The State of The (dis-)Union

This year to celebrate the 4th of July, I take a look at seven measures of our country’s health and the competing visions of her future. In my Happy Birthday America! blog post from last year, I discussed some of the dangers America faces. In re-reading this post, it’s striking that one major threat – ISIL – was barely starting to register in our consciousness and that the competing visions are starker than ever.

Seven Measures

In a country as vast and complicated as America, there are many possible measures of the country’s health (or lack thereof). I have chosen these seven to look at.

  • Economy – GDP growth
  • Economy – National debt
  • Economy – Stock market
  • Economy – Employment
  • Public Opinion – Country on the Right Track
  • Public Opinion – Presidential Approval Rating
  • Public Opinion – Race Relations

Four of them relate to the economy which is our country’s lifeblood, two measure important public opinion trends and the final one looks at the fault line that has been present since the founding.

The US economy contracted in the first quarter of 2015 by 0.2% compared to a contraction in Q1 2014 of 2.1%. Overall, the economy has grown by an average of 1.8% per year since President Obama took office, comparable to growth during the Bush 43 years and significantly lower than what Presidents Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton presided over.

This anemic economic growth is overshadowed by the disturbing fact that the total indebtedness of the federal government ($18.6 trillion) now exceeds the total value of the US economy ($18.1 trillion). This debt increases by about $2 billion per day. While people are distracted by fights about gay marriage and symbols of a vanquished rebellion, our entrenched political class does NOTHING to solve this problem. As long as the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, this is a problem but not a crisis. Once other economies – like China’s – grow larger than the US economy, this will become an existential crisis. NOW is the time to get this problem under control. It is a bipartisan problem and requires bipartisan solutions.

Fortunately for the 1% and the rest of us who own equity investments, the stock market has risen slightly over last year, closing at 17,730.11 on July 3 compared to 17,068.26 on July 3, 2014. As I wrote elsewhere recently, the 1% is doing quite well under Obama, and probably will continue to do well with current economic trends.

Unemployment is down from last year’s 6.1% (as of June) to 5.3% this June. Don’t break out the champagne just yet, though. The labor force participation rate has declined as well – from 62.8% last year to 62.6% this year.  As the table below shows, 93 million Americans are not in the labor force. That is almost a third of the population.

Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

I think it’s safe to say that the economy is still struggling at this time. While we are not in a recession, we are certainly not enjoying the growth that was present during the 1980s through 2000. I think there are several reasons for this including over-burdensome government regulations, gridlock in Washington, uncertainty about energy policy and a stifling tax code. I don’t see any change to this environment, either, given the near 50-50 ideological split we have in this country.

In June 2015 61% think that the country in going in the wrong direction (down from 63% last summer). It is apparent that the majority of Americans are not happy with the current trends in our society. What is less clear is whether that dissatisfaction extends to any one political party or elected official. My suspicion is that most people are just disgusted with Washington and the professional political class. Establishing term limits for all elected and appointed officials is an urgent first step to address this problem.

In the summer of 2014 President Obama’s approval rating was at 41% and this summer it is at 47%, an improvement that defies logic and common sense. With the myriad failures of the Obama presidency, it is truly amazing that anyone approves of him, much less almost half the population. These failures include the rise and spread of ISIL, loss of respect from our enemies abroad and impaired relations with friends and allies. Obamacare remains highly unpopular (except with insurance and pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders) and the progressive goal of getting 100% of the population covered by health insurance is failing miserably.

Finally, race relations are perceived to be “generally bad” by 61% of Americans. Instead of healing racial tensions as the Obama sycophants promised, under our first black President race relations have gone downhill at an accelerating rate. Because the Democratic Party plays identity politics, it is in their interest to promote this disharmony.

Another symptom of this problem Gallup’s recent poll finding that the majority of people in the US who say they are “extremely proud” to be an American is getting smaller.

Gallup poll 20150704

I think this metric ties into the “country on the wrong track” view of a majority of Americans. Clearly something is wrong. What is less clear is how to fix the problems, which leads to the vast divide between the competing visions of the Left and the rest of us.

Competing Visions

As I wrote last year, there are two fundamentally competing visions vying for supremacy in the American political experiment. One of them is the libertarian/conservative viewpoint that gave rise to the War of American Revolution and the founding of our country with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The other is the bastard child of the failed Marxist/Leninist philosophy as adapted for the 21st century by the Third Left in America.

Under the guise of fighting for “social justice” these self-labeled “progressives” work tirelessly to increase the size, power and reach of government at all levels of society.

Rejecting the Judeo-Christian religious framework upon which America was founded, these modern day progressives have faith in government as their religion, and like any religious fundamentalists do not tolerate any dissent or opposing viewpoints.

While they claim to be “for the common person”, the prime movers behind this movement are m/billionaires including George Soros, Tim Gill, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Al Gore, Bill and Melinda Gates, the Stryker family and many others.

While they claim to be for “tolerance” and “equal treatment” what they really mean are demands that everyone accept their views and agendas. Their definition of equal treatment is special rights for their favored groups and trampling the rights of groups they don’t like.

While they pretend to want “openness”, “transparency” and “accountability” in politics and decry “dark money” they have the most opaque administration in history, a presidential candidate whose name is synonymous with dishonesty and scandal, and very little accountability at any level. They have so called “ethics watchdogs” whose sole purpose is to persecute and harass the opposition under the guise of being “nonpartisan”.

They claim to have compassion for “the poor” and “minorities” yet promote a climate change agenda that demands an end to the use of fossil fuels which provide cheap, reliable energy. As I and others have written, access to reliable energy is a hallmark of modern living and promotes human flourishing. Where people lack access to reliable energy, life is harsh, brutal and short. Progressives would have us believe that “renewable” energy which currently provides less than 10% of our energy needs can magically transform into the primary source of energy in the modern and developing worlds.

The values that America was founded upon: a belief in personal responsibility, equality of opportunity, enumerated rights, limited government, the sovereignty of the people and the role of the citizen legislator are under relentless attack. Instead of personal responsibility, the Left would have government provide “free” cradle-to-grave care for everybody. Equality of opportunity must be replaced by equality of outcome. Limited government must give way to all-powerful, activist government. Rule of law becomes rule of the people who constitute the elite. Instead of the individual being sovereign, the State becomes supreme. Citizen legislators have been replaced with a parasitic class of professional politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists.

Here’s why the Left’s vision will ultimately fail: Free benefits can only be provided through a combination of confiscatory taxation policies and the incurrence of debt. Neither of these is sustainable and will ultimately bankrupt this country.

Freedom

Only by unleashing the power of the individual and limiting the power of the State can full human potential be achieved. Government must be reduced in size and scope to the proper functions which are:

  • Enforcement of contract and defense of private property
  • National defense
  • Public infrastructure
  • Law enforcement
  • Integrity of the voting franchise
  • Some sort of safety net for the temporarily or permanently disadvantaged
  • Ensure that “equality of opportunity” exists for all

The American economy is capable of more growth than a measly 1.8% annually – if the shackles of government regulation and tax policies are removed people will be free to risk, innovate, succeed and fail. Higher growth benefits everybody, not just the 1% who seem to do well no matter what.

Having recently attended the Western Conservative Summit, I know that there are many Americans out there who continue to believe in the Judeo-Christian vision of America. I support that view for the most part, but I also recognize that there are other belief systems in the world, and that religion alone is not a suitable basis for determining public policy.

My hope for the future is that the people in the vast middle – those who don’t like, follow or care about politics except at election time – awaken to the fundamental divide our country is facing, educate themselves on the issues, and push back against the “progressive” tide that is sweeping America. I fear that our best days are behind us if we cannot gain the moral and intellectual ascendance over this morally and intellectually bankrupt philosophy.

Here’s another reason why the Left’s vision will ultimately fail: The history of humanity on this planet has been an inexorable march toward freedom. America at her founding was the latest manifestation of this march. Let’s restore our country to its founding principles.

By Richard D. Turnquist

July 4, 2015

 

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