As the presidential debates begin and we start hashing over such issues as national security, terrorism, the economy, the environment, etc., I’d like to pause and ask what is it that truly makes a country strong. I have my own opinion (of course). I place a nation’s strength and solvency squarely on three fundamentals, which I will refer to with the old moniker of “Health, Education and Welfare”.
Health – in order for a nation to be solid and productive, its citizens must have access to good preventive health, and must be secure in having access to effective treatment, should they become ill. A sick population cannot produce, cannot innovate, cannot protect itself from any kind of challenge. Unfortunately, this is not our situation.
With a third of our population either uninsured or under-insured, and an industry that favors expensive intervention over prevention and human services, we are in a precarious position. We already spend far more than any other nation on health care, and many of our outcomes are much worse than many other nations. This situation does not show signs of improving in the near future.
Education – An educated citizenry is the best resource for progress in our rapidly changing world. We are clearly lagging behind many other countries in this measure. A friend of mine recently related that she was asked to help a college student with his calculus homework. She was a bit nervous until she discovered that the problems were similar to what she had learned in middle school in her native Japan!
Unfortunately, we seem to have become a nation that does not value education as highly as we should. We seem to be more concerned with whether our next President can be the kind of person who can “share a beer with the guys”. Any candidate’s attempt to speak intelligently is often dismissed as “elitism”. For the record, elitism, (favoring one group of people over others), better describes those whose policies favor the wealthy, or those who give multibillion dollar no-bid contracts to their former companies.
I don’t know about you, but I would want the person who inherits the most powerful job on the planet Earth to be very, very intelligent.
Welfare – a dirty word for many. We have become, more and more, a nation that finds fault with those in need, and the gap between the haves and have-nots widens every year. We seem to have forgotten that charity — giving without expectation of return — is a cornerstone of all of the major religions, from the Five Pillars of Islam to the Diamond Sutra to the Sermon on the Mount.
I subscribe to the belief of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who in the 18th century declared, “a decent provision for the poor is a true test of civilization”. (BTW, he’s also the guy who said “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels”.)
In summary, I believe that in our zeal to maintain our position on prominence in the world, the US is forgetting its fundamentals; hence the crumbling infrastructure which, in turn, impacts our economy, energy policy, competitiveness, and overall security. History has shown that most empires and dominant nations do not last longer than 200 years. We need REAL change if we are to avoid being the latest casualty.
— Al Power