Three Decades of Spineless Governing of the World’s Waning Superpower

This is an old essay, written in December, 2011. After rereading, and committing some edits, my sentiments still feel the same.

As I write this, the country is caught in the midst of bickering that encroaches upon racism and bigotry. Two basic controversies test the U.S., under the guise of of one theme: Islam. First, we have the Birthers, people that despite all evidence to the contrary, believe Pres. Obama is an illegitimate president and a Muslim. Then, we have controversy surrounding the building of mosques and community centers. In Nashville, over the weekend, a building site was vandalized, building materials set afire. In New York, NY, a planned community center, two blocks from the former World Trade Center site, is driving a huge wedge between politicians and common Americans. The argument: Muslims are violent, anti-Christian, anti-American, and their places of worship, or simply of gathering, are places for the training of suicide bombers and terrorists, and therefore have no place in American society.

Stupid. People are just so stupid. Individually and in groups, regardless of size. A two-person group seems to be as ignorant as a 200-person group these days. And Americans do not seem to be aware that we are the root cause of this ignorance, bigotry, and racism. Those Americans that seem to be aware that we are the problem do not appear to be pointing the fingers in the right direction (“Republicans are evil,” or “Democrats are evil,” or “the government is evil”). The Finger of Blaming Pointing is too unidirectional, in my opinion, and therefore is pointless. And ignorance is a plague as deadly and destructive as any real disease.

Politicians are creations of the common people. We elect politicians and support them or not depending on their campaign rhetoric which translates via elections into a “win” or “loss.” The Body Politic was never meant to be a career. Politicians that have served for decades are really not people to be admired, at least not according to those that helped developed our federal system. Serve, then leave. Like serving on a jury. Represent your constituency then go home.

Rules change, and change they did. People today, especially the group known as the “Tea Party,” do not seem to grasp that. Which rules do they want to adhere to? The Constitution is not a very large document. Other documents, unarguably, carry more immediate weight, I argue. The Constitution is not going to protect your business against legal suits, or guide businesses in conducting businesses. The framers of the American Constitution did not construct the Constitution to cover such details. Instead, we have the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch to handle laws and legalities. When Tea Party supporters argue against some topic as “not being in the Constitution,” or “not being allowed within the Constitution,” they are completely correct. But they miss the point. Nearly every claim about taxation that the Tea Partiers claim is unconstitutional, is constitutional because those laws were created by the Legislative Branch of our government, by duly elected representatives, and therefore are, in fact, legal. We might not like those laws, or those taxes, but the Constitution does give the Legislative Branch exclusive rights to raise taxes in order to cover the expenses of government.

And, guess what? We, the People, by voicing our needs to our legislators, create those government expenses. The Government does not do this; the government is nothing but a paper artifact. Human beings power that government, and human beings put people into positions of power to create that legislation.

Again, we have only ourselves to blame. We put our faith in strangers, really. We don’t know who these people are, what agendas he or she might have. Snapshots of careers and resumes really do not tell the complete tale.

Politicians are not evil, not inherently evil, anyway. Unless we are. No, they are a product of us, of our personal ignorance. Our ignorance about our government, our political system, our own society and culture. Really, our own ignorance about ourselves.

Our own ignorance will be the downfall of the United States. Our ignorance began over three decades ago, and has progressed unchecked, really. My unfortunate prediction is this: our momentum of ignorance has too much energy to stop, too much inertia to change direction.

We have already lost our edge. We cannot blame Pres. Obama; not his fault, not even close. Nor can we completely blame George W. Bush, though he is certainly culpable, certainly due to his ignorance of American energy addiction that was borderline criminal, and two fruitless wars which stole generations of American tax dollars that would have been better used at home. Nor can we blame Clinton, though, again, culpable, as he certainly was intelligent enough to create both an economic policy and energy policy, just too lazy to accomplish either. Nor can we place blame entirely on George Bush, Sr. However, if he had the foresight, he could have altered the course of American culture. Many idolize Reagan; however, had he the foresight, the temerity, the leadership zeal, Ronald Reagan might have been the right person at the right time, with the personality, to push America in the right direction. Instead, he failed, too. People castigate President Carter. He will always be associated with the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis, and viewed through the Oil Crisis Lens, his presidency has always been seen as a failure.

People forget Carter first bailed out General Motors in 1979. And we forget that he help begin the work to limit nuclear weapons in cooperation with the Soviet Union. Of even greater importance, especially when viewed today, was his interest in reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, and his interest in pursuing alternative energy sources.

In the mid-70s, the oil crisis hit the world hard. Oil prices soared as OPEC nations organized, set production quotas, and set prices. Demand did not decrease, and people paid the higher prices for gasoline. OPEC nations were fed by higher oil incomes, including Russia. Russia funded a war in Afghanistan, and subsidized inefficient industries and agriculture with its oil income.

Carter seemingly saw what was happening, that the United States could be manipulated through our dependence upon oil. He took efforts to turn himself into a model of reduced energy dependence. Solar panels were installed on the White House, and temperatures were modulated such that people had to dress differently to compensate for warmer or cooler inside temperatures. He was trying to get it right, yet he too came up short.

Outside of Pres. Carter’s meager efforts to institute energy policy in the United States, no president in the last 30 years has shown the leadership nor the responsibility to be a steward of the American people. None.

Americans are at this point in our history due to a complete and utter failure of any true leader to assume responsibility and set America on the proper path. As a result, we find ourselves bickering and fighting over whether a president is an American or not, a Muslim, or not, or whether it is OK to build a mosque, or not, issues that are banal and soporific.

Such events are symptomatic of weak leadership and the related lack of goals, direction, fortitude, education, and over-abundance of ignorance, lethargy, greed, and selfishness prevalent among Americans.

Government must exist. People who argue to the contrary are simply morons. Really. Walk directly away from them. Unfriend them from Facebook. Never ever speak to them again.

People must be organized, and that is one job of government, to keep us organized. Government, ideally, helps us use our resources more efficiently. Believe it or not. Governments help us manage our resources more efficiently internally and between us and other countries. Representative governments do this better than monarchies, dictatorships, and Communism.

A primary weakness of representative governments is the election process. Election cycles churn people through the Legislative Branch. Campaign cycles burn copious amounts of time and stupid amounts of money, and thus consume irresponsible amounts of resources. Because of these cycles, legislators have very short attention spans, looking only as far as their next election cycle. These cycles being short, has benefits. An election can put new blood in relatively quickly, or get the bum out, relatively quickly.

An unfortunate result of short cycles is that a legislator can enact laws or policies that do not come into play until years down the road. Not in office in ten years, people have short memories, and people forget that that these laws were enacted a decade or so ago. All accountability is lost.

Again, weak government leadership is responsible. Long-term goals, policies that have a horizon that persists beyond an election cycle can mitigate against legislators in government for short-term gain.

For at least 30 years, the United States has not had the leadership needed to keep us ahead of the game, to secure a sound future as a world power and a world leader. As a result, our leadership role globally is being eroded. Eventually, China, and India, will have more bargaining power than the United States.

We concede our leadership to China, and eventually, India. Our leadership role was not taken away; our national leadership, or lack thereof, gave away our economic, political, and cultural competitive advantage.

Our national leaders gave away our competitive advantage through two utterly avoidable failures.

First, the United States has no comprehensive economic development plan. Every administration since Eisenhower has taken a liaise faire attitude towards economic growth and development. No president, to my knowledge, has ever developed a strategic plan identifying key areas of development or education to ensure that the United States is at the fore-front of research and technology, to ensure that our workforce is constantly adapting and forward-looking, Our national leaders have left these goals to individuals and corporations and has provided little guidance or leadership.

China, India, most of northern and western Europe, Japan, and South Korea all have long-term economic development policies that direct laws, investment, and policies. In particular, China and India.

The leadership of the United States has not leveraged our strengths to ensure that those strengths continue into the future.

Second, the United States has no comprehensive energy plan. Pres. Carter attempted to address our addiction to oil. He was laughed from office. Who is laughing today, as our oil dollars go to Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, who tells America to “go to hell.” Russia, who had its infant democracy stolen nearly overnight by Vladimir Putin, and who stole democracy yet again when his appointed successor, Medvedev, took over as president, and Putin assumed the role as Prime Minister.

Americans need to understand this: there is no way to drill all the oil we need to feed our addiction. China has 300 million people already that need oil, too. China also has five more “Americas” waiting, and they will want oil, too. India has thee “Americas” waiting for oil.

The media, the commentators, sound like people addicted to heroine or methamphetamine, “we just need to drill more. Come on, man, I need a fix! You can’t abandon me!” Like a junkie, America staggers down Energy Alley looking for their next hit.

Its time for rehab. Our national leaders run a perpetually irresponsible Methadone clinic. They get paid, and do not have any personal interest in changing a pattern of destructive behavior. They have figured out that Americans are addicted. And like addicts, we do not think rationally. Stupid issues rise to incendiary levels, and we turn on ourselves, like junkies.

And our elected leaders feed off of our irresponsible behavior, directly, by augmenting bigotry or racism, by propagating misinformation, or simply by out-right lies; or, indirectly by not standing up and making hard choices, or by going along with the crowd. or by remaining silent.

Even if a person were to rise above the national noise, with a clear, sensible message, that person would be drowned out amid the current chaos.

Even if a person were to rise above the national noise, and garner enough consensus to be elevated to a high office, or even the highest office, time to institute change may have already run out for the United States to affect any kind of positive change within a generation.

Instituting change is not easy. Changing people attitudes and behaviors to more moderate and inclusive modes is not easy. Overcoming inertia is not easy. Getting a nation of people, who have been led to believe that being an individual is a God-given right, and being allowed to be ignorant is a positive character trait, is nigh on impossible. Convincing people to work to their best ability, to work to their advantage, to ensure the future of their family and children and grandchildren might require more effort than reaching Mars.

And like a mission to Mars, convincing Americans to work towards national goals would require as much dedication.

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