The political parties throw a lot of glitz at us with their made-for-TV spectaculars, which we call conventions.
But the bottom line defining the choice facing Americans this year is stark and clear, and these conventions provide no new insights or information.
If you think we're struggling because we don't have enough government, then the Democrats are the party for you. If you think the point of government is to protect individual freedom, and the problem is it has gone way beyond that, then Republicans are the party for you.
No visual dominates the landscape of our nation's capital like the Washington Monument. Today, however, other than memorializing our first president, it also provides a message about the role and efficacy of government.
Last year on Aug. 23, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit Washington, D.C. The earthquake caused cracks in the monument, which stands at a height of almost two football fields, so the National Park Service shut it down.
Now, one year later, the monument remains in disrepair, closed to the 600,000 annual visitors it usually receives.
The Washington Post reported in January that the monument would be closed until sometime in 2013. According to that report, the contract to do the repairs would "probably not be awarded until late summer, with work starting sometime after that."
Now the latest report in The Washington Post indicates that repair of the monument may not be complete until sometime in 2014.
In January 1994, Los Angeles was hit with a massive 6.7-magnitude earthquake, knocking down two sections of the Santa Monica Freeway.
An initial estimate from the California Department of Transportation was that it would take 12 to 18 months for repairs.
Considering the massive potential costs to the local economy of shutting down sections of the world's busiest freeway, Caltrans officials decided to turn loose the time-tested formula for American success: market incentives and individual ingenuity.
They opened bidding to contractors who would accelerate the repair process, offering incentive bonuses for early completion.
The result: The repairs were completed in less than three months, with the contractor collecting a $14.5 million bonus for finishing 74 days ahead of schedule.
A rule of life is that we can always expect the unexpected.
Natural disasters deliver this truth in graphic and shocking ways. But the unexpected is with us constantly, natural disasters or not.