24 November 2007

While America Slept

Most Americans are clueless. There really is no arguing about it. If I asked someone on the street what the national debt is they would probably not be able to tell me. If I asked that same person what the Law of the Sea Treaty was they would have no idea. If I asked that person who Ben Bernanke was I would probably not get a correct answer. If I asked them what the SPP was they would probably give me blank look. Now, I ask that same person what Britney or Paris or some other celebrity was up to that person could probably provide me with an up-to-date description of the celebrity’s latest escapades.

We work hard all day long. We spend time with our family and friends. At the end of the day we do not have the energy to pick up a book about economic policy or foreign relations or read the newspaper or a news magazine like the Economist. We tend to get our news in little 30-second bites and we have no time to think critically on some of the most important issues of the day. Most Americans could care less. We have our circus maximus in ESPN and FOX Sports. Most Americans are content. They have a decent job; life is not too bad. America is working too hard and doing too many things to have time to wake up, shake off the haze, and really understand what is happening with their country.

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they've ever "known" has been proven to be wrong.” - Men in Black,
1997
Most Americans are so disenfranchised that they prefer to get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They would rather read People Magazine. They prefer to hear about the sexual exploits of so-and-so. They want to see the celebrities fall flat on their face. Meanwhile their country is being sold or given away one piece at a time.

I look at America and I see Rome before the fall. We are fat and happy and have no idea that the Visigoths are about to cut our throats. There are so many issues that need to be dealt with now, not later. China has us by the economic ball sack. Our debt is sending investors to Europe, China and India. Our education system is not keeping up with the demands of our knowledge-based, global economy. We have no border security and that leaves us open to crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration. All I see in Washington is a bunch of talking heads that either have no clue what is happening, are complacent and allowing it happen, or helping it along for reasons that are a mystery to me.

Debt

We have amassed a national debt of more than $9 trillion (that is trillion with a T, not billion). Our national debt has nearly doubled in 10 years. Hard to believe that under President Bush’s watch we have borrowed nearly $3.4 trillion. That alone is a staggering number. Sure he cut taxes and we have record revenue coming in, BUT the federal government is still running a deficit in the billions of dollars. Unconscionable. This is under the watch of a “conservative” president. This is from a guy who wants to abolish abortion but could care less about the mess he is living our children.

Do not believe the economists that are being trotted out saying that it is not a big deal. They say that the United States can handle this level of debt. The harsh reality is that the national debt does affect the economy. The world is seeing how unsustainable the United States lives. They are pulling out of the dollar because they see that we are not a good investment anymore. They see the current leadership and the lack of any mention of national debt and economic policy in the debates and have lost confidence in the United States. They see we have no intention of implementing a sound energy policy. The implosion of the sub-prime mortgage market is only the beginning.

Hugo Chavez is selling all his country's oil and gas infrastructure in the United States. Meanwhile we stand in line at Best Buy or Kohl’s at 4 AM in the morning on the Friday after Thanksgiving to get a “deal”. What a sorry statement on the United States people. How far we have fallen.
Here is an interesing post about what the future may hold for our economy.

Education

An Associated Press story in 2005 about education rankings in the world found that the United States was already slipping. Not good signs for a country whose economy base has shifted from manufacturing to knowledge. President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act may have increased test scores but those improvements have only resulted in an increase in the ability to take a test and not an increase in the ability to think critically. Education should be our number one priority. The smart kids are not motivated, the dumb kids are given all the resources, and the kids in the middle get by. That is not education.

We have a 19th century education system when we need a 21st century system. Why do we have such a long summer break? We have one of the shortest school years because it is based on an agricultural economy. The vast majority of kids no longer have to help their parents on the farm. Let's lengthen the school year by reducing the summer break to 4 to 6 weeks maximum.

Why are teachers paid so little? They are responsible for educating future Americans, yet we pay them very little in comparison to engineers and scientists. If you want to attract better teachers you need to pay better. You also need to address the teacher’s union which is holding our education system back from changing.

We need to change the way we teach. Teaching for the test will not provide children with an ability to effectively compete in the global economy. We need to change our programs. The Cloud Institute is at the forefront in changing our education system. We need to embrace these kinds of initiatives and put an end to worthless buearcratic intervention like the No Child Left Behind Act.

Borders and Immigration

We need border security. This is not just about illegal immigration; this is about drugs, arms trafficking, gang activity, and terrorism. For some reason border security has been equated with racism. What? Are you that na├»ve or stupid to think that having a secure border is a racist act? I am not against immigration. My parents came over from Germany in the late 1960’s. I am the son of immigrants. This country has been built by immigrants. What I am against is the notion that we need to tolerate people breaking the law and the circumventing the system to come here illegally. I asked a friend of ours from Peru what he thought was one of the biggest threats to America. He answered illegal immigration. He is here in the United States legally. He has had to jump through the legal hoops. His family is building a dream here.

And please do not buy the line by President Bush that these people are the doing the work Americans won’t. The truth is that Americans are not willing to do the work for the wages employers are paying the illegals. Americans are so used to having everything so cheap that they have fostered this system. Our tax system has fostered this problem (America has the highest corporate tax rate in the world). Our government’s lack of law enforcement has only encouraged it. What really gets me is that if I used a fake social security number or fake documents and was caught my ass would be in jail.

What should we do?

I am so cynical that I think we should march on Washington, D.C. and demand our government back from the special interest groups. I often joke that I am sharpening the pitchforks and preparing the torches (which I am anyway by the way).

The reality is that we need real leadership. Not false leadership like President Bush. Not the false promises of Hillary or the hope-will-do-everything speeches by Barrack. Not the isolationism of Ron Paul or the 9/11 mentality of Rudy. We need to demand that our leaders start thinking about America and put themselves way down on the list.

We need campaign finance reform that forces all candidates to only use public money. This does not limit free speech. No one is stopping you from standing on the street corner and stating your opinion or views. We need to get money out of politics period. The fact is that billions of dollars will be spent by the 2008 presidential candidates alone. We need to rethink our election process and stop this stupidity of starting the campaign two years before the election.

We need new ideas in Congress and the only way to do that is through term limits. We have term limits for the President, why not for Congress? I recommend two terms for Senators and six terms for Representatives.

We need to look at ourselves and decide if we really want the vision that the founding fathers had for this country. If we do, then we need to change our attitudes and demand leadership. Otherwise, just sit back and watch the downward spiral.
Photo by KCThinker. Gordes, France, October 2007.