Most Americans are aware our country faces some huge fundamental challenges, including (but not limited to) massive fiscal deficits, an aging population, the rise of China and other emerging economies, illegal immigration, crumbling infrastructure, and an obesity epidemic.
Most Americans are also aware that our political system seems more dysfunctional and partisan than ever, preventing our elected officials from seriously addressing these and other problems.
In his new book, Becoming China's Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now, Peter Kiernan addresses both the challenges and what he calls the "architecture of divide" that prevents Congress from dealing with them.
According to Kiernan, there are "five factors that freeze up" our policy debate right now:
"Each has evolved into a billion dollar influencer, highly skilled at pushing its individual agenda," according to Kiernan. "There is too much sophistication driving us to extremes and not enough energy directed at getting us back to the common-sense center of things, where most Americans truly reside."
In the accompanying video, Kiernan specifically discusses the role of think tanks and lobbyists. "These are people who have a very large impact" on policy from both the left and right wings of the political spectrum, he says. "They have great access [and] a lot of brainpower. That can facilitate this structure of divide."
Failure to break this "architecture of divide" means America "will lose," he warns. "There's a cost to not making touch decisions, the least of which is we won't be an economic superpower. If we ignore these challenges, we'll find ourselves in diminished role all over the world."
To help break this divide and "unfreeze" policy, Kiernan calls for a move to the "radical center," which he says is "where most Americans live and want to be."
The rising number of votes registering as Independents is evidence of this, he says, as are both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements.
Kiernan lauds the Tea Party for being "the ultimate grass roots movement," that proves "you don't have to be a U.S. Senator to make change."
As for the Occupy crowd, he describes them as a "symptom" of the problems described above and "saying something powerful by their mere existence."