Whither America?

The thirty-four years since the “Reagan Revolution” have not been good for the average American. In that time the US has gone from third in standard of living to fifteenth. Our middle class, once the envy of the world, now ranks in the mid-thirties. Our pre-college educational system is the worst in the developed worlds. Our public universities, while still generally good, are the most expensive in the world. Our national debt has risen from 32.5% to 103.6% of GDP. The amount of that debt owed to Social Security, i.e. to the American middle and working classes, has quadrupled from 7% to 28.5% of GDP. The median growth rate of US wages dropped from 9% per year in 1980 to -2% in 2010 from which it had recovered to only 1.5% by 2012. Unemployment rose rapidly under Reagan to the highest since the Great Depression and has never fully returned to post-WW II levels. In other words, the US has been in a state of steady decline under conservative rule.

But the situation is actually much worse. Since 1980, more than $25T has been transferred from working Americans to the very wealthy through massive tax cuts. Meanwhile, American police have become militarized to a level that would shock many dictators. Nearly 10% of firearm homicides in the US are committed by on-duty police. The number of guns in private hands now exceeds the population of the country. The simplest confrontation with police or citizen can be fatal. Our public infrastructure needs between $2T and $5T just for deferred maintenance. The cost of bringing it up to world standards is perhaps twice that. Our passenger rail system is barely above third world standards and our airlines are worse. This is certainly not the America in whose military I served for seven years.

The good news is that the American people seem to waking up to the fact that we are not exceptional or even average. The bad news is that the country is strongly divided into fascist, theocratic, libertarian, and socialist camps completely unwilling to compromise. The fact that Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Ron and Rand Paul, and Bernie Sanders are speaking to large crowds speaks to the dissatisfaction abroad in the land. The fact that none of them is even remotely qualified to be president should frighten us all. The fact that the sanest of the other potential candidates have demonstrated little in the way of leadership should add to that concern.

At this point the reader may be asking, “What is your solution?” Well, frankly, I do not really have one. The 2016 election is shaping up to be a choice between the lesser of evils. For me, that is an easy choice given the utter incompetence of the Republican slate. My guess is that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and go on to win the White House. Her recent moves toward the left give me hope that she will continue and extend President Obama’s progressive policies. On the other hand, the well-oiled right wing hate machine is likely to make it as difficult for her to govern as it has for the current president. Hopefully she will have learned from Obama’s failed attempt at bipartisanship that she will have to be tough and uncompromising. She is said to be an admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt; she needs to learn from her husband, Franklin, how to appeal to the public and out-maneuver the Congressional right wing. If she can do that, she will go down in history not only as the first woman president but as the president who start to end the long dark age of Reaganism.


1 Response to “Whither America?”

  1. 1 Maxine Bruce August 13, 2015 at 08:24

    a good read, it has been my opinion that Ronald Reagan destroyed the midddle class

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