A question often asked in polling; is America heading in the right direction? Our seeming inability to deal with mounting domestic and foreign policy problems indicate that the USS America may have lost its rudder and can't find its compass. A myriad of problems have plagued this nation since our entry into the 21st century; extremely serious problems that threaten the future of our nation. But we seem to have lost our bearings and are confused about what course to follow.
Obviously, the greatest problem we face is our current economic crisis. The question is how are we going to deal with it, how can we stop the bleeding and once again restore our economic foundation? Right now, there are no ready answers to this question. Yes, our government is using bailouts, a stimulus plan, a "cash for clunkers" program, and tax credits for first time home buyers but the economy is still dormant.
While these initiatives will certainly help, they are only band aids being applied to a very deep wound. They do not get to the root of the problem and, if we do not identify the underlying causes of the problem, we will not solve it.
So, if the economic crisis is our greatest problem, then what are the underlying causes? While there are quite a few, I see two specific causes, tightly intertwined, that are rapidly taking our nation on a very dangerous path, definitely in the wrong direction. I'm talking about America's ongoing wars on the one hand and the collapse of its manufacturing base on the other. Either in itself is a major problem but the combination of the two is stretching this nation to its very limits.
Let's start with our on-going wars. It's almost impossible to comprehend that, since the end of World War II, we have conducted military interventions and/or occupations in the following countries: Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Somalia, Panama, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq (twice, in 1991 and 2003) and Afghanistan. I left out a few minor skirmishes, but the conclusion has to be is that America has been mired down in constant war. If you disagree with that premise please tell me which nation in the world, besides Russia, comes even close to that many interventions in the same time frame.
Has America, over the years, become a nation now addicted to war? Prior to entering World War I and World War II, a large part of American people, including our presidents, did not want to get involved militarily, at least to begin with, and leaned heavily toward a policy of isolationism. But we did, eventually, get involved in each. What is really noteworthy is that since those wars and our initial reluctance to enter them, our reluctance seemed to fade away as we got involved in one military intervention after another.
Here, specifically, is why I feel that our on-going wars are a direct underlying cause of our economic crisis. That $1 trillion dollar annual Pentagon budget to fund all elements of our military is a massive, never-ending drain on our nation. It continues to pull precious dollars out of our national treasury at a time when we have countless other very important needs
The second underlying cause of our economic crisis is the fact that we have, over the past several decades, lost a significant part of our manufacturing base through corporate outsourcing of jobs. A nation of more than 300 million people with a consumer-driven economy cannot exist and function, primarily, as a service economy. Its function is to support; it cannot be the driving force of our economy.
A healthy, growing economy has a strong manufacturing sector in which physical labor is performed on raw materials to make products that are used domestically and exported overseas. A portion of the profits from those sales is put back into more raw materials to produce more products and the cycle continues. Since we have lost millions of jobs to outsourcing, workers laid off can only buy necessities and the economy suffers.
We have an official government unemployment rate of 9.8% but an effective rate of nearly 19%. The effective rate includes the traditional official government figure, plus the "off-the-books" unemployed or underemployed people. We have to face the reality that a great many jobs are not going to come back and we are destined to experience a jobless recovery.
There is a way with great potential to work ourselves out of this dilemma over a period of time, if we just seize the opportunity; and that is known as the "green economy". If the traditional manufacturing jobs aren't coming back we have to look to a new generation of manufacturing involving solar panels, windmills, a myriad of new alternative fuels and all sorts of energy-saving products. But the president and the Congress, in concert with industrial leaders, need to lay down an effective plan to get these new industries underway -- the time for talk is over, it's time to get moving.
So, to extract ourselves from this deep economic crisis, we need to accomplish these two things: get rid of our war mindset; find ways to use more diplomacy, working with nations on ways to solve disputes peacefully, and de-emphasize military actions. When we finally can grasp the fact that constant wars are leading this nation into insolvency, the massive outflow of billions of dollars will be turned inward to fuel this new green economy, together with other needs.
This illustrates exactly why these two underlying causes, war and loss of manufacturing jobs, are so tightly intertwined. When we break out of the iron grip of war we will solve our monumental national debt, we will repair our infrastructure and properly fund education, health care and other critical domestic needs; we will rebuild our manufacturing base and restore our economy.
If we fail to confront and deal with the issue of war and, therefore, cannot build a new generation of manufacturing capability, America will continue on the wrong course; one taking us deeper into national stagnation.