Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beginning the Decline of the United States?

British standing in world politics had already weakened by the end of WWII, but it had fallen out of "leading power" status by only twenty years later, partly by its own choices, and partly by circumstance. One of those choices was a change of leadership. Is the United States at an earlier point in our own decline, not just as a world power, but as a great nation?
Our current leader has made the word "feckless" part of everyday conversations. Our military has been (perhaps) stretched beyond the point at which we can do anything about the Russian invasion of Ukraine alone, and our erstwhile allies judge there is too much risk in joining us in any military action, even if thousands of lives (including theirs) may be at risk, and they are completely uninterested in preventive military measures, partly because they have good reason to mistrust our leader and our commitment to our word. Among our enemies, the previous accepted belief that we would defend ourselves and our allies if threatened has been replaced by the near certainty that will will do neither. A strident claim that we will "follow [our enemies] to the gates of Hell" is ratcheted back by statements of what we will NOT do, as if a war could be won by half measures. The threat to destroy them is modified into a promise to make their threat "manageable," which is like promising nothing at all.
Economically, we are fading away. We have only slightly more people employed today than we had at the depths of the recent recession; on average they are being paid less and working fewer hours, and there are millions more who have dropped out of the work force. Those people are dependent on an economy supported by (and taxes paid by) the remainder who are still at work. The Labor Participation Rate is significantly lower than it was six years ago.  Regulatory excess exacerbates the problem, often handcuffing business innovation unnecessarily. Overreach by the EPA has become legendary.
We have turned our health care system over to a Rube Goldberg set of often contradictory rules that on the face of it can't work, and which is based on the European health model that has already proven to be a failure in large, heterogeneous populations. It institutionalizes one of the very evils it was supposed to eliminate, "free riding."
We face real enemies with the money and ability to do real damage if they can get close enough to attack us, yet the government refuses to secure a 2000 mile long border through which millions of unknown aliens have already entered, and through which millions more will inevitably come. Ordinary citizens who recognize that the first order of immigration business should be to get that border under control are derided as xenophobes, while politicians argue about what level of amnesty should be granted to those people already in the US illegally.
Our tax system is designed to drive multi-national corporations offshore, to penalize thrift and investment, and to support non-producers. Tax revenues are spent on speculative ventures for dubious goals, which often further enrich the already rich at the county's expense. Solyndra comes to mind.
Our President has taken actions which either skirt or outright trample the Constitution, modifying laws without Congressional participation; and the government watchdog, the Constitutionally protected free press, has decided it's more comfortable being a government lap dog instead.
Court decisions boggle the mind. We are told to believe that the plain words of the Fifth Amendment, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," include selling the property to another private entity as a meaning of "public use." And that we all can be Constitutionally forced by law to buy a commercial product because the penalty for failure to do so is a "tax," and for no other reason. That is, without the penalty, the mandate would be unconstitutional, but with it, it is. And that people can Constitutionally be forced against their will to work for other people.
We have a citizenry that knows exponentially more about pop culture figures--singers, actors, 'personalities'--than about the people they elect to represent them and to lead them. They don't notice that their freedoms are being taken away from them, and when it's pointed out they don't see any problem with it. They seem to accept the lies of political leaders as a fact of life, partly because of the complicity of the previously mentioned 'free press.' They have no clue that the same press is being used to minimize important issues and to distract them with shiny objects. Benghazi is blamed on a video, a transparently false claim. When questioned about it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exclaimed, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" as if the passage of time had turned official dishonesty into irrelevance. Presidential promises, lies, are passed off as simple inaccuracies, when they were clearly told to get legislation passed that would not pass if the truth were told.
And all too frequently, free expression of unpopular, contrary, or otherwise 'politically incorrect' speech is suppressed, even to the point a sports announcer was recently suspended by his employer for observing that a battered girlfriend who marries her batterer is not acting rationally. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is threatening to investigate a sports league (for what?) because of public outcry by pressure groups with an agenda, yet it can't bring itself to honestly investigate the IRS for illegal official behavior, because the offense was committed on behalf of Democrats against ordinary citizens who opposed them.
This is not an optimistic view of today's United States, but it is a realistic one. I don't claim that further and precipitous decline is inevitable, but it's already begun.