In a recent edition of the Economist, Ariana Huffington claims we face a stark choice as Americans. We can continue going down our current path and turn into a third world country, a shell of our former selves, or Americans can demand more from their leaders and start to take the lead in their own lives to restore the US back to previous heights.
The US is already starting to resemble a third world country in many ways: The gap between the rich and the poor is growing toward South American levels. City and state governments are making decisions to cut school teachers and school days, turning off street lights and deciding to let some roads return to nature.
Our infrastructure is beginning to crumble and we’re developing an underclass of unskilled, unemployable people in addition to the abundance of service jobs like nannies, maids, restaurant workers and farm work that are being filled on one side by over educated workers and on the other illegal immigrants. Our deficits are some of the highest per capita in the world and our national debt is the biggest in the history of the world. All the while, we demand more.
The rich want to pay lower taxes, but still get the benefits of the state. Bankers want to be able to play in their casino and if they screw up, they cry to be bailed out from the public coffers. Public unions want to retire in their 50s or early 60s with a full pension and health care, while contributing hardly anything toward these benefits while they are still working. Republicans want to keep spending huge amounts on the military and continue to spend on bases in 75% of the world. Democrats want to spend more on transfer payments, regulation and social programs and nobody is willing to compromise.
Economist say that people are “motivated by self interest,” but I think we’ve crossed the line from self-interest to plain old selfishness. Most Americans want theirs and don’t seem to care about the rest of the country. They think (and sometimes say), “as long as I get mine, fuck the rest.”
America’s rich are starting to realize that they don’t really need us anymore. They can live the good life in the United States while producing and selling their products in developing markets around the world.
I’ve written extensively about how Americans have lived the good life off of debt, but it seems like the rest of the world is starting to see through our profligacy. People want to continue to live in McMansions with the latest cars and electronic toys and spend outrageous amounts of money on the military, health care and social security, without feeling any of the pain of actually paying the bills.
I haven’t really proposed any solutions, mostly because I don’t really see any that have a chance of working. It will take a huge change in America’s mindset. I don’t generally subscribe to the “great leader” theory of change, but they do come around every once in awhile. Ghandi, Martin Luther King , Nelson Mandela and others have inspired huge, national movements that changed the world, but most change comes from within, from smaller movements.
I think the only way we will see the change necessary to save America from it’s current trajectory is a leader or a movement that is willing to tell it like it is. Americans need to be told:
- Manufacturing jobs are not coming back
- Americans need to be able to compete with people in the rest of the world, so you need to try in school. A college degree with no skills does not cut it anymore.
- Our standard of living is going to fall, we need to downsize our lives
- We ALL need to make sacrifices and many of these sacrifices will be painful.
- You can’t always get what you want. If you’re demanding 100% of your agenda, you’re being selfish and damaging the country. Even if you’re demanding 75% you’re still probably doing it.
We need to paint people who are being selfish (not self interested) as the selfish people they are. Public unions can’t continue to live like they have. Bankers cannot continue to speculate and gamble with our money. The military will have to be scaled back and bases will have to be closed. We’ll have to examine legalizing marijuana and releasing non-violent offenders. We’ll have to look at privatizing portions of social security. We’ll have to demand that Americans take personal responsibility and get in shape (economically and physically). This will lower health care costs for us all. We’ll need to back off the ledge of our 24 hour, soundbite, black vs. white “news” cycle and go back to actually solving problems.
We need to create a common sense movement to tell our leaders they are on the wrong track. It’s not a Republican/Democrat issue. It’s a systemic problem. The current crop in both parties are part of the problem.
We need to turn inward and take a long look at ourselves and start to take responsibility. We have the government (and the media) we deserve. It’s a selfish government, catering to the needs of special interests, rather than the greater good. We need to demand that our government tackles the big problems, not the politically expedient ones. If we don’t, we’ll continue down the path we’re on. Nobody will do it for us. It’s on us.
If we don’t, we’ll end up an empire eaten from within. And it will be our fault.
Do you agree?