The United States is Failing and We've Done it to Ourselves

As a nation, we are failing.  We are failing ourselves; we are failing our children; and we are failing our grandchildren.  We are failing our allies and our creditors, too.  The evidence is all around us, and we could see it if we would simply open our eyes and look.

On Sunday, Becket Adams published an article in The Blaze titled "50 Facts about the U.S. Economy that Will Shock You."  He wasn't exaggerating for effect.  The data he presented is shocking.  For instance, 

1.      "A staggering  48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.

2.      Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be "low income" or impoverished.

3.      There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

4.      A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that approximately one out of every five Americans that do have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

5.      Back in 1980, less than 30 percent of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40 percent of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

6.      The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone."

 That's a sampling of the data that Adams presented, but it's enough to prove this point.  As a nation, we are heading in the wrong direction, and if we don't change course soon, we'll become a third world nation, or as Michele Bachmann said during the Iowa debate, a "banana republic."  Truth is we're well on our way to becoming something that I wouldn't have believed possible a few years ago, and there isn't much time left to take corrective action.  Candidly, it may be too late already.

 On Sunday, Bachmann was a guest on Meet the Press with David Gregory.  You could tell by the sly smirk on his face, by the questions that he asked her, and by the way that he asked them that Gregory was trying to ridicule Bachmann.  That fact became obvious when he attempted to force her to admit that she didn't really mean that the U.S. was becoming like Greece and Italy -- two European nations that are a few steps ahead of the U.S. on the way to becoming banana republics, but Bachmann wouldn't back down.  She said,

 "People are frustrated.  They want us to act like a first world nation, not like what President Barack Obama is doing.  He's acting like we're a banana republic.  We've got to stop spending money we don't have ... What I'm doing is saying that the decisions that Barack Obama is making is acting like a banana republic."

 Gregory and people of his ilk can't fathom what the U.S. is, much less what we are becoming.  In their cloistered, highbrow universe, everything is peaches and cream, and the only real problem we face as a nation is figuring out how to do more for people who should be doing things for themselves.  It's the typical mindset of the liberal, left-wing intelligentsia, and it's the mindset that got us into this mess.  That's not a political statement.  It's a factual statement, and it applies to Democrats and Republicans.  Both parties are responsible for our condition, and since we elected them, we are ultimately to blame.

 Have we reached the point of no return, the tipping point?  The answer to that question isn't obvious at this juncture, but the 2012 presidential election will provide the answer.  If Barack Obama is re-elected, there is little doubt in my mind that the United States will rush headlong into an economic abyss, and by 2016 we will have arrived.  The United States as I know it will have ceased to exist.

 Unfortunately, electing a Republican doesn't guarantee a better outcome.  If the next president steers this nation along the path we're on right now, the U.S. will become exactly what Michele Bachmann said, a banana republic.  We need a radical shift at the federal level of government.  Voters who care about our nation's future need to hold the candidates' feet to the fire and make them commit to the kinds of changes that are desperately needed.  I have confidence that Romney, Gingrich, Bachmann, Paul, and the other Republican hopefuls would be better presidents than Obama, but better than Obama isn't good enough.  The next president has to be light-years better than Obama.

 In Monday's Wall Street Journal, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush published an op-ed piece titled "Capitalism and the Right to Rise."  In it, he said,

 "We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

 That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. People understand this."

 Bush is absolutely right.  The nanny-state that we've created doesn't work, and it won't work.  It has never worked, and it never will. 

 In his article, Bush asked these questions:

 "Have we lost faith in the free-market system of entrepreneurial capitalism? Are we no longer willing to place our trust in the creative chaos unleashed by millions of people pursuing their own best economic interests?"

 Unfortunately, the answer to those questions may be "yes," but this much is certain: if we don't try to get this nation back on the right track, all of us will lose.  It won't be easy, and it may lead to civil unrest, but that's a small price to pay when you consider the alternatives.

 Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.  His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.