AMERICANS HAVE EVERY REASON TO BE DEEPLY WORRIED RIGHT NOW. THE NATION IS SHOWING EVERY SIGN OF SOMETHING AKIN TO A MID-LIFE CRISIS—AND IT MAY BE A GREAT DEAL WORSE THAN THAT (and be justified).
IT WILL SIGNAL THE END OF THE U.S AS WE KNOW IT (except that we really didn’t—and don’t. The myth was—and remains—so much more appealing.)
So where is the evidence that the U.S. has lost its way—has diverged in its values and direction from what most people would regard as fair, tolerable, reasonable, acceptable, civilized, and democratic?
No, I am not offering mass shootings as evidence. They are an aberration and a symptom of something very wrong—but they pale in relation to other issues.
Nonetheless, I do consider the fact that the U.S. regards the gunshot deaths of over 32,000 Americans every year as tolerable, as horrific—and a distortion of what should be acceptable in a civilized and developed nation. I write this as someone who likes guns, enjoys shooting them—and who features them in his thrillers—but, it is self-evident that the gun-culture, in real life, has gone too far.
It is both a symptom of a deeply confused and unhealthy mindset—to the point of being delusional—and a paranoid flight into fantasy. There is every evidence that the widespread availability of guns has made life a great deal more dangerous, not less.
This level of death from firearms—let alone injury and human misery—equates to more than a Vietnam War ever two years. It’s an insanity—and morally wrong.
There is so much evidence that the U.S. is adrift that it is hard to know where to begin. The scale is truly alarming. Much of it is in plain sight. Much requires a little digging.
The core belief of most Americans (which is that the U.S. economic system (the American Business Model) is the best in the world is palpably being proven not to be true. Instead what you’ve got is financially dominated crony capitalism which is predatory in nature—and which is squeezing most Americans to the point where two thirds are living paycheck to paycheck, well-paid jobs are vanishing, costs are rising, the national savings rate is entirely inadequate, and the standard of living of most Americans is in decline.
Other developed nations have had setbacks—particularly since the U.S. originated Great Recession—and haven’t fully recovered, but the U.S. situation is much more severe and dates back decades. Almost everywhere else, earnings, in real terms, and the general quality of life, have improved. The U.S. is a depressing exception.
As for the U.S. being the bastion of democracy—as it certainly was during WW II, it is now pretty clear that it isn’t even a democracy anymore—except in appearance. The trappings are still in place—but they are dedicated more to entertainment and distraction than to substance. Gerrymandering, combined with a whole series of practices which inhibit ease of voting in less affluent areas, represent major obstacles to genuine democracy just in themselves. However, the influence of money now so dominates politics that they relegate such difficulties to the sidelines.
As a consequence, the U.S. is now a plutocracy. It is run by the ultra-rich for the ultra-rich (and their followers)—and the legislation that is passed reflects that fact.
The plutocrats cannot get everything they want passed at federal level as long as there is a Democrat in the White House, but they can still have extraordinary influence—and can block almost anything they don’t like (and they do).
At state and local level, the plutocrats have had considerably more success. It is consistently disastrous for the less fortunate. Worker rights are being undermined. Gender equality is laughed at. Women’s health is under chronic attack.
By the standards of other developed nations, these kinds of behaviors are reprehensible, foolish, and wrong—but they represent business as normal in the U.S.—which seems obsessed with a race to the bottom.
A representative democracy demands that the elected representatives listen to those who elect them—and, in the U.S., they don’t. They listen only to those who fund them—and primarily to major donors at that.
Let me list an extract from the long list of other issues.
- AN UNCEASING BARAGE OF PROPAGANDA (STEMMING LARGELY FROM THE ULTRA-RICH OWNED MEDIA) WHICH PREVENTS MOST AMERICANS FROM BEING ADEQUATELY INFORMED—AND WHICH FOMENTS A CLIMATE OF FEAR AND INSECURITY.
- A FOREIGN POLICY THAT SEEMS BASED UPON ENDLESS, FRUITLESS WARS.
- THE EXTRAORDINARY LEVELS OF DEATH, DESTRUCTION, AND CORRUPTION THAT BECOME PERVASIVE IN EVERY COUNTRY THAT THE U.S. OCCUPIES OR EVEN BECOMES MILITARILY INVOLVED WITH.
- A MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX THAT HAS EXCESSIVE INFLUENCE AND WHICH USES UP AN EXCESSIVE PROPORTION OF THE BUDGET.
- INCOME AND WEALTH INEQUALITY ON SUCH A SCALE THAT IT PRACTICALLY DEFIES CREDULITY.
- A FUNDAMENTAL LACK OF FAITH IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
- A REPUBLICAN PARTY THAT HAS BECOME SO EXTREME THAT DONALD TRUMP IS THE FRONT RUNNER.
- THE INCREASING REALIZATION THAT THE U.S. IS NO LONGER A REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY.
- A NEAR ABSOLUTE BREAKDOWN OF TRUST IN A BROAD SPECTRUM OF INSTITUTIONS (AND TRUST IS WHAT ENABLES SOCIETIES TO FUNCTION).
- AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT BY INCREASING NUMBERS THAT THE AMERICAN DREAM IS LARGELY A MYTH.
- THE DECLINE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS.
- AN INCREASE IN POVERTY COMBINED WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN EVER EXPANDING, SOCIALLY NEGLECTED, UNDERCLASS.
- HUGE FOOD INSECURITY—AND THIS IN THE RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHOSE WASTE OF FOOD IS UNPRECEDENTED
- A MASSIVE DECLINE IN LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION.
- A SIGNIFICANT DECLINE IN THE RATE OF GROWTH OF PRODUCTIVITY.
- AN INCREASING LACK OF INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS IN MARKET SECTOR AFTER MARKET SECTOR.
- A DECADES LONG FAILURE TO BALANCE TRADE.
- A MULTI-TRILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT IN INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT.
- A WIDESPREAD LACK OF SOCIAL CONCERN RESULTING IN AN INADEQUATE SOCIAL SAFETY NET.
- A MASSIVE INCREASE IN ECONOMIC INSECURITY.
- A WAY OF LIFE THAT PRETTY MUCH ENSLAVES PEOPLE IN DEBT FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE.
- AN AMERICAN BUSINES MODEL THAT ISN’T DELIVERING FOR MOST AMERICANS.
- AN INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM BASED UPON MONOCULTURE AND INTENSIVE REARING OF FOOD ANIMALS WHICH IS DESTROYING THE SOIL, UNDERMINING THE INTRINSIC NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF THE FOOD, AND IS INCREASINGLY SUSPECTED OF ACTIVELY CAUSING HARM.
- A PROCESSED FOOD SYSTEM BASED UPON SUB-STANDARD INGREDIENTS WHICH PRODUCES UNHEALTHY FOOD.
- THE FACT THAT AMERICANS LIVE SICKER, AND DIE MORE THAN TWO YEARS SOONER THAN THE CITIZENS OF OTHER NATIONS.
- A HEALTHCARE SYSTEM THAT COSTS UP TO TWICE AS MUCH AS DEVELOPED EQUIVALENTS—AND DELIVERS AN INFERIOR RESULT.
- AN UNHEALTHY AND FREQUENTLY OBESE POPULATION THAT RELIES TO EXCESS ON LEGAL MEDICATION AND WHERE OVER HALF OF ADULTS HAVE A CHRONIC CONDITION.
- A DECLINE IN INNOVATION RELATIVE TO OTHER NATIONS.
- A DECLINE IN ENTREPRENEURIAL ACTIVITY.
- AN INCREASE IN MONOPOLIZATION IN MOST MARKET SECTORS.
- A STOCK MARKET WHICH HAS LESS AND LESS TO DO WITH THE REAL ECONONOMY
- THE DOMINANCE OF THE ECONOMY BY FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS.
- EXCESSIVELY MILITATARIZED LAW ENFORCEMENT WHICH ALL TOO FREQUENTLY IS PROVING TO BE VIOLENT, CORRUPT, AND RACIST.
I am now in my 11th year of monitoring the U.S. economy—and its way of life in general—in some detail, and the most frightening things to me are:
- The seeming general lack of awareness, as far as most Americans are concerned, as to how bad things really are. I say ‘seeming’ because, like most, I rely heavily on the media and the internet for information, and it is hard to judge the mood of a country through such propaganda influenced filters. But all I can see is that there isn’t the outrage I would expect given the situation.
- Fundamental weaknesses in the structure of the U.S. economy which may well be more severe than I have suspected for some time. The recovery from the Great Recession does not stand close examination. The gutting of U.S. manufacturing, the exporting of jobs and expertise, and chronic underinvestment in the real economy has left it much weaker and less internationally competitive than is generally realized. These core deficiencies have been largely hidden by booming corporate profits—but the latter have come at the expense of the longer term—and owe a great deal to financial engineering. Massive debt at every level has temporarily disguised the scale of these problems—but they remain very real.
- The fact that the U.S. seems incapable of solving any of its problems even when the solutions are self-evident. In fact, just about everything is getting worse year by year.
- The fact that the U.S., which has a great deal to be proud of—and which has done a great deal of good in the past—is now fast losing the respect of much of the rest of the world.
I wish it were otherwise. I am very fond of this Great Nation—but the America Tragedy continues.