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SURVIVAL AND REVIVAL OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
Remaking America and the West
By ERNST G. FRANKEL
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Ernst G. Frankel
All rights reserved.
Destruction from Within and How to Recognize It
Abraham Lincoln wisely predicted that America would never be defeated or destroyed from without, but has to be on guard against its potential destruction from within. The superb book by Pulitzer Prize winner and bestseller Chris Hedges entitled, Empire of Illusion, describes vividly how America continued its imaginary path in illusionary achievements while the world around it recognized it as a Fata Morgana. The main problem is the lack of recognition in and by America of the reality. America is increasingly avoiding reality and its leadership missing opportunities, particularly opportunities of revival of its economy, prestige, and leadership.
America made a number of basic mistakes or omissions in the last few decades that not only reduced its economic, political, and strategic positions but also its moral and cultural leadership. While on one hand it continued its self-assured role of global policemen and fought for justice in Iraq and Afghanistan, it failed to respond to the mass murders in Rwanda and Darfur.
At home, America continued its preoccupation with social justice and general prosperity while using a structurally unfair and self-defeating educational system. Using local taxation to fund primary and secondary education commits kids in poor neighborhoods automatically to a lowly funded and often inferior education, thereby perpetuating social injustices from generation to generation.
Other major problems are the lack of effective law enforcement and regulations and ineffective prison systems that concentrate on incarceration but make little effort at rehabilitation though we call them houses of correction. As a result, our prisons are full of repeat offenders and minor or non-violent criminals while the big fish, particularly economic or financial criminals, usually go free or with little punishment.
America's health care system is basically superb but highly inefficient in that it practices defensive medicine, does not cover all citizens, and fails to use advanced electronic data systems to reduce paper records. In many countries standard basic patient check-ups are performed remotely and submitted electronically to physicians.
With all its resources and freedoms, health care, and education, life expectancy of Americans is a dismal 50th in the world. While much of this may be due to inadequate access to health care, there are many other factors such as lifestyle, eating habits, environment, and more.
Prevention of health damaging factors should be given much more emphasis and preferred to treatment and care even if this strategy is unattractive economically to some. It is time that America considers prevention as more important than cure. The death rate of children for example at 0.5 percent is nearly the highest among industrial countries. Much of this has to do with lack of effective availability to required health care.
Even now with more affordable health care and broader coverage, access is not always readily available. As a result, much of the burden is moved to the emergency wards of hospitals which adds tremendous excess costs to treatments.
America is a naturally wealthy country. It is rich in natural and human resources, has large fertile land areas, lots of minerals, and a wealth of opportunities. It has long coastlines and many navigable rivers. Cooperation and self-help were important traits of American culture, and throughout the 20th century these traits served to make America the wealthiest, most powerful, and the most admired country in the world. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, things changed which had dramatic effects on America's position.
Two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, were supposed to be a response to terrorist attacks on the nation as well as ways to extend democracy. Afghanistan, a distinctly tribal region with a 2,000-year-old culture of tribal strife, and Iraq, which was artificially combined into a nation after World War I, are no candidates for Western-style democracy. Yet America expanded huge amounts of wealth and human capital on these non-winnable wars.
In parallel, America's economy and social structure underwent radical changes. That America's politicians admire and worship the rich is understandable as they largely eat at their trough. What is less obvious is why working class, poor, and disadvantaged—like many members of the so-called Tea Party—admire the rich, except for the fact that the movement was largely built and supported by some ultra rich.
As noted before, America's middle class has been decimated in recent years, largely as a result of a rather curious system of rewards and taxation. Success is rewarded and failure remains unpunished. Similarly, as Warren Buffet points out, his tax rate is hardly different from that of his secretary. A tax rate that levels off at 35-38 percent is inherently unfair in an environment where bonuses of tens of millions for gambling with other people's money are the norm and capital gains and other unearned money is taxed at a fraction of earned income.
America now worships the rich; they have become national heroes. Most have or get unlimited access to political and economic decision makers. In fact, political contributions and the cost of lobbying have increased more rapidly in recent years than at any time in American history.
As noted at the same time, Americans are being brainwashed by media as well as their politicians by being told how lucky and how much better off they are than people in other countries. While America has a truly representative democracy, politicians once elected often forget what they were elected for or even by whom and for what. Few electoral promises are ever kept.
Returning to America's wealth, it is important to understand that physical wealth, ownership, and consumption of physical assets are no longer an important measure of wealth. In fact, knowledge, education, and innovation capacity are becoming an increasingly important measure of a nation's wealth and growth potential.
Increasingly, the wealth of citizens in terms of what they physically own, consume, or are able to buy is a declining measure of wealth. One reason for this is that, like the U.S., much of our personal wealth was built on the shoulders of public debt. As the world's most indebted country in history, each American really has to include his or her share of this debt in the personal wealth estimate.
Furthermore, much of the wealth is really imaginary and driven by, as noted before, incessant self-pride and delusionary self-appreciation. Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and many others invest much more in self-improvement, knowledge, and advanced education as well as training and retraining of their workforce.
In fact, knowledge and innovativeness are becoming an increasing measure of wealth, prosperity, and economic growth potential. Americans are known as acquirers who buy up everything. Owning is their principal measure of wealth and well being, even of things and services they neither need nor necessarily want. Much acquisition is the result of marketing and public pressure, not recognition of needs or even wants.
A dangerous development now is that Americans are now induced to buy or acquire education they do not necessarily want, need, or can benefit from. Instead, as we will discuss later in more detail, even education in America is not driven by demands for specific skills or knowledge but by marketing pressures and uninformed political decisions, not generated by economic planning but by politicians and for profit marketing gurus.
Wealth based on ownership of physical assets—because the assets themselves are of passing value—is really no longer an effective measure of wealth. As we will see later, the same increasingly applies to knowledge, education, and technology, all of which require upgrading and renewal because advances make them obsolete at an increasingly faster rate.
Wealth, as a result, is becoming increasingly dynamic because some wealth may lose value and vice versa as demand and needs change. In fact, the whole concept of wealth may have to change as people and nations adjust their value systems. For example, poor people in a country with effective and supportive social and health care systems may actually lead a life more akin to that of wealthy in countries with poor social, health care, and other service systems.
There is an urgent need to redefine wealth and abolish the old delusion that, as we do in America, wealth is measured by personal property and other ownership. This is like measuring happiness by the quality of food available, which may work for some but certainly not for the majority of people.
In the past, wealth in America was largely earned, accumulated by saving, or made with smart investments in economy enhancing activities. Now it is increasingly achieved by access to the political system, unearned profits, tweaking of the tax and legal systems, and tax loopholes. The old way of becoming rich, by earning it, is not only obsolete but is also largely discredited.
In fact, even though we now crown super rich with the pejorative term of "tycoons," no such approach actually humiliates those who did not become rich by ordinary means, and they get used to dumping their debts back on to the public or taxpayer. U.S. bankruptcy laws as well as government bail out strategies are really ineffective and one sided. They encourage gambling, risk taking with public or other people's money, and do not require reward sharing, in fact just the opposite.
The rich have become not only very influential politically, but they also influence and/or control much of the media. As a result, they are able and do influence not only political decisions, but also public opinion. For some odd reasons, Americans worship the rich, no matter how they made their money. And seldom do they question the rational of our financial reward or taxation systems, both of which damage our economy and our future as a leading and successful country.
Ending America's Great Delusion
The most dangerous aspect of America's decline and problems is the constant delusion of grandeur fostered by politicians, government leaders, and many businessmen, as well as marketing and other professionals.
Everything is always the best, the greatest, the most competent, and the fairest. Americans have in general lost all self-evaluation or self-criticism and are inundated by these often false or even ridiculous claims. Such misunderstanding of the role and responsibility of America leads to over-extension and less than desirable actions.
America cannot and should not be the world's policemen and arbiter. We have international bodies like the United Nations who are charged with this responsibility. While probably still the greatest military power, the U.S. economy is in shambles and can no longer afford such policing functions. It similarly should not get involved in actions such as feeding Muslims and Somali refugees without active and meaningful participation by rich Muslim countries. In fact, Muslim nations should start to take care of their own and not impose their problems on hated "infidels."
For example, feeding starving Somalis should be largely left to rich Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, and a huge military such as Egypt should have been required to actively assist the Libyan rebels before the U.S. and NATO would get involved.
A radical change in Western policies towards Moslem countries is urgently required in light of the continuous growth of jihadi culture among Moslems. Moslem political and religious leaders need to forcefully advocate acceptance of other faiths, religions, and cultures, and truly become world citizens with full acceptance of the diversity of faiths and cultures in the world.
Moslems are usually united in their opposition to any criticism of their faith, but they are generally not mutually supportive. They prefer to rely on infidels to resolve or rescue other Moslems, such as Somali refugees at the Kenya border or Bosnian refugees under Serb attack. In each case, Western infidels were called upon to rescue Moslem victims.
Getting Real Not by Reality Shows But by Real Lives and Economy
There is an urgent need for Americans to look into the mirror and recognize themselves. Our often unjustified American dreams and perception of greatness and superiority do us a lot of harm and are largely to blame for our lack of performance and achievement. This will not change unless we finally come to grips with reality and see ourselves for what and who we really are and what we are achieving and have achieved.
We did have a glorious past but have lost our way in recent times, largely as a result of unrealistic and often untruthful self-delusion. It is time that we openly admit to ourselves and the world that we are but a shadow of our past. We still have isolated achievements largely advanced by a shrinking handful of visionaries and technological leaders such as Steve Jobs, but as a nation we are misled by a largely dysfunctional political and social system that no longer performs as originally envisioned.
We need a radical change in the way America is run, governed, and organized. The new information and communication age has opened Pandora's' box and everyone knows the culprits who must be made accountable. Illusions and delusions no longer work as we all recognize them in real time, and an increasing percentage of the population is and will demand change.
The great and urgent economic, strategic, social, and cultural problems the world is experiencing in 2012-13 are all largely manmade. They were not the result of adverse weather or other acts of God, and their effects were predictable and often preventable.
In a 1998 book, as noted before, the author predicted a gloomy future unless America reins in the growth and inefficiency of its institutions and assures adequate economic output to justify and pay for its consumption. Not only did America become lazy and beholden to a service economy, but its leaders encouraged increasing consumption—first of goods and materials, then services, homes, and higher education—independent of people's and the nation's ability to pay for it.
As noted, I predicted in 1998 that unless our strategy changed we would by 2022 all be occupied in services and essentially produce nothing we could consume or sell except for the above-mentioned institutional services. This country grew as a nation into world leadership and economic supremacy by producing and manufacturing commodities and goods of high quality, unique design, and usefulness—and at a competitive price.
Facing Reality and Long-term Structural Issues
Since the beginning of this century, America has failed to face reality in strategic, economic, and social issues. It has tried to solve problems largely by stop-gap measures which have often backfired because reality overtook the situation before even the stop-gap measures could take effect.
By now, many of these problems have grown so large and imbedded that radical long-term and structural solutions must be introduced if change is to be achieved. This applies to strategic and foreign policy, social issues (health care, education, law enforcement), and domestic issues such as tax codes and the role of the states versus federal powers.
Excerpted from SURVIVAL AND REVIVAL OF THE AMERICAN DREAM by ERNST G. FRANKEL. Copyright © 2013 Ernst G. Frankel. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPART ONE: CURRENT CONDITION,
Chapter 1 Destruction from Within and How to Recognize It, 3,
Chapter 2 Funding and Operating America, 13,
Chapter 3 Reining in Consumption and Greed, 33,
Chapter 4 Social Factors and Income Inequality, 45,
Chapter 5 Health Care and Education, 53,
Chapter 6 Infrastructure Needs, 64,
Chapter 7 Our Legal System, Law Enforcement, and the War on Drugs, 70,
Chapter 8 Defending America against Domestic Enemies, 88,
Chapter 9 American Democracy and Government, 93,
Chapter 10 Making Global Decisions, 108,
PART TWO: REVIVAL OPPORTUNITIES,
Chapter 11 Restoring Economic Vitality, 115,
Chapter 12 Whoever Does Not Learn from the Past, 128,
Chapter 13 Education, Training, and Maintenance, 131,
Chapter 14 Recommendations for Improving Health Care, 135,
Chapter 15 Law Enforcement, 137,
Chapter 16 More Effective Government Needed, 139,
Chapter 17 Values to Support the Remaking of America, 142,
Appendix A: Total Tax Revenues (% of GDP, 2010), 151,
Appendix B: U.S. Taxation, 152,
Appendix C: The Tea Party Phenomenon, 153,
Appendix D: America's New Keystone Prosecutors, 155,
Appendix E: German Discipline and Example, 157,
Appendix F: American Responsibilities, 159,
Appendix G: American Building Codes and Methods, 161,
Appendix H: Improving America's Everyday Life and Services, 163,