Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Wearing Down of America

My Minden Times Column This Week

People continue to shake their heads and ask how Donald Trump, the vulgarian who inherited all his money, got to be a U.S. presidential contender. The answer will not be found by studying the man. The answer lies within the millions of Americans who support him.

His supporters are citizens most hurt by America’s decline. They lack the education or skills needed to stay afloat in these changing times. They feel voiceless with little understanding of, and no say in what their government does.

These are people who believe America is losing, and they are correct. America is a decaying empire that is losing on many fronts.

Consider these findings from a study published last year by Dr. Hershey Friedman of Brooklyn College:

  • China at the end of 2014 overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest economy. China accounted for 16.48 per cent  of the world’s purchasing power-adjusted Gross Domestic Product. The U.S. figure was 16.28 per cent. 
  • The U.S. ranks 35th best of 157 countries with people living below the poverty line. And, 25 per cent of U.S. children under age five live in poverty. 
  • The U.S. also has one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality. The Chief Executive Officer-to-minimum wage worker pay ratio in the U.S. is a shocking 774:1. 
  • The U.S, is 17th among 36 countries ranked for overall happiness about life. 
Professor Hershey’s report appears to lean toward socialist political movements but his sources for data cited appear legitimate.

At any rate, it is a fact that millions of Americans are angry about poverty levels, income inequality, lost economic opportunities and a decline in world stature and power. They just don’t feel good about themselves anymore. Thus the clamour to join Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign.

America has been in decline for several decades now. I follow it back to Viet Nam, the lost war that followed the lost war in Korea. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Stop the Commies from overrunning Asia. Stop the dominoes from falling before the last one lands on the U.S. doorstep.

It didn’t seem like such a good idea after 60,000 young Americans and tens of thousands of Vietnamese died in the steamy Southeast Asian jungles and the U.S. had to admit defeat. More U.S. war losses followed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia (remember Blackhawk Down?).

Then there has been the War on Poverty declared by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 when the U.S. poverty rate was 19 per cent. Forty-nine years later in 2013 the poverty rate was down to 14.5 per cent but poor Americans still numbered 45.3 million, the same as 1964. Another failed war.

In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2013 an estimated 24.6 million Americans had used an illicit drug in the previous month. Yet another failed war.

Americans now are fighting and losing a war against Islamic extremism abroad, and at home. So far at home they’ve seen 9-11, the Boston Marathon and San Bernardino.

With all that weighing them down, who can blame Americans for not feeling good about themselves and their future. Germans felt much the same way following the First World War, so they elected a Fascist to make them great again.

Donald Trump seems like a good idea to a lot of Americans. He won’t get to lead them, however. He likely won’t win the Republican nomination and if he does, he won’t win the presidency. Americans elect their presidents from the centre, not from the extreme left or right wings.

Whoever does win will try to better American life, and likely will achieve some small successes. He or she will not be able to stop the empire from crumbling.

Empires come and empires go. There were the Greeks, then the Romans, and the individual European individual state empires. In the Americas, the Aztecs and the Incas.

Empires are like mountains that break through the earth’s crust and rise to majestic heights over time. Eventually wind, water and other elements grind them down to foothills.


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