The impending challenges facing America

Jeff McLean

Today, our nation faces a number of challenges. Many of these challenges come as a direct result of a lack of leadership from our current leaders. Abraham Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Recent mistakes by our leadership could certainly prove this assertion true. Our generation will be faced with a myriad of problems that future leaders must be prepared to deal with. In order to overcome these challenges we must recognize the recent mistakes and rectify them. This is especially true with the advent of globalization. So, where have our current leaders gone wrong?

The current U.S. deficit is now approaching eight trillion dollars after having a surplus just six years ago. While this figure is staggering, the heart of it lies with our current trade deficit with Communist China. About 200 years ago, Napoleon returned from China and said, “That is a sleeping dragon. Let him sleep! If he wakes, he will shake the world.” I think it’s safe to say he has awoken. James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA said in a recent article entitled, “Made in China: Your Job, Your Future, Your Fortune,” “We are dealing with a takeover attempt by the most powerful communist dictatorship in the world.” In the same article, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations said, “The U.S.-China relationship, more than any other in the world, will determine the character of the lives for you, me, our children and our children’s children.” Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist and author of the national bestseller, “The World Is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century” writes, “The Indians and Chinese are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top.”

Friedman also describes what he calls the “quiet crisis.” He writes, “This quiet crisis involves the steady erosion of America’s scientific and engineering base, which has always been the source of American innovation. The U.S. today is in a truly global environment, and those competitor countries are not only wide awake, they are running a marathon while we are running sprints. If left unchecked, this could challenge our preeminence and capacity to innovate.”

We haven’t made much progress when it comes to domestic issues either. This particularly holds true when it comes to spending. Peggy Noonan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former speech writer for both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Noonan was also a consultant for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. In an article in The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 22 entitled, ‘Whatever It Takes’ she made many references to the rampant spending that the government has recently made. She points out that President Bush has never vetoed a spending bill. She also points to the recent pork filled Transportation Bill signed just prior to Katrina. The now infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska costing $223 million was just an example of the extensive spending Noonan pointed out in her article. Unfortunately, it seems to me that elected leaders of the Democratic Party aren’t much better. She writes, “Democrats seem to me these days: unorganized people who don’t know what they stand for.” More recently, I would have to agree with this assertion and I am sure that many within the party would say the same.

Social Security and the plan to “privatize” was just an example of a lack of conviction to counter with a proposal of their own. Democrats knew that this was nothing more than a plan to eventually eliminate the system by using the current trust fund to pay for the transition costs. Instead of proposing an alternative, such as accurately adjusting the current taxable wage amount from $90,000 which hadn’t been changed since The New Deal to a rate of about $140,000 in today’s standards, no alternative was recommended. This tax adjustment would have made Social Security 100 percent solvent. Instead, as it currently stands, our generation will inherit a broke system that we have all paid into. I know that many of us aren’t worried about Social Security, but the fact is our generation saves less than any other previous generation. So, as more Americans have fallen below the poverty level for the fourth straight year in a row we must have a plan.

Finally, I must regrettably focus in on our majority leaders in both the House and the Senate. Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader, is now being investigated for potential insider trading of HCA, which is the largest for-profit hospital company in the country and founded by his family. It is my sincere hope that this charge doesn’t come to any fruition. However, if he is found guilty he must face the consequences. The same holds true for the House Majority Leader, Tom Delay. Delay is being charged with money laundering and conspiracy in relation to a Texas campaign fund-raising political action committee (PAC) he previously formed. This violation only strengthens my belief that it is imperative that we consider tougher campaign finance reform which goes beyond McCain-Feingold. The money now needed to run for public office has far exceeded any reasonable limit. Campaign finance reform will reduce the amount of time spent by politicians to raise money to do what they were elected to do. It will also limit the unfortunate likelihood of corruption and fraud. If either leader is found guilty they must face the consequences. I am afraid to say that if they are found guilty and not properly disciplined the current moral decline of our leaders will only persist.

What remains to be seen is how future generations will handle the current turbulent times for America. This new era of globalization will continue to amplify our behavior to the rest of the world. How do you want to be viewed? Just as Lincoln said, we can only be destroyed by ourselves, he also said that America is, “The last best hope on Earth.” Will we prevail? This is our challenge. I believe that we will. After all, we are the last best hope.