Saving America from Itself is designed to arouse interest in reversing the many negative trends America has suffered since it reached a summit in global leadership, wealth, justice, culture, and influence in the world after World War II. It had not only become the champion of Western democracies and free market economies, but also the world leader in science, technology, health care, and many areas of culture. Yet after all these successes,
America has now slid into a trance of self-delusion, often misplaced sense of grandeur and over-indulgence. A change can only come from within and hopefully will.
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SAVING AMERICA FROM ITSELFAmerican Revival Opportunities
By Ernst G. Frankel
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Ernst G. Frankel
All right reserved.
America today is more dangerously divided than at any time in recent history. While there are attempts at internal unity, the reality is that Americans now have more essential and diverse concerns than ever before. The economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism at home and abroad, social and economic divides and injustices, health care inadequacy, widespread poverty, unequal education and law enforcement, the nation's role in the world—all these and more concern large numbers of its citizens.
While emerging from a near century of economic, social, political, and strategic leadership in the world, America is now a ship with little direction and scant stability. A country which consisted largely of a middle class is now a house divided between obscenely rich and many who barely make a living. America used to be a country of hard- working immigrants who made the deserts bloom, invented all kinds of technologies and advances in manufacturing, large-scale farming, mining, and building—a people with a can-do attitude and a will to work together, and to succeed. It was a most perfect union not just of states but of people from many countries and many backgrounds, a place where diversity thrived and differences were not only appreciated but used to achieve uncommon advances.
Today American unity is in tatters; its institutions are in disarray, its infrastructure obsolete and falling apart, and its leadership, by and large, in question. Its political, social, economic, and strategic primacy is now challenged by older countries and newly emerging nations as well. America appears to be asleep at the wheel, and it is failing to recognize the challenges and opportunities of the new globalized world. It now finds itself without the economic, strategic, and human resources to challenge newly emerging global giants in Asia as well as a newly united Europe and a re-emerging Russia.
Not so long ago, America had abundant resources and was, unlike European powers, self-sufficient in most and able to serve as a major source of raw materials, food, and manufactures for the rest of the world. Today America increasingly depends on other countries for fuel, raw materials, and manufactured imports, and even relies on many foods from abroad.
Its conversion to a mainly service economy deprived the nation of many of the essential capabilities of a large world-class economy and resulted in the decimation of much of its middle class. It encouraged obscenely large incomes on one hand and an increasingly large lower- paid class on the other. The country that throughout its history was a place of unlimited opportunity has become one where an increasing percentage of the population is stuck without much opportunity to advance.
In parallel, America has become a much more inter-racially and inter-culturally tolerant society. Finally, equal rights and opportunities are gradually becoming a reality. America is changing culturally and socially, but will it be able to assure effective intermixing and mutually acceptable social, cultural, and economic goals? There is danger of growing separation instead of integration. The long-standing unity of America is in jeopardy.
For centuries immigrants who made up the bulk of America's population thrived by acclimatizing to the American way of life and by learning its language and customs. Even the defeated Indians and freed African slaves gradually adopted American customs, though discrimination continued and is to some extent even visible now. Yet in recent years a trend emerged to not only dignify but revert to the customs and language of the countries of origin. Spanish has truly become a second language in America, and an increasing number of citizens no longer are competent in English. The Mexican flag is widely flown at various holidays, and people of non-Latin origin increasingly revert to their original language and customs.
Is America becoming a country more divided than united? Recent government leaders and many politicians have been loath to recognize and deal with the social, economic, and political implications of this division. While diversity has made this country great in the past, it achieved its goals by guiding diversity towards unity. Today diversity is increasingly considered a goal in itself and American pride substituted by pride of origin. The election of the first black president is a sign that America is finally recognizing the importance of unity and the need for change.
America's standing in the world, its economic capability, and leadership ability had become suspect. A period of social and economic crisis in America and throughout the world now has to be addressed through massive investments in education, health care, and infrastructure.
The rapid rise of commodity prices such as oil, gas, and food are not only distorting the world economies, but are causing widespread hunger and other shortages. If allowed to continue, these developments will cause radical changes in global trade and standards of living which may have severe political effects, both on the West and Africa. America has been singularly unprepared for these developments and the consequences may be dire.
Furthermore, justifiably or not, America is being blamed for many of these developments, particularly the price of energy and food grains, which escalated largely as a result of the misguided encouragement and subsidization of the use of grain for ethanol production. This was a shortsighted, inefficient, and costly way to produce non-petroleum fuels. In the last few years, America has lost much of its international standing as a result of the ill-advised Iraq war and the sub-prime mortgage crisis that originated in the U.S. and has affected financial institutions throughout the world. Its trade policies were similarly counterincentive, and many of its trade agreements are being questioned; this not just regarding their fairness but also their effectiveness.
In parallel, America's education and medical institutions, once the example for and pride of the world, are now sliding into severe decline. Except for a few world-class elite ones, they are generally mediocre or worse. In fact, many so-called American institutions of higher learning are nothing but remedial high schools. Why so many American youth still aspire to college degrees is a real enigma. Most induce unwarranted expectations, waste four or more years without truly enhancing skills or knowledge, and do not lead to real professional opportunities. We are moving invariably into an era of increasing mediocrity in people, institutions, services, and government, something unexpected just a few years ago.
There are many reasons for these developments that are discussed at length in this book. Similarly, there are real opportunities for prevention or at least amelioration of this predicted decline. Yet to counteract these increasingly serious developments, difficult decisions and sacrifices will be necessary, some of which touch fundamental expectations and in fact raison d'etre of Americanism.
There have been many books and articles about America's problems and recommended solutions. Most, if not all, considered particular issues such as trade, energy, or war and their impact on America and its future. While it is interesting to evaluate the effects of major issues on America's economy, international standing, trade, and American's standard of living, issues are usually linked and impact on each other.
This book is an attempt to consider the totality of effects and evaluate how they jointly impact America and what can and should be done to correct the ills of the country. We face imminent dangers that are greater than the two world wars together. What is happening now could potentially change the position, role, lifestyle, and economy of America as well as the West at large. In fact, it will likely lead to a different world, one in which new values, concepts, and social norms rule. Much of it is the result of open and largely unconstrained globalization and also America's short-sightedness in continuing a rather self-centered and, in a way, self-defeating economic, political, and strategic policy.
At a time of justified concerns over global food and energy supplies and the impact of human lifestyles on the environment, America continues to consume many times the global average in energy, food, and other resources. This not only decreases their availability and raises the price to others but also causes huge problems with waste disposal into the atmosphere, waters, and land.
Only radical changes in behavior can be effective. These may not require a reduction in the standards of living but will demand a change in lifestyle, values, and priorities. Most importantly, it will be necessary to lead America from an economy and social structure based on consumerism and waste to one that appreciates the long-term values of quality, retention, and saving.
We will show that high health care costs and lack of universal health care access in America, for example, are not largely the result of the high costs of health care provision itself but the inefficiency, overburdening, and over-regulation of the health care system. The same applies to American education, energy supply and use, transportation, and other sectors of the American economy. In a way, America will have to face reality if it wants to maintain its positions or at least remain among the leading and prosperous nations of the world. It will have to become a more responsible and equitable world citizen and accept the fact that leadership requires being an example and involves responsibility. Most importantly, America cannot be a world leader without its citizens' respect for their own leaders, something severely challenged in recent years. America's leaders will have to be more open, responsible, and understanding, and accept the fact that the role of politics is to solve society's problems.
We will discuss the linkages and interdependencies among economic and social sectors and why America will have to reorganize itself and wean its people, enterprises, and institutions from their wasteful ways. Resources of the world are now stretched to the limit, and newly developing as well as undeveloped nations are demanding their fair share. The large price increases for energy and food experienced in 2008 are just the beginning of a new era with other shortages and price escalations to follow.
America will have to adapt to the global needs for fairer distribution and consumption of resources, which will require it to abandon its consumer-driven economy. We will discuss these issues and possible equitable solutions and show that quality of life in America may actually be enhanced by less wasteful consumption and more cooperative and competent leadership.
The American system of government is truly unique and can serve the nation well if legislators and government officials truly and selflessly perform the functions assigned to them by our founders who never envisioned a legislature largely influenced by special interests instead of truly representing the needs of the people. The same to a large extent applies to government at all levels.
The time has come for a reevaluation not of our system of government but the way government is elected, chosen, and run. As a people, Americans have earned better government and must make it more attractive for honest, competent, and committed publicly-minded citizens to run for government and not leave it up to the opportunists and people with special interests to fill many government positions. America will truly have to again become a country governed by the true representatives of the people for the people.
To achieve this and reverse the trend of largely self-serving interests by leaders in the professions, business, legislatures, and government may require new moral guidelines, better education, more organizational efficiency, and most importantly public concerns, awareness, and insistence upon true enforcement of the laws without favor.
Somehow and sometime ago, our perfect union started to go astray and was undermined by growing self-interests which now permeate most sectors of public and private life in America. These trends must be reversed to make America a true example of their fair, concerned, and compassionate world leadership.
America used its dominating economic and military powers to extend its influence throughout the world since World War II, affecting millions or billions of people, many of whom did not ask nor choose America to represent them or make decisions for them. In fact, many did and do object to America's role and are opposing it actively or passively. Radical changes in American policy, strategy, and objectives are required if it is to succeed in maintaining a semblance of leadership and an important role in the world. Not only has America lost much of its economic clout and position of strength as one of the most indebted nations, but also its strategic policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have largely backfired. The American concept of democracy is not only strange but is unacceptable to most of these nations as well as to most people of the Middle East and Africa. America tries to succeed where France, the Soviet Union, and others failed miserably. Its advances are still perceived as crusades where foreign invaders are opposed by selfless patriots or Jihadists more than willing to die for their cause. And the foreign American and other Western occupiers do not just want to stay alive; they want to fight on their terms and continue to impose their lifestyle, an alien and offensive concept to these resistance fighters. It is time for America and the West to learn that these conflicts are not traditional wars or campaigns against insurrection but are instead religious, ideological, and—as a result—fanatical conflicts.
These conflicts are putting American national security in jeopardy and in reality are not protecting it from terror attacks but probably enhancing terrorists' objectives, challenges, and opportunities. America's global interventions since World War II have, by and large, all been failures and did not, as stated before, enhance America's and the West's security or its political influence.
In fact, the West has lost much of its influence and prestige in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, while the influence of Russia and China in particular, as well as other newly developing countries, has grown in most of these areas. It is curious that Muslim fundamentalists appear more comfortable dealing with practicing or former Communists than with Christian or other monotheistic believing Western nations. This may be because they perceive these new relationships to be solely based on mutual economic and strategic advantages without any socio- political or ideological considerations. Whether these relationships will last is hard to project, but for the time being these countries seem to prefer them to the more traditional relationships with Western countries. Russia, China, and other newly developing countries are not only considered apolitical trading partners with no ideological strings attached, but often they also offer highly attractive terms. With little or no colonialist history and single-mindedness in their dealings, these new trading partners offer unique attractions to South Asian, Middle Eastern, and African countries. These in turn, though not represented in the United Nations Security Council or major world economic group, offer the fact of numbers in the U.N. where they constitute a majority.
We are entering a new and dangerous period. American' resolve to fight terrorism and expand democracy abroad is fading. It is evident that America will only be able to retain or regain leadership by example and not dominance. It will similarly need to completely overhaul its infrastructure, institutions, and services to effectively deal with the challenges of the future.
Most importantly, it will, as Barack Obama so rightly pointed out, have to change— change its priorities, objectives, approaches, and values. This change is needed from within and without. Rewards must be earned; and neither the world nor nature owes us a living, and certainly not a living beyond what we earn or even deserve. Leadership can only be earned and maintained by example for the common good and with respect for the environment.
This journey—and the required changes to make America and the world safer, more equitable, and prosperous for all peoples—is described herewith. It is a journey with many obstacles to overcome if we are to succeed in saving America from itself and assuring its rebirth as a world leader.
Excerpted from SAVING AMERICA FROM ITSELF by Ernst G. Frankel Copyright © 2011 by Ernst G. Frankel. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
2.0 Changing America....................9
3.0 American Economy....................79
4.0 Fixing America's Economic, Social, and Stragegic Problems....................113
5.0 Saving America....................127
6.0 Rebuilding America....................135
Appendix A: How the Financial Crisis Was Engineered....................159
Appendix B: How Would the World and We Know How Great, Smart, Rich, and Good We are if We Would Not Tell Them?....................161
Appendix C: Employees of the U.S. Government (2007)....................163