It is really hard to watch our political leaders deal with the nation’s problems. The lack of insight, creativity and political courage is truly stunning.
The liberals, led by Paul Krugman, believe the way to cure our ills is through the government implementation of another $1 trillion stimulus. The conservatives, led by the Tea Party and Grover Nordquist, believe the way to recovery is to reduce taxes and slash government spending. Neither alternative, in and of itself, is the answer. These simple minded, partisan solutions will merely create another temporary bubble that will burst in a few short years. Their road to recovery is based on the misconception that the problems started with the 2008 collapse of the financial markets; and that they will be cured by a quick infusion of cash either through stimulus or a reduction in taxes. This shortsighted analysis coupled with our insatiable fixation on all things material and our need for immediate gratification is why where we are. We want what we want and we want it now.
The fact is our problems started decades ago and it will take the better part of this decade to even begin to right the ship. The warning signs have been there all along.
Most Americans agree that we have an unhealthy and dangerous dependency on oil. Yet to this day we have failed to implement a comprehensive energy policy to cure this dependency. We’ve talked about it for years. Back in 1974 Jimmy Carter, for all his faults, proposed a comprehensive an energy policy. It included energy saving austerity measures and a path toward alternative energy sources. It wasn’t perfect but it was a start. We laughed Carter out of office. Almost 40 years later our oil dependency affects not only our economy but our foreign policy and military strategy as well. Kids are dying in battle to guarantee that the oil continues to flow unabated to our shores. And we are spending more on defense than all the other countries in the world combined.
In the 1980’s the Japanese had the audacity to bring small, economical, fuel efficient automobiles to our shores. We refused to consider sharing our profits with the Japanese and even took to physically beating them in the streets of Detroit. They flourished while American auto makers continued to produce gas guzzling Cadillac Fleetwoods and Ford Crown Vics. We want what we want and we want it now…until we don’t. The US auto industry dried up before our very eyes; and the steel industry, long the major supplier of American made autos, ceased to exit.
Emerging economies such as China and India have invested trillions in education, innovation and infrastructure. We have invested trillions on defense. As a result our infrastructure is crumbling and in many, many areas “functionally obsolete”. While other nations build high speed trains, superhighways and subways we sit and watch. While children in other countries excel ours lag behind. While other countries hire more teachers and invest in the latest education materials we lay teachers off and close schools. Our children spend less time in the classroom than any other industrialized nation…and the results show it.
Every industrialized nation in the world, except the United States, has embraced government sponsored health care. As a result our infant mortality and expected life span are lagging behind most of our competitors. And over 50 million of us still do not have access to affordable health care. Yet we stick to our beliefs that the only right way is the American way.
These problems did not happen overnight. The problems in this country have been brewing over decades and will take even longer to fix. But we won’t even get started until someone is willing to lead us down the road to recovery. We need someone with a vision; someone who is willing to set aside partisan politics and the fear of losing an election…someone who is willing to tell us the truth.
And the truth may be that for the foreseeable future we are what we are; an economy that bumps slowly along and unemployment that hovers around 10%. And the truth may be that if we don’t set aside our whole “I, Mine, Me” attitude and agree to some difficult lifestyle changes things will get much, much worse.
It’s up to us. We can fix this. But we need someone in Washington to step up. We need someone in Washington tell us the unvarnished truth and offer a realistic, substantive long term plan to get us where we need to be. We need someone to lead. And for our money we don’t see him/her yet.