Why America Could Fail, An Unfinished Conclusion!
Richard J. Garfunkel
May 10, 2010
American is big wonderful place, which has been blessed over the years with an over abundance of natural resources, wildlife, fresh water, wonderful harbors and a dynamic population of immigrants who sought out the New World to express their own ideas, enjoy freedom, and work hard. Over its history, like most of the rest of the world, it has faced many challenges. Most Americans historically have been optimists. But can optimism alone alter dynamics that once in motion must run their course?
Lately in the news, the American public has been bombarded by the new economic conundrum, “is a business too big to fail?” For most of us this is a pretty confusing predicament. On one hand the Wall Street monopolists have sold many of us the concept that “big is better,” and for America to compete world wide, we need gigantic companies. Therefore, by default, they became, with the help of many legislators, lobbies, and their own sweat equity, very large. Therefore, when and if they fail, and they are too big to fail, they must be bailed out by the American taxpayers. It’s Catch 22 all over again, but bigger and uglier. So we are all caught in the middle of this problem. Our “friends” on the right are deathly afraid of big government, or G-d forbid the hint of socialism, but do they have the courage to really allow their corporate friends, supporters and allies to fail? For sure, even they know that the “blood in the water” would be too difficult to endure and economically justify.
This of course is can be translated to America itself. Are we too big to fail, and are there reasons why it could really happen here? I am reminded of a very important satirical book written by the great writer, Sinclair Lewis, “It Can’t Happen Here,” in 1935, which tells about the struggle against a fascist regime that controls the American government.
My thoughts today are not about whether we will eventually become a dictatorship of the right or the left. It is about why we could eventually get to the point that there could be a struggle between both political extremes to pick up the pieces of a country that has failed. Today we face many challenges that are inimitable to our age, many of our own making, and a few that are the consequence of empire. We have forgotten the past often in our most recent foreign policy initiatives. We seem to have forgotten that our treasury is not limitless, and that a society which worships at the alter of material and celebrity, quite often becomes directionless and almost impossible to lead. As core values become so dispersed the character of a people becomes blurred.
American faces challenges today that are quite unique in its long history. Throughout the years from the War of 1812 (possibly our second War of Independence from Great Britain) though the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, America was never threatened by a foreign power. Yes, Napoleon controlled what had become the vast area of the Louisiana Purchase and Mexico controlled much of the southwest of the United States until the period of Texan and California independence. Mexico itself was ruled for a short time by the Austrian, Archduke Ferdinand Joseph Maximilian, who was a member of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine.
After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy he was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico, during the Second Mexican Empire, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists on 10 April 1864. Many foreign governments refused to recognize his government, including the United States. This helped to ensure the success of Republican forces led by Benito Juárez, and Maximilian was executed, after his capture by Republicans, in 1867.But, he, nor Mexico, was ever a threat to the United States. In fact, at the time of his ascension as head of State of Mexico, the United States, though embroiled in the Civil War had built its military strength to an unprecedented world-wide level, and was never vulnerable to any Mexican desires to physically reclaim Texas or the American southwest.
Aside from the Great Depression and World War II, where we were exquisitely tested, America has been quite secure as a nation state. During the Cold War, the chance of a nuclear exchange over Korea, Cuba, the Berlin War, the Middle East and Vietnam were always present. But the policy of MAD, mutually assured destruction, kept both the Soviets and America well away from the nuclear button. So there were always external threats, but aside from the Civil War which threatened the fabric of the country, nothing since that time has been so vexing.
Of course on the surface it would seem that this recession will pass, and I am sure it will, and life will go back to some normality. Wall Street will be somewhat re-regulated, banks will become solvent, our health care system will be partially re-structured and again life will go on. It seems simple doesn’t it? It seems like we have been “there” before and that the American people will find a way to adjust to the new realities and eventually prosper.
Most Americans have had a tendency to shake off negativity and get on with their lives. But what is wrong with this picture? Well times have changed significantly in the last generation or so. The question then arises how really big is this change and how vulnerable are we to the consequences that stare us in the face?
Thirty- five years ago our challenge was getting out of Vietnam. The hawks that abounded, in and around, the military-industrial complex, warned us that by pulling out of the conflict the balance of power would irreversibly shift. What was the result, the Vietnamese are at peace, the country is united, they run themselves, they have their own form of free enterprise and the fight is long over. What is the historical consequence, Nixon ended the war and he’s thought of in some circles as a peace-maker. The Democratic Congress that defunded the war is seen as taking the cowardly way out and giving in to the protests in the street. What was the result? The left triumphed, the war ended, no one really cares today, and the right-wing picked up the political pieces. The average American did not like to lose, but was sick of the war and that same public happily silenced the messenger (the hippy, the joint smoker, the college kid, the draft dodger, and limousine liberal). What eventually emerged from the whole Vietnam and cultural awakening experience of the 1960’s and early 1970’s was the triumph of the Goldwater heirs as the Great Society died.
That is just one story, but there are many more. In the wake of the end of World War II, the great concern was that we would go right back into the malaise of the back end of the Great Depression.
Who was going to provide the jobs? FDR’s farsighted “GI Bill of Rights,” officially entitled the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, provided education for millions of veterans and it was one of the best investments this country every made. While these veterans were in some sort of schooling, we had the emerging Cold War to confront. As the Soviet threat emerged the Marshall Plan was able to feed Western Europe, re-arm all of our former allies, and beat back the communists both physically in Greece, Turkey, and Korea, and electorally in France, Italy, and Austria. But, in truth the Marshall Plan was able to sustain our production here of foodstuffs, hard goods and armaments from monies we granted our western friends. We also had an almost universal draft who swept the drop outs and the unemployed off the streets. Most of these rootless and directionless young men benefitted from two years in the service. They learned to take orders, keep their billet clean, a trade, responsibility and discipline. The draft served many purposes, both military and social.
Back in the 1960’s, America led the world in every category of production. Regarding oil production, the change in world production, between 1960 and today, can be accessed in the following link: http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/txt/ptb1105.html , In 1960 we were the world’s leading oil producer with 7 million barrels per day production out of a worldwide production of 21 million barrels. In other words, we were producing one-third of the all the world’s oil. At that time we had more than double the production of the Soviet Union and more than all of the Persian Gulf producers. By 1970 our production rose to 9.64 million barrels as world wide production more than double to 46 million barrels. The Soviet Union’s production doubled and the Gulf’s production almost tripled along with Saudi Arabia’s. Our production dropped from one-third of the world’s production to 20%. By 1980, as our consumption soared we no longer were exporters and our production dropped to 8.6 million barrels as worldwide production grew to 59 million barrels. Our percentage of world wide production dropped from 21% to 14.5% and we were replaced by the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia as the world’s greatest oil producer… In 2007 world wide production reached 73 million barrels per day, our production dropped to a shade over 5 million per day or 7% of the world’s production. Realistically we do not have the reserves any more, but unfortunately we are using 25% of the world’s production with only 5% of the world’s population. Is this sustainable? No!
The history of our automobile production has also turned quite bleak. From the 1920’s America dominated world wide automobile production up to WWII and for many years after. Obviously we benefitted greatly by the catastrophe Europeans faced during the war production as they saw and experienced the destruction of their manufacturing base. As to Asian production of automobiles, before WWII in was almost non-existent, and it remained unimportant until decades after the surrender of Japan, the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, and even the Vietnam War. Until there was political normalization, which now exists almost universally in that region, the means to produce automobiles was either limited or impossible. The peace dividend, cheaper labor, new factories arising out of the ashes of the war, and a drive to succeed and prosper has built Asia into a manufacturing colossus. Many conveniently forgot, in the wake of the Japanese defeat in 1945, that they produced an excellent fighter plane in the Mitsubishi Zero, along with an extensive and competent air force which complimented a world class surface navy. They also had an excellent submarine fleet, large affective transport planes and had mastered all of the arts of modern warfare.
In 1960, fifteen years after the end of WWII, the United States produced 7.9 million automobiles or 48% of the world wide production of 16.5 million. By 1970 our percentage of world wide production had fallen to 28.2% and last year (2008) our production represented 12.3% of the world wide total production of 51.9 million. As the world’s leading car producer, we were able to sustain a balance regarding our habit and taste of buying luxury foreign goods, with our heavy price-tag exports. In fact, only recently, General Motors, which was founded in 1908, the now moribund giant relinquished the title of world’s largest automobile producer to Japan’s Toyota. They had held that title for seventy-seven consecutive years from 1931 through 2007. In the 1980’s, General Motors had 348, 000 employees and approximately 150 plants. Today it has only 68,500 United States employees, with 48 plants, a reduced line of cars and 40% less dealerships. Big was better? Yes, if you can hold on to your market share! They didn’t! General Motors today only exists because the United States Treasury has bailed it out, kept it afloat and is a major shareholder. So much for capitalism! If it were up to the free market most of Detroit would have shut down and the loss of jobs through the secondary and tertiary markets of suppliers and others was conservatively estimated at 3,000,000. Yes, there would have been car makers ready to sell to Americans, but who would have been there to buy them? Once the domestic automobile industry would have collapsed, the infrastructure would have probably imploded and within a short period of time there would be no domestic industry left. Aside from all that “good” news of General Motors’ survival, China has now passed the United States as the greatest producer of cars.
Of course as major energy users, the United States in 2007 led China in usage 4.167 trillion kilowatts to 3.256 trillion. But as recently as 2001 the United States led the 2nd place Chinese with a production of 3,719 trillion kilowatts to 1.420 trillion kilowatts. The United States went from a 2.6 ratio to a slight lead of less than 4 to 3. Of course China has a much larger population than America and the amount of poor people in China is vastly higher in proportion. But regarding total growth in electrical production, China will certainly pass us in 2010.
Obviously we have been losing our leadership in the production of commodities, energy and manufacturing for decades. In 1960, we not only led the world in almost every category, but since then our percentage of world production has been also steadily declining. As our manufacturing and production of commodities has shrunk, our exports have decreased and our imports have skyrocketed. A stark example is the production of cement. In the 1960’s we the world’s leader, but today after eighteen straight years in the lead, China in 2005 produced 45.5% of the world’s cement, with the United States a distant 3rd at 4.38%. Of course most of that is for their huge domestic consumption. But why aren’t we supplying more of China’s needs to help balance our trade deficit with them?
As a consequence of this reversal, the United States has had trade deficits starting late in the 1960s. It was this very deficit that forced the United States in 1971 off the gold standard. Its trade deficit has been increasing at an accelerating rate since 1997 and increased by 49.8 billion dollars between 2005 and 2006, setting a record high of 817.3 billion dollars, up from 767.5 billion dollars the previous year. The United States last had a trade surplus in 1991, a recessionary year. Every year there has been a major reduction in economic growth, it is followed by a reduction in the US trade deficit.
Since the stagflation of the 1970s, the U.S. economy has been characterized by slower GDP growth. In 1985, the U.S. began its growing trade deficit with China. Over time, nations with trade surpluses tend also to have a savings surplus. The U.S. savings rate has been declining for years its savings rate has been consistently lower than its trading partners which tend to have trade surpluses. Germany, France, Japan, and Canada have maintained higher savings rates than the U.S. for many years. Wealth-producing primary sector jobs in the U.S. such as those in manufacturing and computer software have often been replaced by much lower paying wealth-consuming jobs such those in retail and government in the service sector when the economy recovered from recessions. Many economists believe that the U.S. is borrowing from itself and its trading partners to fund the consumption of imports while accumulating unsustainable amounts of debt. Obviously the importation of oil and automobiles are feeding those deficits. We can obviously produce a better car here if we make the proper commitment. With regards to the outflow of “Petro Dollars,” that reality must be reversed.
When one considers our international trade deficit, http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/top/dst/current/deficit.html , China is by far the leader with a current $259 billion surplus with Japan in second place with an $83 billion dollar deficit. All of these deficits are made up of computers, accessories, household goods from China and basically cars from Japan. With regards to “Petro Dollars,” Nigeria, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia account for $72 billion in deficits and our North American friends Canada and Mexico account for $140 billion in deficits, of which a large proportion of those dollars are for oil. This continued dependency on imported manufactured goods and energy will continue to weaken the dollar, strengthen the buying power of our foreign suppliers and impoverish the American public.
Not only are we threatened by huge and ongoing trade deficits, but we are also victims of our own domestic spending. The amount of federal, state and local spending has grown dramatically over the years as we have been fighting two unfunded wars, and supporting the largest defense budget, aside from World War II, in history. By the end of 2008 we have spent $900 billion in both Afghanistan and Iraq and this doesn’t include the current and future costs incurred by the 33,000 wounded from both theaters of operation. This cost is brunt by the Veteran’s Department. The current defense budget for fiscal year 2009 is $515 billion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States . When one includes other discretionary spending in the Defense Department, which includes interest on past wars, homeland security, maintaining nuclear weapons, NASA and counter-terrorism the dollar amount climbs to between $925 and $1124 billion. The 2009 U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined and is over nine times larger than the military budget of China The United States and its close allies are responsible for about two-thirds of the world's military spending (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for the majority). As much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, for example, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined — and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners. The question going forward is not whether we need all of our very expensive carrier groups, but can we pay for them! One way to pay for this vast army is to raise taxes. This logical step seems anathema to the average citizen.
The rest of the budget also has daunting problems made more complicated by the changing demographics of the country. The so-called baby boom generation that numbers approximately 79,000,000 individuals born between 1946 and 1964 is the largest generation in our history. Of this group approximate 15% are immigrants. Also, a greater percentage of these people will live to collect both Social Security and Medicare, and a greater percentage of these people will be alive than any other comparable generation. Besides the reality of the mortality tables, the generation to follow is smaller and poorer. By 2031 the first boomers will turn 85 and there is expected to be 51 million still alive and the cost for their Social Security and Medicare will be astronomical. .
Spending on Medicare and Medicaid is projected to grow dramatically in coming decades. While the same demographic trends that affect Social Security also affect Medicare, rapidly rising medical prices appear a more important cause of projected spending increases. The surplus of Social Security payroll taxes over benefit payments is invested in special Treasury securities held by the Social Security Trust Fund. Social Security and other federal trust funds are part of the “intergovernmental debt.” The total federal debt is divided into “intergovernmental debt” and “debt held by the public.”
Even though both of these entitlements are self –funding through payroll taxes, the Congressional Budget Office has indicated that: “Future growth in spending per beneficiary for Medicare and Medicaid—the federal government’s major health care programs—will be the most important determinant of long-term trends in federal spending. Changing those programs in ways that reduce the growth of costs—which will be difficult, in part because of the complexity of health policy choices—is ultimately the nation’s central long-term challenge in setting federal fiscal policy. ” Further, the CBO also projects that “total federal Medicare and Medicaid outlays will rise from 4 percent of GDP in 2007 to 12 percent in 2050 and 19 percent in 2082—which, as a share of the economy, is roughly equivalent to the total amount that the federal government spends today. The bulk of that projected increase in health care spending reflects higher costs per beneficiary rather than an increase in the number of beneficiaries associated with an aging population.”
The U.S. budget situation has deteriorated significantly since 2001, when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast average annual surpluses of approximately $850 billion from 2009-2012. The average deficit forecast in each of those years is now approximately $1,215 billion. The New York Times analyzed this roughly $2 trillion “swing,” separating the causes into four major categories along with their share:
- Recessions or the business cycle (37%);
- Policies enacted by President Bush (33%);
- Policies enacted by President Bush and supported or extended by President Obama (20%); and
- New policies from President Obama (10%).
But note, that the depth and breadth of this current recession, which promises to be one of the deepest and most severe since the Depression, has caused the Executive Branch and Congress to spend inordinate amounts to not only stop the hemorrhaging, but salvage a number of our industries which include; automotive, insurance, banking and toxic housing market.
The high cost of Medicare is exacerbated by the fact the health care costs keep on accelerating at a pace 3 to 4 times the rate of inflation. This of course affects Medicare and Medicaid payouts, to an aging population that is living longer, and longer, ironically assisted by healthcare provided by Medicare. As people became unemployed, they stopped having health insurance, and consequently reduced the pool of the insured. Therefore, insurance companies were paying out ever-rising claims as the pool of revenues had shrunk. As a consequence, insurance premiums have increased. One is reminded of the reverse phenomenon that has faced various water departments. After a long rainy summer, where people do not have to water their lawns, water fees have to increase to make up the shortfall in revenues from the drop in usage! Therefore, as insurance premiums increase, health care costs will continue to escalate and the whole system will be in jeopardy. It is a vicious, never-ending, cycle.
As to government revenues, a variety of tax cuts were enacted under President Bush between 2001-2003, through the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA). Most of these tax cuts are scheduled to expire December 31, 2010. Since CBO projections are based on current law, the projections discussed above assume these tax cuts will expire, which may prove politically challenging. CBO has estimated that extending these cuts would cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $1.8 trillion in the following decade, dramatically increasing federal deficits and exacerbating the entitlement-related risks described above.
Francis Fukuyama, the American philosopher, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Fukuyama, who specializes in economic and political theory, summarized these concepts: “Prior to the 1980s, conservatives were fiscally conservative— that is, they were unwilling to spend more than they took in taxes. But Reaganomics introduced the idea that virtually any tax cut would so stimulate growth that the government would end up taking in more revenue in the end (the so-called Laffer curve). In fact, the traditional view was correct: if you cut taxes without cutting spending, you end up with a damaging deficit. Thus the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s produced a big deficit; the Clinton tax increases of the 1990s produced a surplus; and the Bush tax cuts of the early 21st century produced an even larger deficit. The fact that the American economy grew just as fast in the Clinton years as in the Reagan ones somehow didn't shake the conservative faith in tax cuts as the surefire key to growth.”
We are also devoting a huge amount of our GNP to higher education in the United States. There are over 7000 colleges and universities in the United States with over 15,000,000 students, or about 4%, when one excludes the large amount of foreign students (estimated at 600,000), of our population. (See: http://www.braintrack.com/us-colleges.) Of these students, over 70% attend public schools and the average total cost is $15,000 per year. The remaining 30% attend for-profit private schools and the average cost is about $30,000 per year. Almost 80% of the students require some assistance, and 23% of all higher education schools are located in the United States which has approximately 4.6% of the world’s population.
Each year the tuition and living costs of these institutions rises at a much higher rate than inflation, the debt load becomes greater on the students, and these institutions demand more assistance from local, state and federal coffers.
As a consequence of this artificial need placed on both the education provided and the curriculum offered, we have a whole generation of over-educated sales people with large personal debts. Therefore we have a tax-exempt industry providing a very expensive and somewhat unnecessary service to a large percentage of the public who are unprepared for the world outside the campus.
With regards to the growing education gap in our expensive, non-performing public education system, nearly one-third of all high school students fail to graduate with their class. http://right-mind.us/blogs/blog_0/archive/2009/04/22/67045.aspx. Of this total amount of high school students, nearly one-half of all African-American, Hispanics, and Native Americans fail to graduate with their classes. They earn substantially less money than their peers that graduate and their incarceration rate is much higher. In fact dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, in poor health, on welfare, and be single parents. They are eight times more likely to be in jail as high school graduates. The estimated cost to our government is huge because of higher public health costs, high crime, and welfare. If the dropout rate for these 700,000 persons could be cut in half, the government would reap and additional $45 billion in extra taxes and reduced costs. In 2000 of our public high schools, the dropout for the typical freshman is 40% before they become seniors. If that were not bad enough, in Westchester County, NY, where many schools are considered at the highest levels in the country, the cost per student annually could average between $23 and $30 thousand per year. Please note that costs have risen dramatically since this chart that was published in: The White Plains CitizenNetReporter, and the cost rose to $184 million in 2008.http://www.whiteplainscnr.com/article6324.html
The Student Spending Leaders in Westchester County in 2006-2007:
1. Greenburgh Central School District , $28,322, (1,800 enrollment)
2. Bedford, $25,914 (1,800 enrollment)
3. North Salem, $25,244 (1,385 enrollment)
4. Harrison, $25,113 (3,548 enrollment)
5. Scarsdale, $24,647 (4,702 enrollment)
6. Katonah, $24,306 (4,100 enrollment)
7. Dobbs Ferry — $24,168 (1,410 enrollment)
8. White Plains –$23,500 (7,060 enrollment)
9. Byram Hills — $23,407 (2,835 enrollment)
In truth, many of these schools have wonderful curriculum, excellent teachers, above average students, a high graduation rate, and a high college attendance rate. Westchester schools have traditionally fed students into the elite schools all over the Unite States. But aside from that good news, many schools in Westchester do not. They are beset with problems and they are easily incorporated into those 2000 schools with high drop out rates. In those districts, along with the tonier ones like, Scarsdale, Chappaqua, Rye, Bronxville, Rye Brook, Bedford, to mention a few, the local tax rate, which is dominated by public schools, is driving people from the region.
Home prices have dropped not only because of the recession, but because, despite the economy, taxes continually rise through excessive budget creep. Therefore, without further explanation, even the 8th wealthiest county in the nation has its problems regarding its own sustainability.
Of course Westchester County isn’t New York and New York is not the United States. The image of New York as being the Empire State and the home to many of our Fortune 500 Corporations is long over. If New York was once the jewel of industrial America, it is now virtually broke, and run by an appointed governor with a dysfunctional legislature. As of today, the present governor inherited his office when the former governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned in disgrace. The new state comptroller was appointed to fill the seat of the indicted and convicted former controller Alan Hevesi. If that was not enough, the former and long-time Republican Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, Joseph Bruno, was indicted and convicted and was sentenced to two years in prison. In the court proceedings against him, the amount of conflicts of interests, pay-offs and phony deals was astounding.
Of course, again New York State is not unique regarding its public officials, and the amount of corruption, indictments, resignations and convictions of public officials around the country of both parties could fill a large book. Is this a break down of values that mostly exists in our more liberal states, which are populated by more minorities that are not used to our system, or immigrants that are poorer and more susceptible to crime? The answer is a resounding no! Not only do public officials in the conservative heartland of America fail, but in these so-called “Red States” their level of social problems far exceed the more liberal states which are located on our coastlines or in the “rust belt” area of the Middle West.
In the November’s Vanity Fair magazine (please access the following site: http://louisvilledivorce.typepad.com/info/2006/11/red_state_blue.html ) one can read about the “real” national statistics on morality. The “Red States” lead in violent crime, overall crime, divorce, illegitimacy, infidelity, multiple sexual partners, rape, incest, teenage mortality, drug abuse and incarceration. One should ask why?
As to illegitimacy rates, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, of states with the highest percentage of births in 2003 to unwed mothers, 9 of the top 10 are “red” states. The rate for teen mortality by suicide, homicide and accidents, despite their state’s reputation for family, religious and moral values, was much higher in the “red” states. In fact the top ten states regarding that statistic are “red,” and the bottom ten are “blue!” Not only that the top ten states in alcohol dependence and abuse, are “red” states. The incidence of venereal disease is 40% higher in the “red” states.
With that in mind, should it not be the question, “Why America Could Fail,” but has it failed already? Many over the past 60 years have stated, “America, love it, or leave it,” or “where else would you live,” or other questions along the same lines. Of course, that is not the issue. We know most of the rest of the world has problems. We know that the poor live better here than the middle class in most of the world. We know that we have the most trinkets still, so what! All the poverty, political instability, war, famine and pestilence around the world have nothing to whether we survive or implode as a consequence of our greed, national vanity, self-indulgence and top-heavy institutions. Unlike 1933, we are not protected by two great oceans, we do not have unlimited natural resources and energy, and we do not have a homogenous population.
We are an over-stressed society, with 25% of the world’s imprisoned population. We have over 8 million people in jail or on parole in America. We have 47 million people who have been convicted of a crime in this country. We have overloaded jails and the cost of maintenance of a prisoner in some states exceeds $50,000 per year. The stress level in America has created an epidemic of legal and illegal drug use. The amount of mentally ill in America is staggering. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/statistics/index.shtml, here are the following are the statistics:
Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to co-morbidity.
The consequences of this reality are not only daunting, but staggering. They manifest themselves in crime, family dysfunctional, the high cost of incarceration, and an incredible burden on our teetering heath care system. As to suicide alone, please read the statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Black American teens, especially females, may be at high risk for attempting suicide even if they have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to researchers funded in part by NIMH. Their findings, based on responses from adolescent participants in the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), provide the first national estimates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (ideation) and suicide attempts in 13- to 17-year-old black youth in the United States. The study was published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in all teens in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Historically, black teens and young adults have lower suicide rates than white teens, but in recent decades, the suicide rate for black youth has increased dramatically.
The last issue one should consider is the ongoing partisanship reflective of the growing political fissure between the extreme left and right. On one hand we have people on the far-left who have a tough time with personal responsibility or standards. They blame society quite often for personal actions that quite often result in a varied amount of crimes from; rape to murder. They disconnect rights from responsibility. There have always been leftist views that have been part of the political spectrum and these views have quite often shaped the middle of Democratic Party. This reality is not particularly bad or good. But today the left wing of the Democratic Party has become more polarized from the center on issues such as global warming, cap and trade, freedom of expression, the belief in G-d, salvation of the darter snail to the polar bear, and the right to universal benefits our society seems unable to afford. There are many in this group who would like to tax the rich as a means to re-distribute income. Maybe this goal would be more realistic if these revenues were used to pay for the expensive services this country seems to need and require. As freedom of expression has been championed by adherents of the far-left, standards in speech, dress, and conduct have markedly declined. In other words, anything goes!
On the far right, we now see domination from religious zealots, who oppose almost all women’s issues from; choice, birth control to equality in the work place. The right supports states-rights as an avenue to not only weaken the strength of the Federal government, but to enable the states to eliminate or weaken Supreme Courts decisions that have affirmed worker’s rights, accessibility to abortion, family planning, sex education or an adequate criminal defense. We see a flat-earth, flat-tax mentality that believes sincerely that all our problems emanate from big government, and decision makers in Washington.
A percentage of these people actually believe that we never landed on the Moon. Many believe that the world was created in six days, and that Darwin’s Theory has no merit. The right-wing often nurtures racial hatred, homophobia, and religious bigotry. They are not tolerant or sympathetic of people who are different from them, and they form the core of xenophobic, know-thing thinking in America.
The left-wing has often supported anti-Israel stances in the Middle East. One just has to read the website Code Pink, or various other left-wing sites that excuse all of the actions of our enemies and blame our capitalistic society for all the ills of the world. Many left-wingers have been unrealistic when it came to Castro, Daniel Ortega, Lenin, Allende, and socialism in general. But, the right-wing has a much worse record. It has tolerated; anti-immigrant Know-Nothingism, Father Coughlin, the Liberty Lobby, the American First, almost all social and labor reform, and dictators by the score overseas. Many right-wingers supported Franco, Mussolini, appeased Hitler, backed Batista, Somoza, Noriega, Pinochet and scores of others now forgotten tin-horn “Banana Republic” strongmen. They believed in eugenics, championed segregation, apologized for Henry Ford, and opposed immigration of Jewish refugees in the 1930’s. It certainly wasn’t liberals who supported slavery in the South and persecution of America’s Native Americans.
We as a nation should have learned much from our nation’s history. As rights became more incorporated into our daily lives, the resistance to those changes has stiffened. I am sure that no one can predict whether these fissures will become so deep that in the future that civil unrest could erupt. There is bitterness towards the excesses on Wall Street, there are strong feelings against Muslins, there is a rise of anti-Semitism, and there has always been anti-Black prejudice. Could these emotional feelings exacerbate a break down of the American state? Hopefully the rule of law will survive and economic recovery will cool the savage breast of conflict.
But, in conclusion, what society can survive and continue to be a debtor in their own currency, export billions of Chimera dollars to the Far East and petrodollars all over the world, continue to run high domestic deficits and have low Federal taxes on the people who can afford to pay more? Something has to give! We can control health care costs, we can reform education, we must pay more for domestically produced goods, we must increase our savings rate, we can work aggressively on home grown energy, and we have to have more secure borders, and we must provide hope and opportunity to lower our excessive and expensive crime and incarceration rate. If we don’t start on that path our will be eventually on the slippery slope to ruin.