The month of March saw a remarkable series of events in the Middle East, some of them have been very promising. Others downright terrifying. However, on the balance I’m growing more cynical about the ability of the United States of America to rejuvenate and reinvent itself. Currently there are widespread protests outside Wall Street by Americans who still haven’t come to terms with the entrenched degeneration in their political systems. Instead of boldly asserting pragmatic and revolutionary solutions to their national problems they’re begging the government to magically wipe the sleight of the mistakes they’ve made in their own life decisions. Like the US government after Wikileaks failing to accept that it needs to be held to account publicly for it’s actions, otherwise the people are voting blind-folded, the 99% are people resisting being held to account for their own life decisions and political outlooks. It’s a case of spoilt children who have wasted all of their pocket money on bad investments and then crying to their parents to give them more. I hope they are left to cry, because that’s the only way they’re going to learn how to invest their time and money responsibly later on. That’s not abuse, that’s tough love. However, I am quite cynical nowadays about the typical American’s ability to hold themselves to account for their actions and so I have listed here my top 5 reasons why we should be pessimistic about the USA’s ability to remain a viable superpower into the middle of the 21st century. These aren’t in any particular order.
The USA is in a very dire situation economically. Part of it is that the government have been spending far more money each year than they’ve been collecting in taxes for almost 10 years which has put them in $14.8 trillion of Debt (http://www.usdebtclock.org/). This means that $215 billion needs to be spent every year just on paying the interest for the money the US government has borrowed from their central bank. $215 billion: wasted each year, and the amount is only growing making it harder to balance their spending versus tax revenues. Recently this problem has gotten worse when the USA’s credit rating dropped from AAA to AA+ increasing their interest rate repayments. The reason for this downgrade was explained as being because neither political party is interested in developing a firm clear fiscal policy to avert this disaster. Not the Republicans, not the Democrats, both parties seem to be in denial about how grave the situation is because their own personal political point scoring game is more important than the well being of their country. If the debt crisis is not solved soon it will be much harder in the future and will eventually cause the US government to collapse into chaos when millions lose their life savings, pensions and jobs after a government default on their loans. Many Americans optimistically think if the economy just grows more they’ll be ok, however, even if the US had full employment tax revenues would only increase about 10-15% and to cover the deficit they need to rise about 50%. Even if the economic forecast for the US was optimistic, which it isn’t, this is a delusional hope. It is impossible for the USA to grow out of this crisis in 50 years much less 5.
Is too much confidence destroying America from within?
2. Taxes and Libertarianism
However, this brings me to the next point. Despite how bad the USA might seem economically, congress could pass a law at anytime that would fix the problem. All they need to do is increase taxes for the rich. The USA is actually one of the least taxed countries in the world (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/background/numbers/international.cfm) and they barely tax the rich! If they taxed the rich then they might actually balance the budget without having to cut back on services. Instead, they’re going to cut back on services. Why any nation would do such a thing is confusing until one realises the power a certain political ideology has: namely the Libertarians.
The Libertarians are a kind of liberal, but they’re extremists. They believe that governments are oppressive and that taxes are theft. Basically they see the government as the thief that steals everyone’s hard earned cash. Now, if you’re like most people you probably went to a school that was government funded, get free or cheap health care because the government pays for that, your house wasn’t burnt down when you were growing up because the fire brigade were also paid for by the government and you’re not too worried about retirement because the government looks after most of that for you. You’re also probably glad the police exist and road laws exist. So you’re probably thinking, “what kind of moron thinks the government is oppressive and spending my tax dollars unwisely?”
Well, if you are rich, and live in America, then you’re one of those morons because the rich pay for their most of their own services like health and education and so they feel that they aren’t getting their full bang for their buck when the government taxes them. They also feel that when the poor people threaten to rob the rich because they have no food to eat that they are being bullied into giving up their hard earned cash. However, there are more rich people in America than any other country and they’ve got an ideology, Libertarianism, and huge amounts of money they can spend on opportunist politicians to lobby for the protection of their accumulated wealth while destroying the fabric of society in the process. The funny thing is, Libertarianism isn’t new at all, it’s just the feudal system with the language of freedom, thanks to marketing spin you can sell oppression and make people think they’re buying freedom.
However, most American’s aren’t rich, many of them are dirt poor but they are still pro-Libertarian. Why? Partly because they believe in this dream that everyone can become a millionaire (it is economically impossibly without mass slavery of billions of non-Americans) and partly because they’re stupid. Which is my next point.
3. Education and Research
We all know Americans are, on average, stupid, on some level you can just sense that the way they view the world is one of childlike innocence or simplicity. Sure, it isn’t because of genetics, and many Americans are very well educated… because they went to the best universities in the world which are mostly in the USA. However, while America has most of best minds in the world, like they have the most of millionaires, they also have the worst education system of any western country. In fact, many developing countries have better education systems than they do.
The typical US child spends ~180 days in school each year. The typical European or Australian child spends ~220 days in school each year. 40 days less! Imagine how much damage that alone is dealing to the education quotient of the USA. A 20% reduction in the average education quotient? Not to mention poor regulation, poor academic standards and that even creationism is actively being taught in place of evolution in many US schools. America’s education system is mostly regulated by local governments therefore the quality of schooling can vary dramatically from one district to the next. America needs to move schooling to the state level for better management and funding consistency. Sadly, Americans are so ignorant about their own ignorance they probably haven’t even noticed that China is fast becoming the most important country in the world for research and the development of low carbon technologies so maybe one day scientists will have to learn Mandarin instead of English to publish their research. Sadly, duty, patriotism and dedication to ones country don’t mean much to too many American politicians obsessed with re-election and the gravy train they’re on from being bought out by rich people.
4. Electoral Oppression
Despite all of this, I think the problem at the heart of America’s woes is their primitive electoral system. Don’t get me wrong, the American constitution was an inspired work of genius from some of the greatest thinkers our species has ever produced. But in the last 200 or so years we’re all learned a few things that the founding fathers of the USA simply couldn’t know. Like the fact that having only two political parties is only one step up from a dictatorship. Most countries have a 4 (or more) party system and every government is a coalition of two different political parties that agree on somethings and disagree on others. In Europe they distribute seats according the proportion of votes each party get, in Australia we use a preferential system which achieves a similar outcome, in both instances you can vote for a party other than the two main ones and in the end you feel like you were heard and the most popular party(ies) won.
In America, however, if you don’t vote for either the Republican or the Democratic party your vote is wasted. It does nothing, worse than nothing in fact: If you wanted to vote for the Greens for example in the USA, because they have run-off elections between the two leading candidates, even if 10% or 20% of people voted Greens they wouldn’t even win a single seat in congress… yet the Republican party would win every single one because the Greens would be taking votes away from the Democrats. So why on Earth would you take the risk of not voting for the Democrats? The fact is, there is no choice in who you vote for the USA, you are pressured into voting for the party you loathe the least as opposed to the party you actually believe in. Consequently American politics is stagnant and backward. They’re stuck almost 100 years back in time compared to other western countries. Just look at how long it took them to give women the vote and equal rights. How long before they abolished slavery. The Americans are always behind the ball in policy and their primitive electoral system is to blame. Unfortunately they’re far too ignorant about the alternative systems other governments have developed to have the consciousness to change this system via referendum. The USA will be the sick man of the west in the 21st century, stuck in the glory days of the early 20th century and unable to adapt to this modern world.
5. Foreign Policy
Does American still stand for the principles on which it was founded?
Finally, Americans are arrogant. They think their superpower status is a birthright rather than a temporary privilege and their foreign policy shows it. They talk about being the world’s policemen but ignore their own principles such as those they put into the UN charter, namely that as legal as the Libyan no-fly zone is, nonetheless going to war in Iraq was an illegal action according to their own standards. America lost a lot of friends over that incident and they lost a lot of them during the cold war when they overthrew democratic regimes and supported dictatorships so long as they were anti-communist. I don’t like conspiracy theorists because I think they’re bad thinkers and intellectual frauds, but the prevalence of people believing these theories is no surprise because the Americans still haven’t formally apologised for (or even acknowledged) their international crimes committed in the name of freedom during the cold war: whose freedom? The world’s or America’s?
To conclude, America may still be a complex, beautiful, inspiring and wonderful country, but they are not winning the hearts and minds of the next generation. The stench of hypocrisy is tainting their words and the crocodile tears they’re crying over Wikileaks is more the behaviour of the spoilt child who got caught withholding the truth. Perhaps not quite as bad as lying, but still just as dishonest and damaging to the public trust. America and Americans need to clean up their act and rejoin the modern world. They need to stop talking over everyone else and listen for a change, otherwise one day they’ll find themselves alone and wondering where all their friends have gone.
Something every American should think long and hard about: You learn nothing from always winning, cherish your defeats because that’s where you’ll learn. Covering up your worts and failings is a childish stratagem designed to avoid being held to account and growing up.
I’d like to hear other people’s ideas on why America might fail or why we shouldn’t be so worried about America’s future, so please share some in the comments section below: