Friday, March 4, 2011

A Really Big Question

TIME magazine's cover this week is titled: Yes, America is in Decline. I guess their premise is pretty obvious, and it's one that would come as no surprise to readers of this blog. Take the essay posted here last week, for example. But here's the Really Big Question, and I've been wondering about it for quite a little while: "How come we're SO broke?"

What I mean is, the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s was MUCH less wealthy, even after adjusting for inflation. And yet, where I grew up, a lower-middle class town ..... Nearby state and national parks were fully staffed and fully serviced; open all the time. Every school had a full-time librarian, a full-time nurse, and at least a part-time music teacher that taught virtually every kid to play an instrument. New roads and bridges were constantly being created, and existing ones were kept in decent condition. All government offices were open five days a week. Almost every kid was in scouts or played Little League, or both. School class sizes were modest, school supplies and books were never in short supply. College was located just next door to free. Cities ran smoothly, and nobody talked about draconian budget cuts. Nobody even thought about health insurance; everybody could afford to go to the doctor.

Nowadays, when even after our recession and whatnot the U.S. is still much wealthier than it was 50 years ago, many parks are shut down and/or have limited services. School librarians, nurses, and music teachers are endangered species. Roads and bridges are old, worn out, and not being fixed. State offices are closed several week days a year. Scouts and Little League are too expensive for a lot of people. Schools are laying off teachers, class sizes are growing, teachers often buy their own supplies or do without. Even state colleges are starting to be beyond many students' ability to pay. Cities are going bankrupt or slashing staff and services. Health care is almost a luxury. Why is that???

I can think of a number of possible answers, and will explore these here over the next few weeks. Most likely culprits include: the huge government debts built up over the last 40 years; Wall Street and corporate greeders that have raped the country for countless billions; the insane, mindless consumerism of the past 30 years; the wars of the last 40 years; and...... perhaps the reality that things really AREN'T worse than 50 years ago, the natural tendency to remember the past more fondly than it really was.

So stay tuned and check back once in awhile.

9 comments:

Darius Lameire said...

I really liked this piece. It was short but hit some very good and key points. I first wanted to address your main question “Why are we so broke?” 50 years ago we barely finished the largest war this world has seen. Many men died and unemployment fell massively. We were the world’s greatest power and weren’t so dependent on foreign trade. We had lots of money and were able to pay for all these advancements in schools and roads because we weren’t distracted with other wars. Yes, we were in the cold war but we didn’t lose any men or money because it never really started. All we did then was build up our military drastically.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

From the other side of the pond it seems as though america suffers from the same problem as the UK.

A massive trade deficit caused by giving up on the hassle of actually making things and growing food for the apparent ease of operating a betting shop (AKA investment banks - wall st/the city).

While the good times roll making gambling a priority has robbed other industries of the best minds of a generation and let's face it, is too easily replicated in other jurisdictions. Both the US and the UK have given the future to a small grasping elite and now wonder what to do with an expanding, uneducated work(less)force.

I see a time where the US throws up a trade wall and devalues the dollar (effectively defaulting on its debt to china) and relies on the size of the domestic market while it sits out the recession.

We live in interesting times - thanks for taking the time to blog about them

SBW

xavier said...

Part of the reason we are in a bad situation is because the government is not making effective cuts. The cuts being made are only accounting for 20% of our total budget and the deficit will continue to drop. However, if we make smaller cuts to major parts of the budget such as military and social security America can return to its heydays of the 50's

Anonymous said...

“How come we are so broke?” that is a great question to ask. This is a question that would attract many peoples attention, why, because it’s true, it is happening right now. This essay is very honest and it has various strong points supporting it. One point is that you mention that they have been having cuts in education, like teachers, supplies, etc. and that is the base of the cycle of poverty, it starts from educational skills and if you have no educational skills, then you have low productivity, then to low or no saving, which would lead to no investment and no growth and back again to education. America in my opinion is not doing the right cuts. This is because they started to do this cuts, and the country is going down, we are now in a recession, and we were not like this 50 years ago as mentioned in the blog.

drew said...

This essay is sopt on. It addresses the problem that our country is faced with, asks why, and then analyzes the evidence that we have to answer the question. The facts stated and problems addressed are completely accurate, and they explain why our country is in a time of crisis. It is true how right now our country is going through a peiod of exhaustion after all of the years of war and finally the dollar is worth less and there is less of it. Prices of everything has spiked, and our country is left with a national debt. This piece does well in addressing the problems at hand and the evidence needed to solve the problem.

immaADORKABLE said...

I agree with the article because looking at the economy and how it is now, you can see alot of the facts and things that you mentioned. I also like how you had the then and now paragraphs. That also made everything you said very convincing. I think that we would be less in debt and have a better economy if we werent always trying to be the best as a country.

Eunice Reed

Sebastian Falcon said...

This essay has good points such as the school budgets, everyone could afford to pay a doctor, etc. I think the reason why today we are so "broke" is because the U.S started to spend lots of the money on wars and trying to show the world that the United States was "the big dog". Also, in the 50's and 60's the U.S population was about 150 million while today we have twice as that which leads to less jobs.

Elise Polk said...

I’d have to agree with your point about government debts being a big factor in this situation because they are out of control. The government spends so much money on things that not everyone benefits from these days. I’m not saying the war was a bad decision to get into, but it has dragged on way too long, and now many soldiers have died, causing many families to lose income. So now there are many single mothers who have to find ways to feed their children. By spending on the war, they are using the money towards more weapons and such, where they could be using that money towards education or healthcare.
This question of why we are broke is really important right now, especially since the United States is having such a huge debt problem. But something that should be looked at as well is the fact that 50 years ago we didn’t have the technology we have now. In today’s society, things are just more expensive then they were back then. So, maybe things aren’t as bad as we think, it’s just that things are getting more and more expensive.

Anonymous said...

i really enjoyed reading this piece. even though it was a short blog it made many fine key points. i also lie how blunt and accurate your question is "why are we so broke?" i don't have the exact answer other than there are a lot of greedy americans. One point is that you mention that they have been having cuts in education, like teachers, supplies, etc. over all i thought your blog was very clear and concise.
-Lucas Hill