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The Blue & Gray Press | September 24, 2018

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Today's politics play like a re-run

By MAX REINHARDT

Let me ask you a question: do you remember the 1990s? Many American 20-somethings become overwhelmed with a warm, fuzzy nostalgia whenever they pick up a Goosebumps novel or stumble upon a 90s Nickelodeon re-run.

Well, congratulations my fellow millennials. We have re-arrived at the highest epoch of human civilization. Well, at least politically. Our culture still needs to catch up. (Personally, I’ll take Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins over the dreck on the radio today.)

So, why has the country reverted back to where it was almost twenty years ago? It is because many of the issues that dominated that decade are still alive now.

In hindsight, there was quite a lot to be giddy about. After all, the country was reentering peacetime after finishing a war with Iraq, our economy was slowly recovering from a recession and culture war concerns dominated the national discourse.

The current state of American political landscape is very 90s-esque. A confident, progressive president and a combative, reform-minded group of Congressional Republican leaders are about to start negotiating over ways to reduce the national debt, simplify the tax code, cut spending and save entitlement programs for future generations and, if negotiations fail, a government shutdown could be the result.

Gone are the headlines of high unemployment and disappointing monthly jobs reports that marred the tops of newspapers during President Barack Obama’s first term. A more economically confident public has instead turned its attention to politically polarizing social issues, such as immigration reform and same-sex marriage. Last week, the president even announced that he wants to rehash an expired 1994 law banning certain semiautomatic weapons.

Things have even gone the way of the 90s internationally. Foreigners are fighting their own civil wars again. Years ago, American troops were caught in the crossfire of Iraq’s civil war. Stories about gruesome insurgent attacks against U.S. forces and car bombs in Baghdad flooded the airwaves every day.

Now, in Syria, like in Bosnia during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the world is watching the siege and bombardment of —-treasured, ancient cities, sniper and artillery attacks against civilians and macabre massacres against ethnic minorities.

The federal government spends too much on entitlements and does not have a plan to preserve them for our generation. According to the Social Security’s Board of Trustees, the trust funds that prop up the insurance program when payroll tax revenue falls short will be exhausted by 2033. Entitlement spending was a problem even in the go-go 90s, and it has yet to be resolved.

The culture wars of two decades ago are still raging. American liberals still see private ownership of certain weapons as dangerous and are advocating reenacting their prohibition.

Illegal immigration has not stopped and there are still 11.1 million illegal aliens living and working in the U.S., according to a report published last month by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Finally, there is still the post-Cold War conundrum of America’s status as the sole superpower. What should the country do with its unparalleled wealth and military muscle? Should we downsize our arsenal and keep to ourselves? Or should we seek sweeping geopolitical transformation as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan?

These are all important issues that were not resolved before we entered the twenty-first century and they were not solved in the first decade of the new millennium. Now that some semblance of confidence has returned, so have these great debates. Welcome back to the 1990s, everyone! Who’s up for Round 2?

Max Reinhardt is the Secretary of the UMW College Republicans