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Home » Personal Asides

Broke and Broken: It’s Time to Start Fixing Our Country

Last updated by on 13 Comments

The U.S. is still a great country to live in. We should be thankful for the opportunities and freedoms that we have. I’m sure that most of us can agree on that.

But, let’s be frank… we have fallen from our pedestal and we are now getting it handed to us by other ‘advanced economy’ countries. Everyone’s current quality of life is at stake. We need to improve and progress. And we need to do it quickly.

Acknowledging that we have room for improvement as a country and actually taking action to push for changes for the better is about the most patriotic thing you can do. Ready to get angry and then (hopefully) inspired?

The New York Times produced this telling graph:

us collapse

What Can We Take Away From This?

  • We’re third from the bottom in economic equality. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getter poorer. And the middle class has been almost completely gutted already. Dead? It’s on CPR. Regardless of political affiliation, you have to admit that this is a bad direction for our country to move in. The continued trend of decent paying jobs being slashed or outsourced and CEO’s and bankers making off like bandits is a surefire way to complete economic collapse. And look at the ‘food insecurity’ data point. How can we let 16% of our fellow citizens starve?
  • Our prison population is more than double that of any other country on this list. Almost one out of every 100 citizens is in prison. This ties directly in to the economic inequality point. If you’re poor and can’t pay to put food on the table and find help to do so, you’re likely going to resort to desperate measures and end up in jail. Whether it’s with your tax dollars or if the crime is being committed against you, we all end up paying for it.
  • We are tied for dead last in math scores. Our educational system has completely failed us. We’ve seen what works through special programs and in observing other countries. Why don’t we change it so that we can compete economically in the future?
  • We’re in the lower half of ‘political democracy’. Quite honestly, I’m surprised that we’re not amongst the worst. Our two party system has failed us completely. Would things be different if corporations, unions, and shady shadow organizations with vested interests weren’t allowed to completely buy our elections? Absolutely. Will it ever change? Not through the legislative branch of our government. The party in power has gotten there because they have benefited from the present state of things. They want to keep the status quo. Why would they vote for change while in power? There may be a handful of politicians out there who are still ‘pure’, or not willing to compromise what they believe vs. fitting the ‘electable mold’ of being a democrat or republican… but they are a dying breed.

Meanwhile, we have a $689 billion (2010) defense budget. That’s a full 20% of our country’s budget. Is that really needed? I suppose it is when a handful of election contributions are at stake. This should make you sick:

us_defense_budget

The Answers?

I may be naive or foolish, but I think we could do a whole lot worse than starting with the following:

  • Limiting all campaign contributions to $100 max from citizens, corporations, organizations, or any other interest group. And perhaps more importantly, completely abolish 527 organizations and PAC’s. They harm more than help our democracy. We won’t make significant progress on anything until politicians have no incentive other than to do what’s right and truly represent the people of this country versus protecting their own jobs and interests.
  • Cut our defense budget by 80%. At $690 billion, we are at more than 10 times the third highest budget (UK) and 7 times the second highest (China). At a budget of $137 billion, we’d still be 40% higher than second place China. And still twice that of our education budget!
  • Double-down investments in education, infrastructure, and creating jobs and community improvement programs in the areas of highest crime and poverty. These are true investments that pay us back multiple times over.

Forward this to your friends, write or call your congress(wo)man, run for political office, stop giving money to political organizations, stop listening to the media, and start demanding actual change.

How would you start fixing us?

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13 Comments »
  • Alan says:

    Simplify the tax code!

  • Wizard Prang says:

    Good thoughts, but even cutting the defense budget to zero won’t balance the budget.

    It’s the entitlement programs – Social Security and Medicare – that will bankrupt this country in the long haul. Until that’s fixed, it really doesn’t matter who is in bribing whom.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Yeah, we do need to raise Social Security age on white collar workers. Makes sense to me… life expectancy goes up, social security should as well. Medicare is a different beast…. it’s necessary, but medical inflation has been absolutely ridiculous.

      • R S says:

        On the other hand though, the size of the defense budget is correlates to how many jobs it sustains. Cuts there would have serious repercussions. Just take a look at the number of employees of any major defense contractor. And due to the security associated with these jobs, cuts in this sector directly impact jobs in the US, not jobs overseas.
        The design/test/assembly/production lines for defense products are 100% done in the US.

        Just take a look at the recent Tanker contract that a US defense contractor won over Airbus. They are projecting to create 50,000 in the US.

        It’s not an easy call..

        • G.E. Miller says:

          Good points. There are, in fact, no ‘easy’ solutions. Anything you cut is going to have significant repercussions. But since one party is hell bent against tax increases of any kind, something has to give. Our debt, and interest on that debt, is growing to ridiculous levels.

  • John says:

    My 2c, an outsider perspective. Forgive me if my outsider perspective is incorrect.

    Australia is one of the best economies at the moment. Why? Because China wants our mineral resources for their new buildings and products, and the rest of the world wants our food.
    The USA and Australia are similar in physical size. The opportunities are similar.
    If the USA wants to get back to where it was, it needs to start producing things that people want to buy.
    From what I understand, some farmers are being subsidized. Why are farmers being paid to produce crops that don’t make much money while a huge % of the worlds population starves?

    Why is China becoming the new world power? Because it produces things people want to buy.
    Why is Australia’s economy going good? Because it produces the raw things people want to buy.

    This is a highly simplified overview as of course there are a lot of other factors.

    Another thing also. I am not sure if the USA has something similar to Australia. But in Australia every product has to say where it comes from even down to fruit and veg.
    It is highly promoted to buy Australian. A lot of people won’t buy fresh fruit if it comes from overseas. We ‘try’ to spend our money with Australian companies, Australian farmers.
    Do you think about where that Apple comes from that you’re eating for lunch? I do.

    • Jeremy B says:

      We don’t eat Apples, we eat apples. My Apple is what I’m reading this on right now, and it was made in China. The apple I had for lunch… well it was a Fuji apple, so yes it was probably foreign too.

  • Brian says:

    There are countless things to mention, but I think the 3 most important considerations are:

    1) Taking strides to break our two-party political system, although I draw blanks aside from supporting independent candidates;
    2) Improving education (this would include an increase of financial planning classes starting in middle school (possibly earlier) and breaking overly lenient teacher tenure guidelines);
    3) Increased intelligent regulation of financial markets.

    I disagree with a massive reduction in defense spending. I hate to sound cliched, but our reputation across the globe just doesn’t allow us to put our guard down.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      1. the problem with independents is that they don’t uniformly stand for anything. The green party does, but nobody takes them seriously. Our neighbors to the North have a strong 3 party system (actually 5 if you count the greens and Quebecois), no PACS or 529’s. Smells like democracy to me.
      2. Agreed.
      3. Yep.

      I don’t know…. I’m willing to bet there is a huge gap in what is needed and what is actually spent.

  • Kasey says:

    Interesting insights from everybody – GE and commenters alike.

    The Defense spending issue is a tricky one – my opinion went back and forth while reading the post and then the comments.

    But what about this – startups and small businesses are responsible for most of the job creation in this country.

    (Check out this study http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedFiles/firm_formation_importance_of_startups.pdf)

    If we want our economy to bounce back – shouldn’t the federal and state governments do more to help small businesses succeed? Not only in the area of making it easier to get loans – but just cutting the red tape in general.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we had self-sustaining communities in this country?

    As everyday people – we need to show support for small businesses where we live. We also need to start supporting the right independent candidates.

    Americans seem to have a mindset of just accepting things as the way they are. Not until we start standing up as individuals will we slowly start to see change.

  • Kasey says:

    Watch this video to see what I mean about all that red tape:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQscE3Xed64

  • Lucian says:

    I don’t agree with you. Those ‘advanced economies’ like china are only to sound good on reports. Actually the GPD per capita in China is the same as in very poor countries, that’s because they are acting like slaves and those ‘life quality’ reports are only for the media, they are good to lie the population.

  • lease agreement says:

    Budgeting of government funds is really important. Prioritization of the country’s needs and what we think is the best for the people’s welfare is a good way to start fixing our broken economy. It’s also best if everyone would cooperate in helping our country recover from economic depression.

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