Democrats & Liberals Archives

We Are A Failing State: How Do We Turn This Around?

The United States of America is failing. Failing to adequately tackle the problems in our economic system. Failing to reflect on the deep flaws in our system of government. Failing to repair our image abroad. Failing in education, in healthcare, in human rights, in religious tolerance…

In fact, we look a lot like the USSR in 1990 - except with more big-screen TV’s. And we all know what happened to them.

You may take issue with my central contention. You may say that we are prosperous because our GDP is so large. Or that our government works properly (though I don't expect many of either political persuasion to hawk that notion too hard) or even that we have a great healthcare system and that since most of us are Christians anyway, who do we have to tolerate?

I respect your right to those opinions - freedom of expression is one of the few things our country hasn't managed to screw up in the last couple of hundred years. But in every case, the data back me up.

I will try and substantiate my claims first, before suggesting a few solutions.

The economy: in 2009 alone, 131 banks have failed. The bailout granted billions of dollars - with strings attached - to private companies who then used the money to short-sell the market, make countless billions more, hand the government back its money (removing the strings) and payout lavish bonuses while Americans lost their jobs. It is estimated that in 2011 our national debt will exceed one year's Gross Domestic Product. Meanwhile the median family income is less today than it was a decade ago.

Our government, meanwhile, is no longer run by competing ideologies but by corporate interests (I include both parties in this category - both are moneymaking enterprises). There are good Republicans who would prefer that your cancer-stricken child had health insurance. There are responsible Democrats who are horrified by our country's spend-now pay-later approach to finance. But since they are beholden to a higher power - money - they have to vote with their wallets, not with their hearts. At the Federal level, AT&T and Goldman Sachs have contributed over $75M over the last 20 years, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees plus the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers aren't far behind.

Across the world our reputation is tarnished, perhaps irrevocably, and yet we find our President - in the words of Dick Cheney - following the 'Bush Doctrine' of a surge in forces occupying a foreign country with seemingly little chance of categorical success. We are seen as an economic and religious bully, and we don't seem to care. We vilify our political enemies for their human rights records, and import cheap goods from countries we know to exploit child labor. We are, to much of the world, intolerable hypocrites.

Healthcare apologists will continue to defend our system at all costs, claiming that so-called socialist states such as England, France and Sweden (which, incidentally, is actually a constitutional monarchy governed by a center-right coalition) kill their citizens at will in order to save money, or make you wait thirty years for a kidney transplant. Deflecting (especially with such utter garbage) doesn't make our system any better. When kids can't get healthcare, something is wrong. Any anthropologist will tell you that we took care of our young when we were Neanderthals - so what's changed? For one in six of our citizens to be uninsured is a national disgrace.

We deny basic human rights to our own people. Whom you choose to marry is not a matter for government, it is a matter for the individual. As is what religion to follow, if any. As is whether to change your underpants every day, or whether to carry a fetus in your womb. Some may not like your choices, but they are inalienable rights and you should be free to exercise them as you will.

As far back as 2005, statistics showed that hate crimes against Muslims were increasing 50% year-on-year (although one recent report shows that the numbers are falling again). Even so, the FBI reported that in 2008 hate crimes against homosexuals had increased 9% from 2007, and those motivated by religion had risen by 11%.

This is discouraging in the extreme. The track we have taken over the last fifty years has been the wrong one (I use that figure deliberately - the USA in the 'fifties was probably the happiest and most prosperous state that ever existed). We have let corruption, greed, fame, intolerance and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge our problems almost ruin our nation.

We are failing to live the American Dream, and if we don't start now our children will never even know what it was.

I have a couple of fairly radical ideas. I'm sure you have some of your own, and I welcome them in the comments. I have chosen not to expound on what I personally think the consequences of these actions would be, as I would be diving headlong into speculation that could easily (and should be) challenged. Again, however, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

1. Immediately and totally stop all corporations from giving money to political parties.

2. Acknowledge that politics and religion do not mix well, for good or for bad, and that the most powerful religious leaders tend to be the worst ambassadors for their faith.

3. Make a promise to our children: you will be well-educated, and you will be treated when you are sick.

4. Change the game. Capitalism works, when intelligently regulated, and I stand by it as a system of government. Yet the people who give the most are often rewarded the least. Introduce a system - call it Service Points - that awards you points toward a government subsidized pension at the end of your career. You were in the military? That earns at ten times the rate of a lawyer. (This is ridiculously simplistic - my wife devotes her career in the law to public service, for example. I recognize that it is an over-simplification, but the principle stands; do something for your country, and it will do something for you.)

5. Take a leaf out of the good book and just treat everyone else with respect. If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for you. Leave the gays alone. Leave the blacks alone. Leave the Muslims or the Christians alone. When respect departs, enmity is the next train along.

6. Pay for it. Child labor is inexcusable. If it costs an extra ten bucks, or extra hundred bucks, to buy something that was made by willing workers, pay it. And the same goes for government. You want healthcare? Pay for it. More troops? Pay for them. Tax breaks for corporations? Ditto. If you have to raise taxes to pay for it, raise taxes. Stop acting like giddy schoolkids with mom's credit card, and damn well pay for what you consume.

7. Form coalitions based on issues, not parties. Not every NRA member is anti-abortion. Not every tree-hugging hippie thinks that owning a gun is wrong. When a party tells you how you should think, and what issues should be thrown together into what bucket, you're a lot closer to communism than you think you are.

8. Buy American. From what I can tell, the great empires of yore - from Egypt to Rome to England - were 'first-to-market' with some manufacturing innovation or other, that led to more innovations, and greater strides, that in turn led to them becoming the largest producers of goods in their region. This happened to the USA from the dawn of the twentieth century until the 'fifties. Then we began to transform into a service economy, just as those others did. Producing goods is what is making China become a world powerhouse, and if we are to compete, we must produce our own. American isn't always the best, and it's almost never the cheapest, but if we are to reinstate our status as the world's greatest country, we need to start by supporting our own businesses and workers.

A happy and peaceful holiday season to all.

Posted by Jon Rice at December 11, 2009 6:52 PM
Comments
Comment #292523

Ironic, but isolationism will make us a failed state. Sort of a self fulfilling philosophy?

Posted by: gergle at December 11, 2009 11:25 PM
Comment #292533

Wow Jon good job, great job in fact.

Gergle, isolationism? importing slave labor goods from environmentally lax countries will only serve to gut our Country as time has proven. Importing from dictatorships will only serve to strengthen tyranny. The term isolationism is thrown around to easily, me thinks.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 12, 2009 10:34 AM
Comment #292536

They need to rethink and address many positions, One does comes to mind first is CFL’s quote ” are almost all made in China with energy from mostly very dirty coal plants that emit ten times the amount of mercury per KWH as US coal plants emit. Since China gets about 80% from coal and the US only about 50%, the comparison is much worse. Also, it likely takes the equivalent of about 25% of the CFL’s energy savings to produce them there including the extra energy for the packaging and shipping compared to incandescent bulbs which are almost all made here. That represents a lot more mercury per CFL. Since fuel and power in China emits up to twice as much CO2 as in the US, on average, there may go up to half the CO2 savings”“. Concrete is another and many many more, It’s not only “Just about business anymore, It’s about business and labor and being as green as possible, No hard feelings just a fact.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 12, 2009 11:34 AM
Comment #292572

j2t2,

What is slave labor to you may be survival for others. As to the environmental complaints, why does America and Europe think it’s OK for them to have polluted the world as their economies developed, but bad for others to do it now?

I’m neither advocating slavery or slavery. I am questioning imperialism. Demeaning others for things you used to get where you are is rather hypocritical, no?

Posted by: gergle at December 12, 2009 10:23 PM
Comment #292573

err, slavery or pollution…

Posted by: gergle at December 12, 2009 10:26 PM
Comment #292577

“…How Do We Turn This Around?”

A: Elect the next Ronald Reagan. Getting the current crop of idiots out would be a good start too.

Just wait, Reid, Pelosi, and Obama are about to show us what a failed American state looks like. Well, just look south to Hugo Chavez and his utopian state.

Posted by: Eric Simonson at December 12, 2009 11:56 PM
Comment #292578

Capitalism isn’t a system of government.

Posted by: Eric Simonson at December 12, 2009 11:59 PM
Comment #292580

Jon,

I like some of your suggestions. At least the spirit in which they are given. But the main question, or observation, I have is that I think the reason we are so off base as a country is not that we allow corporations to make political contributions. I think that as a people we are losing the character of a people who govern themselves.

The more we become acclimated to being catered to and controlled the more these problems will get worse.

Independent people don’t allow crooks and con artists to rule them. We are becoming a people who want to fall prey to false promises. People who are designed and programmed to do so.

Posted by: Eric Simonson at December 13, 2009 12:11 AM
Comment #292582

Eric’s comments are selling more of the same. He must have his, and to hell with everyone else; or so the logical conclusion to his arguments would suggest.

There is NOTHING UNITED about each person going there own way, Eric.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 13, 2009 1:39 AM
Comment #292583

Jon Rice, this is one of the most concise and straightforward assessments of where we are and how we can extricate ourselves, I have seen on WatchBlog in a very long time.

Your article no longer seems appropriate in the Democratic Party and Liberal’s ideological column. It would appear to be right at home in the Third Party and Independent’s column. Welcome to the fold of objective and independent thinkers. Independent of the duopoly parties spin machines, that is.

Very well done. Outstanding article.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 13, 2009 1:42 AM
Comment #292624

Here are some thoughts:

Number one has to do with freedom of speech.

Number two: I would offer the declaration if Independence and the civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King as counter examples to what you are saying about religion.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at December 13, 2009 11:19 PM
Comment #292633

“A happy and peaceful holiday season to all”” Said Jon, I hope you write a few more articles before the holiday season, This is outstanding.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at December 14, 2009 2:45 PM
Comment #293451

I choose to Marry my Sister, that’s ok right? Like you said, it’s no one’s business, especially the Government!

Posted by: Maxcroft Squire Muhldoon at January 7, 2010 5:20 AM
Comment #380598

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