It all comes down to one word: taxes. When you throw all the election issues into a big iron kettle and boil and boil until all the water is evaporated and you peer down in at the crusty residue, what you see is taxes.

There has been a lot of shouting over the decades about social issues, but the fact of the matter is the country moves on, with or without the government, on social issues and the culture becomes what it’s going to become. Licentious and materialistic, but that’s apparently the way we like it. If you want a different culture, look somewhere other than government for the answer. Conservatives ought to be able to embrace that one.

No it’s taxes, and here’s what’s always on offer: The GOP will cut your taxes, as long as they can cut taxes for the rich a lot more. It’s a tantalizing bargain that voters find themselves drawn to like a moth to a blowtorch. The resulting deficits will be blamed on the Democrats for not repealing your Social Security like they were supposed to be starve-the-beasted into doing. And the day of reckoning keeps getting put off, the deck chairs rearranged and then here comes the offer one more time. We will cut your taxes as long as we can cut the taxes of the rich a lot more. Inequality grows, the deficit grows, the economy and the democracy get skewed and stretched ever more unfairly, and the public discussion, as the media conducts it, keeps obscuring the simple reality. Something that can’t go on forever won’t, but maybe it can go on for another election or two.