Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The long, slow decline

So Congress finally passed a bill, and the president signed it into law (at the very last moment - our heroes), raising the debt ceiling and taking aim at deficit reduction. The only problem with this bill is that it's completely absurd and useless. Okay, fine, if Congress and the president want to give themselves slaps on the back for averting a downgrading of the nation's credit rating, setting a pretty low bar, then I guess they did succeed (or at least they tell us they succeeded) in doing so.
However, the fact that it seems like every single important bill that gets passed a) at the last minute, and b) after contentious partisan debate that essentially guts the bill of anything substantial, tells me a couple of things. The first is that the Republican party has made a huge mistake caving into their far-right tea party element, and due to the fact that they're scared about losing elections, they're allowing a small, vocal minority run their show. The second is that our government, and I used government mostly as a euphemism for Congress and the president, are incredibly myopic in their legislation, and are pushing the United States further and further over the brink toward become another former empire.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the United States is going to disappear, or become a third world country; I'm simply saying that the days of the United States as the sole global economic, social and military superpower are waning. Not only are there other countries that are on the fast-track to superpower status (e.g. China), but our legislators are passing laws (or not passing laws) that are not only not taking care of the problems that they are intended to take care of, but in many - and probably most circumstances - are actually making them worse.
Okay, so where does that put us. Well, we could sit around and lament the slow decline of our once great (or at least said to be once great) empire, or we could embrace the fact that our government is the reason for the decline, and use that as an impetus for changing not only the people in government, but the actual structure itself - I'd say it's aptly proven to be a failure. This could have two different effects; the first potential effect is that this could turn around our decline, and we could actual recover, and remain one among many superpowers, and have respect for the rest of the world, and not always be throwing our weight around.
Or, we could continue on the downward trajectory toward the middle, but end up being much happier for it. I was having a discussion the other day about the decline of the United States, and a friend of mine brought up a great point - countries that were former empires are actually happier in the middle of the global power structure rather than at the top. At the top you have to think about how to stay on top; you have to constantly worry about how your economy is going to effect the rest of the world, you have to get involved in skirmishes throughout the world so that you can "spread democracy" and "freedom", you have to make sure to continue to put out great music, movies, television and other media (like Jersey Shore, Dancing with the Stars, Lady Gaga, Transformers 3 and the New York Post). It's all such a big chore. I think that with a country like ours, which according to Sarah Palin is represented best by those in the middle of the country (although they only account for less than 30 percent of the total population), we would be happy to settle into the middle of the global hierarchy. Let's ease the pressure that has been building in this country, and not only face our fate, but embrace it. Let's continue to pass senseless laws that have no chance of success, and blame one another for all of the ails of society. It's worked up to this point in bringing us down, and I think that if we continue with the same veracity, or even ramp it up a bit, we could fall dramatically in the next couple of decades.

To quote one of my favorite movies (although not on my favorite movie list), Almost Famous.
Lester Bangs: What, are you like the star of your school?
William Miller: They hate me.
Lester Bangs: You'll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle.

We're 'them', and the rest of the world is William.

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