By Earl Perkins
Thursday Review Associate Editor
The United States of America is the greatest country the world has ever known, but I fear its star is fading fast.
Nikita Khrushchev, late premier of the former Soviet Union, allegedly banged his shoe on the table at the United Nations General Assembly in 1960, saying "we shall destroy you from within." Russia was itself rotting on the inside across nine time zones, with millions of people starving or barely surviving in horrid conditions. However, the world didn't realize the enormous scale what was happening because Russia was governed by communism, a system predisposed to merely releasing glowing reports of great health and prosperity.
Meanwhile, those engendering disfavor or wrath from the powerful either disappeared or were sent to gulags for decades. By the time they were released, their spirit was broken and they were elderly, having been physically and mentally brutalized in captivity. Russians were horrified and knew that anyone who spoke up or complained about the government would be dealt with harshly. Their memories were fresh from Khrushchev's predecessor, Josef Stalin, who had approximately 43 million citizens and foreigners murdered because they weren't part of his grand plan. This figure comes from RJ Rummell, professor emeritus at University of Hawaii, in his book Death by Government. The Soviet government actually caused the death of about 66 million souls from 1917 to 1987, but let's leave that discussion for another day.
The U.S. runs things a little differently than communist regimes. Over here, our federal government has a two-party system and the politicians want your input. They thoughtfully consider your opinions, then do what they see fit with the billions of dollars at their disposal. They extort massive amounts of money from the populace through taxation, then reward those who agree to help them in return, with the banking industry bailout being the largest recent example. Enough money was involved that the banks deemed too-large-to-fail didn't care that the world knew what happened. It's not considered bribery if attorneys say no laws were broken. But how many lives were ruined and how many future generations must suffer because of greed?
Large corporations that are politically connected are suffocating this nation. If those in charge take huge bonuses and suck the company dry, they get help from friends. They had the forethought to either move their largesse to offshore bank accounts, or park it in retirement accounts beyond the reach of regulators. Where does that leave normal working people?
We were the world's first large-scale, successful republic, but our elected representatives refuse to compromise in order to ensure a decent future for this nation--the current budget stand-off being just the latest symptom of the gamesmanship. Each person in the federal government has a personal agenda, just like everyone else who resides inside our borders. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want you to consider third parties, because the majors might be forced to take a smaller cut of the pie. When individual states scream that they want some of their money back, those in Washington, D.C., give small chunks to the most influential Senators and Representatives, but they also dictate how the money will be spent. Your only hope is that your representatives get reelected numerous times and that they've accumulated good allies and information about the weaknesses of others.
The future of this nation is beginning to look dimmer by the minute. There are probably only a couple scenarios, with the best being a steady decline into a second-rate power that is forced to suck up to the rest of the world. The other plan includes nations demanding all the money we owe, which we will eventually not be able to pay. Our money is becoming worth less every time our leaders devalue the dollar, thus strenghtening every economy in the world at the expense of our country and people.
Vision, political will and funding are needed for economic recovery. Our federal debt has grown so large that our options become ever-more limited with each passing day. We've got huge problems at home, yet our government insists on giving massive amounts of money and arms to questionable groups throughout the world. You cannot buy respect. It must be earned, and America is no longer respected on the world stage. Countries and groups with goals are civil to our leaders, but they will quickly threaten us if we even hint that we might limit gifts to them.
I don't have the answer, but I have always looked to history because the same things happen over and over. Nations don't get along, so they attempt to fix disputes through negotiation. Economic issues, corruption and desperation often lead to war. I'm just hopeful the United States will be able to fix its problems, because the alternative is not a good one.