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The wealthiest nation in the world? Wrong!

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I am so weary of hearing this same old, worn out phrase "we are the wealthiest nation in the world." On what planet do the people who utter that non-factual statement live? While that was once a fact, we need to accept reality; those days are over, we are living in a new world in which America is just trying to survive. The once largest creditor nation in the world has become the largest debtor nation. And we have only ourselves to blame.

If you measure nations by the largest total gross national product, the United States still comes out on top. But when the measurement is done based on the largest per capita gross national product, the U.S. ranks 4th (IMF) or 6th (World Bank). That is clear proof that we are not the wealthiest nation in the world; but that is not the worst of it.

It should be understood that "gross" national product does not reflect the actual wealth of a nation, just as gross income is not indicative of an individual's actual financial condition.

So let's take a more in-depth look into what actual wealth really is. Let's start with this observation. If you are the largest debtor nation in the world, i.e., you have maxed out all your "credit cards" from China, Japan and other nations, you have a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion, total national debt approaching $13 trillion, and an economy that is near collapse, then you are not the wealthiest nation by any measure; you are America; a nation in a serious state of economic regression.

Okay, but even though America is in a critical financial condition, there is a way to address and solve our dilemma. To do so we will need to rebuild our entire national infrastructure; that must include our highways, bridges, waterways, the electrical grid, and rail systems. And, in addition, we need to develop a new 21st century manufacturing base to include a myriad of new alternate sources of energy.

Our old manufacturing base has been disseminated, those millions of lost jobs are now in China and other nations and they are not going to return. We have no choice but to rebuild this major element of our economy because a consumer driven economy cannot be sustained when millions of unemployed workers don't have the disposable income with which to buy goods and services. So, in addition to rebuilding our infrastructure we must create a new and vibrant manufacturing sector.

So, how exactly are we going to accomplish all this when we don't have the funding and have maxed out our foreign credit cards? I like "what if" analyses so here is just one more. Our annual defense budget, as I keep harping about, is nearly $1 trillion with all the various elements included. That's a fact. As I have previously proposed let's ask the question, "what if we reduced that budget by one-half, or about $500 billion?" What might then happen?

First, the remaining annual Pentagon budget of $500 billion (that's $500,000,000,000) would still be a monumental sum that would continue to make the U.S. the most powerful military force in the world many times over. The safety of Americans would not be compromised in the least if the military scaled back its massive, bloated empire of about 750 military installations worldwide.

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Secondly, we would have many thousands of troops returning home which would create a huge pool of labor for which there would be, initially, a significant lack of jobs. But that situation could be remedied fairly easily. First we would have $500 billion to be transferred to a new budget we could call, for example, a "national rebuilding" budget. This would facilitate the transfer of funds from the defense budget into a domestic program to rebuild America's infrastructure and its manufacturing.

And here is the model upon which we could begin this process. We have a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 34,000 civilians and soldiers whose responsibility is to deliver engineering services all over America as well as worldwide. This involves building and maintaining America's infrastructure and providing military facilities, maintaining and improving this nation's waterways, improving hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure. The Corps also cleans sites contaminated with hazardous, toxic or radioactive waste and material in an effort to sustain the environment.

So we currently have thousands of military personnel engaged in improving America's infrastructure and making it safer. Would it not be a natural step to take that mission and expand it dramatically by involving thousands more of our returning military in that effort to rebuild America? If that appears to be a foreign, illogical thought, just think of all the times that we have heard of our military being used to help in the rebuilding of infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is it perfectly okay to rebuild the infrastructure of those countries we now occupy but not at all okay to do the same for our own nation?

Doing this could provide a massive shot in the arm to facilitate a real economic recovery, rather than trying to restore the old one. While rebuilding our infrastructure we could be also be working on the development of new forms of badly need energy. These efforts could create millions of new jobs that would strengthen America for the future and restore our standing as a premier economic power.

I can envision using the multi-thousands of our returning military as the main workforce in this "rebuilding of America program." As these military personnel finish their service commitments they could simply continue the same work, but then as civilian workers. This entire process would create the greatest exercise in retraining of Americans for new jobs ever. Is there any better way that we could solve our massive employment problems?

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There is a great obstacle standing in the way of what I am proposing. The shallow thinking emanating from our leadership in Washington, from the top on down, cannot be allowed to thwart such a program and maintain the status quo. Our leaders must be made to understand that America cannot remain a strong military power if its economic foundation is collapsing. Only if we regain our economic strength can we continue to maintain a strong military.

Rebuilding America is certainly achievable given the appropriate funding. Yes, it would take innovative thinking, planning and organizing but it could be done. The funds, freed up from the defense budget would be there, the workforce would be available, and there would be a large cadre of professionals with many different skills who would be more than willing to embark upon such an ambitious, exciting project.

The only impediment to bringing such a change to America would be if our leaders could not free themselves from the embedded status quo mentality that now permeates the Washington Establishment. Currently those in Congress and the White House are hooked on maintaining the gargantuan military juggernaut that is draining the lifeblood out of our nation. In their minds the thought of reducing any part of the mammoth defense budget is unthinkable. But that outdated, narrow-minded thinking cannot be allowed to continue.

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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense (more...)

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Nice story. Here are a few tips to help your argum... by John Little on Saturday, Mar 6, 2010 at 2:51:47 PM
Thanks for your comments. Sorry, but in about 1200... by michael payne on Saturday, Mar 6, 2010 at 4:06:06 PM
From a rhetorical standpoint, to address one area ... by Marta Steele on Saturday, Mar 6, 2010 at 9:04:40 PM
Ghandi said that Western civilization WOULD BE a g... by wagelaborer on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 12:16:55 AM
I know that what I propose seems far fetched, an i... by michael payne on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 12:06:45 PM
We need to curb the conquest mentality, and we nee... by Starla Immak on Saturday, Mar 6, 2010 at 10:04:01 PM
If "all wars are scams that help the rich and slau... by Chris Mihal on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 4:22:12 AM
from a Creditor Nation to a Debtor one? Look no fu... by Stanimal on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 12:04:52 AM
It was during the Reagan years that healthcare cos... by Dennis Kaiser on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 7:29:05 AM
I have often thought about the issues you raise. D... by Jeffrey Rock on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 9:26:32 AM
Thank you for some of the most insightful thoughts... by michael payne on Sunday, Mar 7, 2010 at 11:42:40 AM
It is not correct to claim that America has lost h... by David Chester on Monday, Mar 8, 2010 at 5:12:03 AM