Three years ago today, the nation lost a great man.
H. Ross Perot, an entrepreneur, a businessman, a philanthropist, dedicated husband and father, and founder of the Reform Party, passed away on July 9th, 2019.
Ross Perot was a visionary.
He saw the growing political division in America and a political class that was listening more to extreme factions and special interest groups instead of listening to the American people. He saw the rising national debt and high interest payments, as well as ineffectual policies. He saw how disconnected politicians were from the everyday challenges that people faced.
In 1992, Perot announced his intention to run for president on the Larry King show on CNN. He advocated a balanced budget and an end to the outsourcing of jobs, and he promised he would only run to serve the American people. His announcement launched a grassroots movement of citizen volunteers from all across the country who organized to collect signatures to get Perot on 1992 presidential ballot. I remember that movement, because even though I was in high school and ineligible to vote, I still went out with people to collect signatures in Massachusetts to secure his place on the ballot.
Following his entrance into the 1992 presidential election, Perot was clearly leading both the Democratic and Republican party nominees in June. In fact, in the 60 years of polling that Gallup had conducted on presidential elections up to 1992 – no alternative party or independent candidate had ever place second in their poll, let alone first. And no one has done it since Perot in 1992.
Perot earned support from people across the ideological and partisan spectrum. The data and statistics showed that he drew strongly from independent voters and almost equally from registered Democrats and Republicans. If he had not suspended his campaign later that summer, I believe he would have been elected President of the United States. Still – after suspending his campaign, and relaunching his campaign in the fall, he almost received 20% of the popular vote.
Today, as we think back on Perot’s campaign – his desire to restore balance politics and service to the American people – and on our own political and economic fortunes in the years since, it seems obvious to most Americans that we still need an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.
In fact, more people believe it now than any time in our modern history. According to Gallup, 62% of Americans believe a third party is needed, because the Democrats and Republicans do a poor job of governing the country.
Approval for the Democratic and Republican parties is not only low, an overall assessment of President Biden and former President Trump is that the American people would prefer neither person run for President in 2024.
People are angry, frustrated, and no longer believe that government or the two parties work for the best interest of all Americans.
Part of what is fueling the dissatisfaction are the economic problems we face. Inflation is at its highest levels since the early 1980s. Housing and food have all become less affordable.
The underlying financial support of our economy also is in peril.
Our national debt was approaching $4 trillion in 1992. Today, it is approaching $31 trillion.
In the 20 years before the pandemic struck, our federal government spent almost $80 trillion dollars. That is enough money to fund every national government, of every country on earth, for about 3 years. But the amount of money Democrats and Republicans have invested in the people and our future is surprisingly little. After $80 trillion in spending, our education, infrastructure, healthcare and other systems are not significantly better. In some cases, they are getting worse.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now estimates that interest payments on our national debt are rising faster than expected. They go from approximately $400 billion in 2022 to over $1.2 trillion in the next 10 years. Of course, the CBO has already revised some of its estimates. The original estimate for interest payments as part of 2022 federal budget were about $100 billion less then the latest projection. What’s more, the projected cost of interest payments over the next 10 years has been revised from $5.4 trillion to $8.1 trillion. We can only expect that these estimates and the financial realities will worsen over time (as they rarely get better).
In short, our ability to invest in our own future has become imperiled thanks to the poor policies, and deficit spending, by Democrats and Republicans.
Interest payments are on pace to surpass all military (DoD) spending within the next 10 years. In the next 20 years, they will likely surpass Medicare and Social Security to become the largest single budget item we need to fund with our tax dollars.
As Perot often pointed out during his 1992 presidential campaign, interest does not buy us anything. It does not feed and clothe the homeless, help a veteran, educate a child, build a road or railway, or provide urgent medical care for people in need. If more and more of our budget will be spent on interest in the near future, we will not be able to meet the urgent needs of the American people.
We need to make a change, and we can no longer believe that change within the Democratic or Republican parties is going to make the difference that we need in our lives and in the lives of all other Americans.
On this day, we should all remember the great American, H. Ross Perot. We should remember what his campaign was about – the need to listen to the American people, and prioritize the needs of the American people. We need to reduce wasteful spending, balance the budget, reduce our national debt, and set out on a more sustainable fiscal path.
And on this day, and every day forward, we should all band together to build the political party Perot helped launch: the Reform Party. Our Party believes in finding the best solutions for our nation’s problems, and that all those elected to office should be committed to service to all the people they represent.