This Fourth of July is much like every one prior. There’s a unifying sense of solidarity in this nation, irregardless of political alignment, wealth, and race. This nation has been through thick and thin, and as such, we celebrate our prosperity with wonderful clouds of smoke and sparks in the sky with family and friends. Flags dot the streets and social media while anthems ring. Yet, in the midst of this, reality is nowhere to be seen.
Lost and Unaware
The United States is hurting. And Hurting. (Underlined sections will hyperlink you to various related articles)
Currently, the nation is sitting on over $17.5 trillion dollars of debt. This means that the government is accruing more than $100 thousand per second. Debt to GDP is at 105%- total US production/wealth in a year is being outstripped by outstanding debt. 6% of the US budget(roughly 200 billion) is going to interest payments alone in order to maintain valid credit. Despite the dire situation, there is no indication it will be stopped by either Republicans or Democrats. Under both Bush and Obama administrations and Democrat and Republican majority congresses, we have witnessed the worse period of spending in US history. On top of this, total economic growth is still shifty, because although the Dow Jones, housing, and manufacturing may be up, we see the effects of inflation and nominal wage growth squeezing the middle and lower classes. Low interest rates are also a severe problem, preventing any real investment from occurring as people gain extremely low returns from letting their money sit in banks. Personal debt is also still an immense problem, and is no longer a issue of the elderly. College students now account for over $1 trillion of personal debt due to student loans and a failing job market for bachelor degree holders.
The US is effectively politically dead and can literally agree on almost nothing. With perpetual gridlock, the years between 2000-2014 have seen the most unproductive congresses of American history. On top of everything, the few laws they do pass tend to be horrific or ineffectual, reflecting on congressmen and senators alike. We see laws such as the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011-2014, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 all do harm to Americans and their rights. Meanwhile, debt, taxes, education, industry, and everything else are neglected. Lucky for the US government, however, they currently have the capabilities to monitor almost any form of electronic activity an American citizen does.
Empowered by the war on drugs and terror, police militarization has also sky rocketed. Despite two entire wars in the Middle East(which are arguably far from over), more US citizens have died innocently from the hands of the police than soldiers have died as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Police brutality is becoming more and more apparent, and the use of force in altercations of day to day interactions is no exception. Routine car stops resulting in huge violations of privacy and personal being are just one example. Killing defenseless homeless people is another and the treatment of the urban poor is also no exception. Unsurprisingly, SWAT raids are occurring at an extremely high rate, and not for the assumed reasons. Roughly 80% of all raids are used for serving a search warrant only. This means the suspects are only suspects. Hostage situations and shootings only account for 7% of total raids. No wonder just a week ago a child was critically injured with a flash bang when a SWAT unit raided the wrong house. The War on Drugs has effectually created a world opposite of its ‘intentions.’ Drug related crime is up, drug use has remained the same for the past half decade, and police expenditures are sky rocketing.
Finally, we have war. Or should I say Wars? Or ‘Kinetic Military Action’, as President Barack Obama himself has called it. The US has been involved in the Middle East not since 2001, as the media would have it, but since 1953 when we overthrew the Iranian government. This involvement has been steady and continuous, just as it has been destabilizing and catastrophic for the occupants of that area. This isn’t including the rest of the world. Casualties from our meddling with Iraq alone number in the millions, with over 750,000 being children. Now in 2014, despite our supposed ‘withdrawal’ from both Afghanistan and Iraq, we already see calls for further intervention because of ISIS military forces taking over territory in both Syria and Iraq. We see Afghanistan forces having difficulty fighting the Taliban. We see Pakistan fearing the rise of extremism within its borders. We see that the United States continues to bomb innocent civilians in all these regions while funding lacky and corrupt governments. It’s almost as if no matter how much we kill and oppress, we can’t change a geopolitical area for the better. But we’ll continue unabated.
This doesn’t concern anyone, however. Nobody really cares all that much. There are more than enough intelligent and brilliant individuals in this country. We’re not a nation of idiots, per se. The reality is that nobody bothers to truly care. People are comfortable listening to anthems and blowing up fireworks; even those among me who would consider themselves progressive or liberal. Many automatically assume that the status quo as it is will solve itself, that participation and individual action really isn’t necessary or worth it. That everything will be just OK. That the spending will stop, that the reforms will pass, that the drug war will end, that the wars in general will end. Maybe they will. The past four administrations prove otherwise, however.
Happy belated Fourth of July