Friday, November 30, 2012

America in Decline

To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust. -President John F Kennedy

As 2012 turns into 2013, conservatives need to face up to the facts of our current situation in history; America is in a period of decline.

I'm not pronouncing the end of the Republic, advocating rebellion or even encouraging you to start watching Doomsday Preppers on TV.  I'm saying that we need to acknowledge the facts of the situation and decide how best to address the issue.

America as a country has gone through periods of decline before.  The plucky young nation that defeated the invincible British in the Revolutionary War was so mired in controversy by 1810 that we were rolled over by the same British Army in the War of 1812.  The Civil War left the South in ruins and the North not much better.   And the country that jumped on to the world stage in WWI was helpless for most of a decade as the Great Depression became the new normal.

So consider the facts of where our country stands today;

-A decade of war against radical Islam has resulted in a narrow victory in Iraq and at best a draw in Afghanistan.  Although our military now has more combat experience than any time since WWII, much of the knowledge is set to leave as deep cuts are coming to the Pentagon, even if the fiscal cliff is avoided.

-US fiscal policy remains one of desperation, with artificially low interest rates and 'qualitative easing'  keeping us afloat, but not improving.  We made the choice to pull the band aid off slowly in 2009, only to find that the band aid keeps getting longer.

-The federal debt has grown to a size that prevents the country from reacting proactively to national emergencies like Hurricane Sandy.  While the politicians in DC fiddle, our children's future is burning.  If we were having a serious conversation about how to pay down the federal debt, that would be one thing.  But the political controversy of the day is what small portion of the federal deficit we can reduce, with no real plan for paying down the actual debt. 

-Like it or not, we have moved to a culture that is much more comfortable with relying on government assistance, under the false notion that someone else will always be there to pay for it.  High school students spend time and effort finding ways to qualify for scholarships, rather than working at part time jobs to help save money for tuition.  Senior citizens, even staunch conservatives, plan out how to give away or spend their life savings so they can enter a nursing home penniless, thus putting the government on the hook for their care.

-Debt and deficits are not just a national problem; the first round of large cities have moved into bankruptcy over the last decade, and the next decade will likely see the same for the first round of states.  State governments in particular are starting to go the way of General Motors, where retiree pensions and health plans made current operations untenable.

I have always been a firm believer that the best way to predict the future is to understand history.  America has faced decline before and survived, so understanding the how and why of our survival then is the  key to understanding how we can survive again.

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