Despite my great affection for my country, my long-term view does not coincide with the constant statements from our leaders that our best days are ahead.
In support of my pessimism, let me offer a few anti-nostrums as we move into the New Year with a new Congress and the promises of those newly-anointed representatives.
American voters in November 2010 didn't have to be bright to perceive that things are so screwed up. But none of those elected offered anything in the way of a coherent plan or plans to fix real problems. Even as the new broom swept out many of the prior Congress, the present crowd in both of our major political parties does little to elevate my enthusiasm for America's future.
The dictionary defines the word "nostrum" as "a quack medicine" or "a favorite method for bringing about reform". The word comes from the Latin, "something of our own making".
While I do not espouse anything like a "favorite" way to fix things, the mess we are in surely fits "nostrum"'s Latin origin.
In 2010, after much delay and hand wringing, President Obama caved to his generals and allowed the Afghan surge, picked up the same flawed policies of the GWB years fiscally and put the peccadilloes of the rich Wall Street bankers on the US taxpayers' debt tab.
Will the John Boehner crowd do worse? Well, the eight years of George W. Bush might give even the most hardened Republican pause.
Regardless, the current printing of massive amounts of new dollars borrowed from China and others to pad the payrolls of the arms merchants and the bloated military complexes won't stop unless there is an uprising. The world market's current assessment of the dollar is far from positive.
And, sorry to say, most people don't even understand what has happened to the USA as we moved over the past four or five decades into becoming a globally dangerous Roman Empire.
Since 1962 when the Vietnam fiasco was heating up to the present time, military expenditures have been well north of $20 TRILLION. While the taxpayers are often told this is under 5% of our Gross Domestic Product, it is 23% of our 2010 Federal Budget, more than Social Security at 20%.
Look this number up for yourself.
Also see the Wall Street Journal report Tracking your Federal Tax Dollars [November 6, 2010], which tells the same story.
Remember our military and their arms makers have America's economy by the throat. I know you realize that what was sold through fear and American job growth as "defense" is what this empire building is all about.
You doubtless recall the moves Allen Dulles (CIA Director from 1953 until he was fired in 1961 for his Bay of Pigs screw up) made to upset democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, where Dulles found career-building success in his participation with the CIA's first attempts at removing foreign leaders by covert means.
"Notably, the elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran was deposed in 1953 (via Operation Ajax), and President Arbenz of Guatemala was removed in 1954. The Guatemalan coup was carried out under the CIA code-name Operation PBSUCCESS." [January 3, 2011]
How many folks these days are willing to embrace the rationale for Vietnam (Remember the vaunted "domino theory"?).
Clearly that 1953 Iranian caper sowed the seeds for Ayatollah Khomeini's ascension to power in 1979. Of course, one could argue it kept us in cheap oil until then. But the price since has been too high. Now under that same theocratic dictatorship with its mad front-man, Ahmadinejad (hey, the word "mad" is even embedded in his name!), we may be getting another loose-nuke nation. And where are all those nukes? Would a less invasive, more even-handed policy in the Middle East have kept us from being so hated?
How about another "defense" excuse, "the missile gap?" Remember the frenzied buildup of atomic bombs at the Strategic Air Command under General Curtis LeMay which made sure the USSR would struggle to match us? Yes, "defense" by the USSR brought their country to financial ruin, a message we failed to heed as many observers (not me) gave Reagan kudos for the Soviet collapse.
Of course, the need to insure our oil supplies to keep our bloated consumer-driven economy lubricated has prompted our policies all along. This oil protection pattern ultimately became the real rational for George W. Bush's disastrous "preventive" war and allowed us to enter the final phase of our demise as the world's only Super Power. Permanent US war policies seem irrevocably in place now.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, now we are engaged in a great global war, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived in empire building can long endure. Rome didn't, the USSR didn't and I bet if we persist we will not stay afloat either. I suggest we really practice defense, cut out a bunch those unneeded bases overseas (737 of them according to Chalmers Johnson's recent book, Dismantling The Empire! and concentrate on real homeland security by insuring that our borders are not penetrated by terrorists or overrun by immigrants, legal or illegal.
Simply making a major jail time crime for the CEO's of companies who do hire illegal immigrants would be a powerful start.
Imagine! Obama is out stumping about creating jobs and yet his government allowed over 1 million work visas to immigrants to be issued this past 12 months when we are in the worst recession since the 1930's. Go figure.
If we don't fix this immigration invasion, we will add 100 million or more to our present 310 million population by 2050 and continue to destroy public education, our environment and general comity in the process. Both parties are to blame, Dems for pandering to Latinos and Reps for caving to the corporate paymasters who now elect our Federal government and who have turned our former Republic into an elitist oligarchy (i.e. sharpens the old saw, "the best Congress money can buy")
After the Citizens United Supreme Court decision we voters can only hope for corrective legislation, but have you heard any pol running offering to push for same?
Hey, then there's Social Security, the "Third rail" of American politics, which neither party will address except to assure their constituents that it is SAFE, as it will head for bankruptcy after Medicare.
I am almost 80 years old. My total contribution over my wage earning life up to 1962 to Social Security was $27,000. I took my first check when I was 62, 17 years ago. Since then I have banked monthly checks north of $1,300 so I have gotten at least $270,000 so far or ten times (10 times) what I put in.
People such as myself with other income should not be getting any Social Security! How many of us? Let's find out, set a total income top and fix it.
Also let's put a lid on medical payments to people who can afford to pay more. This is not rocket science just stupid, greedy, wasteful avoidance of citizenship responsibility, as we lurch toward a fiscal fiasco.
The flush of 2010's Republican victory will be brief unless the hard choices long deferred are somehow agreed upon by both sides.
I am not at all optimistic.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.