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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/17/09

The transformation of our unsustainable American lifestyle is underway

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Message Michael Payne

President Obama, the agent of change, cannot and must not continue to allow Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner to distribute taxpayers’ hard-earned money to their old buddies and cronies on Wall St. with no strings or specific conditions included. If either of them is found to be putting the interests of Wall St. over the interests of the American people, that individual must be immediately replaced. There are so many great economists in America that are not controlled or under the spell of Wall St. just waiting to step up and help.

The military – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be a tremendous drain upon the U.S. economy. The Pentagon annual budget of more than $700 billion is far too large and cannot be sustained. Over 700 military installations in 156 countries must be substantially pared down to only those absolutely necessary.

We need to be very watchful and cognizant about the planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq as I am very concerned that President Obama may cave in to General Patreus and other military commanders and keep 25,000 or more troops there on a permanent basis – just as we have done in South Korea since the 1950’s.

Afghanistan may well become a deadly quagmire in the mold of the disastrous Vietnam War. Obama apparently has a deaf ear to history that clearly tells him that every invading nation since Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., including Russia in the 1980’s, has been ejected after exhausting its military and resources in the barren, mountainous “graveyard of empires”. Obama should be considering various exit strategies.

Our military expenditures are totally out of control and are rapidly leading America into national bankruptcy. Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, and others must come to this realization and not let the Pentagon, Congress and all the many special interests to stifle meaningful change. They must make radical changes in our defense strategies, understand that aircraft carriers, tanks, and continuous extremely expensive development of weapons systems (such as the totally misguided anti-missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic) must be eliminated.

Our leaders should have the vision to see that massive armies, air forces, fleets of ships and long range missiles are completely useless and irrelevant in combating insurgent fighters in countries where they control the terrain and they have the population of their nation supporting them. It’s a completely new ballgame and it’s time to wake up.

Energy – while bringing our economy under control and restoring solvency is a critically important priority, the future of America will depend upon a complete overhaul of our sources and uses of energy. Anyone who has become lulled into sleep by the drop from $147 to $50 per barrel or less better wake up quick. $2.00 gal. gas is a very temporary phenomenon and a direct result of the world recession.

Those many experts who have studied the Peak Oil phenomenon know full well that our current situation will not last but that much higher costs and less supply of petroleum will return with a fury in the coming years. As more and more nations become developed, including the developing economic powerhouses of China and India, the demand for petroleum will greatly escalate. The result, unfortunately, will no doubt include more and more confrontations and even wars between nations competing for this critical resource.

America, our government, our manufacturing and financial sectors must, collectively, put our highest priority on the development of new sources of energy – solar and wind power, biofuels, hydro-electric power, tidal power, geothermal energy and others. Obama seems to clearly understand this and he must seize the moment to lead in the reconstruction of American industry. We cannot restore our economic foundation unless we rebuild our manufacturing base.

Since the 1980’s America has lost millions of manufacturing jobs that have been outsourced to nations such as China, India, Japan and others. That trend will send our nation into an economic disaster and bankruptcy if we do not reverse it. The need to develop new sources of energy is the perfect vehicle by which to restore our manufacturing foundation and rebuild our economy. And keep these jobs in America.

We will need to find ways to greatly reduce auto traffic on highways and interstates with various forms of mass transit. The trucking industry will have to undergo a great shrinkage with railroads returning to prominence because of their much greater efficiency. One TV ad for a major railroad points out that one freight train can transport the equivalent of 288 tractor trailers. That is where we must and will go to transform our transportation system. And that will do wonders for our energy problems.

Education – last but not least education is a vital area where America has stumbled badly in the last several decades as many nations have surpassed us in science, mathematics and other academic areas. As President has stated, ““the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens.”

Education is the key to the future of America. As we start the process of restoring this economy by putting priority on development of new sources of energy and green industries we will need far more engineers, biologists, scientists, teachers, highly trained technicians and industrial workers than ever before. Much of the world may have passed us for the time being but we must have the will and the determination to come back to lead the world in innovation and revolutionary thinking.

Education once was the cornerstone of America, the foundation that built our nation into the envy of the world. Now, our high school kids are into IPods, MP3’s, texting, with cell phones in their ears. City kids with no hope for the future, attending pitifully funded inner-city schools, have adopted the gun culture to try to cope with life.

Just think what we could do with restoring our educational foundation in America if we could take just 20% of the astronomical Pentagon military budget each year and redirect it into our system of education. If done correctly with proper vision and with the best educational innovators in America, the results would be astounding. And America could once again become a world leader in the most important responsibility we have; to develop our children to lead responsible, constructive, meaningful lives.

No, we are not going back to that excessive, wasteful, overly expensive lifestyle that brought us to this precarious point. We are on the threshold of a new chapter in the saga of America, a new direction, and back to a simpler, yet more meaningful life; one in which we will have less “things” but far less pain and more meaning in our lives. We can doubt it, we can refuse to accept it, and we can fight it, but real and distinct change is coming – and our lives and lifestyles will change with it. And we will all be the better for it.

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