Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Critical View of Today's America

Yesterday was election day here in the United States. I haven't looked yet, but I don't think it went well for Democrats. I didn't vote myself. In a large way, I have given up on American government on both the State and Federal levels.

The Constitution was crafted from pure brilliance. It's an amazing document. But our current government has to be light years from what the framers could have ever imagined. How did a country founded with such noble intentions end up where it is today? I will give you the answer shortly.

In my opinion, the main problem with the current government is that it's corrupted. I am not necessarily talking about corrupt politicians, although there's plenty of those to go around. The American political system itself is corrupted because money can create, alter, or block legislation. It's that simple.

I believe that the majority of Americans that get into public service via elected government positions probably do want to help and serve. But it's almost impossible to get elected without money. And unless you're just rich, donations must be sought. No one with a large purse is going to give a candidate money blindly. Something has to be in it for them if this person is elected.

This type of quid pro quo has probably been going on in this country on some level since its creation. Currently, however, it's out of hand and should be stopped.

I almost completely stopped watching the news during the run up to this election. The political coverage was the same old thing day after day. Democrats blaming Republicans. And Republicans blaming Democrats. While all this finger pointing is going on and putting Americans to sleep, big business is behind the scenes manipulating the media while attempting to gain political strength on the hill. Business as usual.

How many new pieces of legislation at the Federal level in any given year actually have a positive effect on the average American? I doubt very many. Compare that to how many help the rich get richer, be it corporations or individuals. Probably more.

Who in Washington with any money to spend is lobbying congressmen for more drug abuse treatment centers? Who is lobbying for better schools? I am sure there are some out there writing letters and perhaps even gaining appointments with their local congressmen, but are they getting anywhere with no money to spend? Large amounts of money only go into lobbying if large amounts of money can reasonably be expected from the investment. That's common sense, right?

By the last paragraph you might dismiss me as a liberal that's just whining about yesterday. I don't normally discuss my political views broadly, but I will for purposes of this post.

Let me preface by saying that normally a person's political beliefs are largely shaped by their core values that have been instilled in them since childhood. These beliefs are sharpened and perhaps slightly altered with aging, education, and real world experience. But because one's basic values are so ingrained, it's very hard to change someone fundamentally in their basic political beliefs.

That being said, I support a large number of historically labeled Democratic social programs. If you grew up with money and never needed help from the government to buy food, such a program might be easily dismissed. However, during my childhood my mother had to be on welfare for a short time. We had no money. No food. No job. I clearly remember the food stamps and what they looked like.

Thus, I support welfare programs as a means of temporary assistance. But I do not support welfare blindly for life. It breeds laziness and increases poverty. I also benefited from veteran's education programs. Naturally, I support any program that helps Americans help themselves.

On the other hand, I am a fiscal conservative and prefer a smaller, more efficient government. I think businesses should be able to run themselves without Uncle Sam getting too involved. There should be a framework of rules and regulations as is industry necessary. In other words, I think Wall Street needs oversight and a lot of it. The tire store down the street, not so much.

Clearly, I am neither Democrat nor Republican. If you blindly align with a political party 100%, you've lost the ability to think independently and are part of the problem.

It is my belief that the United States peaked across the board shortly after World War II. Since that time our status as a world super power has gradually decreased. Family and moral values have evaporated. Our global influence has been on a rapid decline in the last 10 years. The dollar has weakened. And we have had to borrow money from countries like China.

Like it or not, I believe China will be the next world super power. They are currently implementing the infrastructure to accomplish this. And their economy has shown steady growth. It might reach 10% this year, whereas the U.S. might not reach 3%. Once the Chinese government lifts some restrictions in the private sector...look out. China also claims to have generated 22 million jobs since the current global financial crisis began.

The Chinese government credits the $568 billion stimulus it injected into its economy for the growth in jobs. Didn't we do something similar? Why is our unemployment rate still  around 10%? I think it's because the U.S. had to bail out financial and insurance companies and the auto industry. What was supposed to trickle down to main street has been tied up in congress because our elected leaders are fighting over it. Politics as usual and the ordinary American is getting screwed.

The Chinese government has placed its primary focus on education, jobs, economic growth, and industrial leadership. In 2005, China awarded more than twice as many engineering degrees as the United States. And China leads the world in green energy technology.

What are we doing? Fighting over health care and gay marriage. The world is passing us by at a steady rate and our own arrogance prevents us from even acknowledging that it might be happening when empirical data shows it actually is happening.

Please don't label me as un-American. I served my country. I pay my taxes. I have done more for this country and for my fellow countrymen than most. But I am saddened because I see before my own eyes a once great country being consumed by its own greed.

The problem I alluded to earlier that has been the cause of our slow decline is simply greed. Americans want it all rather than what we really need.

We also have our priorities skewed. Shouldn't people be paid by how they benefit society? This sounds mildly communist, but bear with me. Don't teachers have a profound impact on our youth? Isn't there a compelling American need to insure more of our children go to college and earn professional degrees that can advance our country globally?

If so, then why do we pay teachers so very little while we pay a man $ millions to throw or hit a ball? Why are top researchers in universities across the country having to fight over small research grants to advance medicine while bankers give themselves $ million dollar bonuses?

Why did it take September 11, 2001 to unite this country? And why did the executive branch of the government at the time use such a profound event as a political scalpel that allowed it to run a reckless foreign policy through the Middle East? How much money did we spend in the Iraq war? $ Trillions. What did we as a nation gain from it? Little.

Some U.S. corporations, however, profited immensely from the war and we paid for it. Who were these corporations? Who were they associated with in the government at the time? In the end, who profited the most from the Iraq war? I can tell you it wasn't U.S. citizens as a whole. Go find the answer for yourself.

There is way too much divisiveness today. The prevailing Us v. Them mentality is only hurting us. The rally around 9/11 was brief because it was politicized. Americans across the country complain about lack of jobs, but as a nation we can't agree on a means to fix it. Why? Because our elected leaders are just playing tired old party politics. Every first term congressman wants one thing: a second term.

Consequently, no real progress is achieved. The politicians give short interviews dropping key words to stimulate their support base. Pundits offer commentary. Fingers are pointed. And the average American is fooled because they never look below the surface for the real story.

Have you ever tried to discuss a current political issue with someone that simply repeated what they heard on the news rather than offer their own thought? It's very frustrating, thus I don't generally discuss politics. People get way too heated about an issue they really know nothing about.

It really doesn't take much of a story to convince our citizens because we blindly believe those in charge. Most are too easily swayed by what they hear on TV. This has to stop. Elected officials have to be challenged and called out, not reelected. Party politics has to end and Americans have to get educated and think for themselves.

It would also serve us well if the average citizen started thinking every now and then about what's best for America rather than what's best for themselves. Too many people think they're entitled to something. I say you're only entitled to opportunity. It's up to the individual to use that opportunity to its fullest. If you sit on your ass all day, you deserve to be poor. If you work your ass off all day, you're entitled to a living. Easy.

If you're an American and don't fit the profile I have described here, I mean no disrespect. I wrote in some generality here based on my own observations and thoughts. But I don't think anything I suggested is impossible to reasonably support without much effort. But, they are my beliefs. Whether I am factually accurate or not either remains to be seen or cannot be ascertained. If you hold contrary beliefs, that's your right. And I respect that.

On its face, the idea of being a politician is appealing to me. I have always felt the need to serve others. I like helping people. But I am not willing to sacrifice my integrity to get my foot in the door and keep it there.

I just went and peaked at CNN. It's funny but the Republicans that won yesterday are saying the same types of things the victorious Democrats said in 2008: The people want their country back. They want jobs. They're tired of the sluggish economy. They're fed up.

We just changed the make-up of Congress 2 years ago. And it didn't fix much. Who's to blame? Everyone is to blame. Both parties. The White House. All of them. The Democrats had control of the House, Senate, and had a Democratic President in the White House. What do they have to show for it? A health care bill that no normal person can make sense of.

I don't care who you elect. If the system is broken it doesn't matter who's in power. Nothing is going to get done.

I say fire them all. Start from scratch. And ban lobbying. That would be a good restart. Do some research. Find out who spends the most money on the hill and ask yourself if you're in anyway benefited. Due to recent laws, there's a lot of transparency when it comes to lobbyists. The data is there, but you have to look for it.

See who is spending the most money and ask why?

I can almost guarantee that it's to make more money. Is this greed at work or just corporations answering to their shareholders? Is there really a difference? Opinions vary.

I will not turn into an extremist, call for the overthrow of the government, and join a militia. While that may, in some corners, be considered patriotic, I think it's misguided and futile. The only way the government will change is if the people demand it by refusing to accept the status quo.

The notion that special interest has corrupted American politics is not new. But I fear that the majority of Americans aren't even aware of it's existence and how toxic it is.

We need more awareness, not more apathy. That is ironic for me to write since it was my own apathetic attitude that prevented me from voting yesterday. But I see no logic in taking part in a broken system.

I am not afraid to call myself out, however. But I am so tired of these people on TV claiming they are speaking for the American people. Do they really speak for you?

They don't speak for me, thus I write separately and respectfully dissent.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, brother. The only difference between the Demopublicans and Republocrats is that one will hug you after screwing you and the other just wants to screw you.


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