First: America's physical foundations seem to be crumbling. Last week, a 40-year-old interstate highway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, plunging rush-hour traffic into the Mississippi River 60 feet below. Two weeks earlier, an 83-year-old steam pipe under the streets of Manhattan exploded in a volcano-like blast, showering asbestos-laden debris. And two years before that, substandard levees gave way in New Orleans, opening the way for the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. These are some of the most dramatic signs of America's failure to maintain its aging physical structures at a time when demands on roads, transit systems, sewage treatment plants and other vital facilities are rising. In the event of a catastrophic failure, many lives can be lost. But even the slower deterioration undermines the quality of life and retards economic growth. The larger problem of crumbling roads, bridges and levees and crashing electrical grids can usually be traced to a lack of investment. When budgets are tight, elected officials find it convenient to cut back on maintenance and leave some future administration to deal with the consequences. When Congress appropriates money for public works, the legislators typically prefer shiny new projects that will enhance their reputations, not mere maintenance on a hospital named after someone else.
Second: Three hundred billion dollars of our tax dollars per year are being spent to build bridges and rebuild infrastructure in general in Iraq for a war that was lost about three years ago. According to a new government report the Pentagon lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Failed occupations are synonymous with deteriorating republics (just look at the histories of Rome and Britain.) After five years in Iraq, I worry that our army has been beaten up badly. We are weak. I doubt the US could take care of another combat theater. When Rome became weak it hired mercenaries to fight their wars, just like we are doing in Iraq. Is this the beginning of the end?
Fourth: The economy. While the rich keep getting richer. Abnormal share trading has been seen far more often ahead of large deals in casino and hotel industries than in others such as insurance or telecoms, suggesting they may be more vulnerable to insider trading. The FT analysis shows that 80 percent of hotel and casino M&A deals since 2003 saw abnormal trading in the days leading up to an announcement—we are heading to a recession by most accounts. So most of us will lose our houses due to loan sharks; lose our retirement savings due to a declining market—and we will leave our grandchildren in debt. However, casino owners will live on.