cuba, with the sole intent, to deny them of their basic human rights under the Constitution of the United States of America.” Just hold them without due process indefinitely.

I used to think that our elected officials at the highest halls of government were much smarter. I was wrong.

And it didn’t take a brow-sweating political science major to point out to us on the evening news the bad blinds and shag carpet. It took a global pandemic coupled with an election season to put the full incompetence on display.

Some highlights:

  • PPP loans went to some of the wealthiest companies (some publicly traded, some Chinese state-owned!)
  • There’s no long-term plan. This I’m putting on both the Trump administration and Biden’s team. No one has put forth a real plan that would alleviate a lot of the concerns of Americans over what’s to come. Just more of the same, “Don’t worry it will all be ok” talk. Totally unacceptable leadership.
  • Stimulus checks are a joke. A grocery store run or two at best. While it’s admittedly tricky to inject billions into the economy, any economist could develop long-term stimulus for the most affected Americans that wouldn’t tip the economic scales upside down. If we can bail out the big banks during the last crisis, surely we have the ability to help out main street and Americans.
  • State rules are crazy and change weekly. An example. Indoor dining in New York city was banned, but feel free to shop at crowded department stores. My friend actually got fined by the city of New York for feeding his employees indoors! Both had been working side-by-side as cooks and were on their way home after their shift. He explained this and the city smiled and handed him an $8,000 fine. That’s how incompetent the local government is in New York City. Unbelievable. I hope it’s true what I heard about the city’s eateries getting together to ban both the mayor and governor from eating at their establishments.
  • Covid testing is not accurate and results take too long. My first COVID-19 test results, in an NYC private clinic, arrived three weeks later.
  • Unidentified deaths are being classified as COVID deaths because the government created a financial incentive around COVID-related deaths. This massively skews data and is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
  • Our voting system belongs to the stone age at best. If we can trust our banking to the internet, surely we can vote by phone with a special user ID. China skipped the ATMs and went straight to mobile payments! WE ARE AMERICA people, let’s wake up and start acting like it. Both parties offer us a head or gut punch candidate every four years. We can and should do better… The system is a duopoly that needs to be looked at hard.
  • To get a bill passed through the House and Senate we had to give everyone something to get it passed. We couldn’t have a simple COVID-19 relief bill, our government insisted on a massive 5,000+ page document that nobody in their right mind would (or could) read through in its entirety… You think history class was dull!? Try reading through that baby one time!
  • The cumulative poor decision-making and bad leadership by our elected officials exacerbated income inequality in 2020. We are now very close to a situation resembling South America and Russia regarding the wealth gap. The bulk of our population will be very poor, and the small percent will get richer. The sobering data on this is here already. It’s was one of the first things we studied when I was at my Harvard Business school program.

Alas, it’s all on us! Because WE DO have the power to organize and create change. But it’s going to take some hard conversations and collective debate to figure out the path forward. I just hope we decide to do this before the foundation starts to crack.