Sunday, October 19, 2014
8 Ideas For Turning America Around
The USA Is Becoming A Failed State: 8 Simple Steps to Turn It Around
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
As I look around me today, I see the United States of America as a failing country. There are just too many things going wrong with our country today. 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 health care, 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. And so I have written this article listing what I view as the worst problems, followed by some helpful suggestions for solutions to the mess that we Americans find ourselves in today.
You may well 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 really expect many of either political persuasion to seriously consider that notion), or even that we have a great health care system? I respect anyone's 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 backs me up. Allow me to try and substantiate my claims first, before suggesting a few possible solutions.
First, let's take a look at the economy: in 2009 alone, 131 banks failed. The 2008 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 pay out lavish bonuses while Americans lost their jobs. It is estimated that by 2016 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 since 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 – the almighty dollar – they have convinced themselves to vote with their wallets, not with their conscience. 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 America's reputation is tarnished, perhaps irrevocably, and yet we find our President – in the words of former vice-president 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.
Apologists for the American health care system, not to mention 'Obamacare', will continue to defend those systems 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, and it's always bad business practice to spend too much time putting down the competition. When our own kids can't get health care because mom and dad have no money to pay, something is terribly 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 the government to decide, it is a matter for the individual (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord”). So it is for what religion to follow, if any (although I will continue to vigorously preach pure Christianity as the only true way to eternal salvation). Some may not like our choices, but they are inalienable rights and you should be free to exercise them as you will. Our US Constitution says you can (search: first amendment).
As far back as 2005, statistics showed that hate crimes against Muslims were increasing 50% year-on-year (although one 2013 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 outrageous in the extreme as far as I am concerned. 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 below. 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.
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 is broken and must be replaced. Any time you have less than 1% of America's population controlling the upper 99% of the cash flow, some legislated redistribution is clearly called for (or maybe an executive order to that effect). We can start with worker owned businesses instead of shareholder ownership. Public business ownership will still exist, but smaller – such as a cooperative – will be better in many cases.
5. Take a page out of the Bible and just treat everyone else with some genuine 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 health care? Pay for it. More troops? Pay for them. Tax breaks for corporations? Not a chance, they have way too many of those already.
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 whenever possible. 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 goods are always equal to the best even though they are 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.