After a mere six weeks of hiatus from our far-from-legendary-but-still-interesting (at least to me) discussion about how to win the war on terror, I would like to return to the topic with step 7. It’s interesting to me (certainly not lost on me) that while we’ve been away from this topic, the US has actually implemented several of the suggestions I made. Obviously there’s no connection, probably not even worth mentioning, but I did so anyway. So there. Kinda makes me feel good. 🙂
We started out long-term and strategic. So far, we’ve talked about ridding the nation of our dependence on oil as a dominant fuel source (step 1). Second, we talked about getting more human intelligence on the ground in the Middle East (step 2). Then we shifted to the more tactical… From fervent prayer (step 3), to making sure our leaders are casting a clear vision (step 4) for our involvement in the conflict (step 4), to cyber warfare (step 5), to getting much tougher in Iraq by declaring marshall law and cleaning up the insurgents (step 6). Maybe these aren’t so much “tactical” as they are “immediate”. Certainly, the next step is going to take awhile.
Without further adieu, it’s time to move on to step 7… Restoring America to a place of true economic strength. Why do I think we’re not already at that point? Well, several reasons. Here they are…
1) We are managing an insane level of debt
Both personally and nationally, America is way too far in debt. We use credit cards like they’re water, have a negative savings rate as a people, and can’t seem to get our government (either Republican or Democrat) to stop spending like there’s no tomorrow. I submit that the average household in the average suburb has a mortgage totalling > 80% of the value of their home, 2 car payments, a few thousand on a credit card, several department store cards, and 2-3 pieces of furniture on buy-now-pay-later plans. If we don’t bring down the national debt, tear up the credit cards, and start putting some cash in the bank, I fear for how it will eventually weaken our country.
2) We are absorbing Mexico’s poverty problem
Illegal immigration is totally out of control. This is, of course, a matter of some debate, and contains more than enough punch to stand as its own blog entry. And maybe someday I’ll address it directly. Until then, an abbrievated discussion will do…
As a nation, we need to gain control of (notice that I didn’t say “stop”) the flow of people across the border and return order to the chaotic immigration situation. There are too many drugs, too many diseases, too many criminals, and too many people who aren’t loyal to our country (who just want our money even without assimilating into our culture) pouring across the border at record levels. Of course, there are some great people making their way here as their always have been — hard working, honest folk. But there’s too much unwanted baggage coming with them. Plus, it’s both our government’s duty and right to secure its borders and control the flow of immigration across them.
The fact is that we’re absorbing Mexico’s poverty problem (because their “government” doesn’t want it). All you have to do is make it here, and social services galore are yours — to say nothing of the kids that immediately become citizens when born here. Not enough taxes are being paid, too many social services are being taken for granted, and the system is getting worked a bit too hard for my taste. Add to this that these hard working people are afraid all the time of getting caught and are being exploited by workers who have no reason to give them a fair shake, and I’m forced to conclude that we have to do something … immediately.
America simply cannot absorb endless streams of foreign-borne, mostly poor people. No economy can, no matter how strong it is.
3) We are too focused on entitlement
We’ve talked about this before, but America’s entitlement system is hugely broken. Way too much money gets spent (exacerbating #1 above) on way too many people who don’t need it or who don’t deserve it (in the case of illegal immigrants). Some do, of course (both need- and deserve it), and we have an obligation to care for them — since we are indeed a very wealthy society. But unfortunately, the effect of our entitlement mindset in America does far more harm than good. More than anything else, it saps the iniative of people who would otherwise have to work to survive. It drains them of their motivation to work hard, to innovate, to appreciate what they have, to be generous. And on and on. And what’s worst is that it does so generationally — creating entire classes of people who have only known living on the public till.
This fundamentally weakens the nation, and makes us vulnerable in the face of enemies like Al-Qaeda. While the terrorists will do absolutely anything to see America defeated, far too many of us would sacrifice NOTHING to defeat them. Many of us think that we deserve to have whatever we want, whether we work for it or not. Frankly, this is where the negative savings rate and the credit card problem (again back to #1) comes from too … “I deserve it! How dare anyone tell me that I have to wait to have it, or (God forbid) that I can’t have it!” It’s the same mindset that allows someone sit at home watching reality TV on the Social Security dime. (Obviously this isn’t everyone, but you can’t deny that too many of those folks are out there.)
If everyone in America thought like JFK (“Ask not what your country can do for you! Ask what you can do for your country!”), we’d have far fewer problems.
4) We have a failing education system
This is huge. We are spending record cash on education in this country, and it’s quite disheartening to realize that our school system is getting worse not better. The option to discipline kids has been taken away from teachers. Parents are too busy making money to even police their kids, let alone effectively raise them. The value system that made our country great is eroding (we want less and less to do with God; I guess we’re assuming kids will pick up civility and virtue from the TV, right?). The television and daycare raise kids more than parents do. And kids have absorbed the same message adults have — that the world owes them whatever they want. There are other factors, but I’m getting a headache. At the end of the day, one (in my mind) undeniable result of all this is that the education system is failing. Most teachers try hard, and certainly work a LOT, but too many kids make the classroom situation impossible — especially in the big cities. Got any friends that teach in the inner city? Ask them what they think about education.
Where this leads us…
There are many important results of these factors. But the one I’m focused on today is economic instability. Our nation’s great industrial, creative, entroprenurial engine is losing steam. In time, we will be more like Western Europe — with a stagnant economy, high unemployment, few values, and generally quite weak … and probably a socialistic perspective on how to fix things which will just make matters worse, if Europe is any model.
If this indeed becomes our fate, then we will be in no position to defeat the blood-thirsty terrorist killers we’re facing. Without strong moral fiber, deep integrity, an industrious work ethic, and a willingness to sacrifice, we simply can’t defeat an enemy like this one.