State of Our Union
Updated: 4 days ago
Folks, the United States of America is in crisis. In the interest of brevity, because this topic is dense, I have compiled a brief description of the issues I see as having the biggest impact on our nation. In subsequent postings, I intend to dissect each one individually.
All these issues are important, so this list is not in order of importance. The crisis is that all these issues are converging, resulting in a perfect storm that our political environment is not healthy enough to stop.
The American education system is failing students and has been for several decades. Our education system is not designed to reward learning, rather it rewards punctuality, obedience to authority, rank competition, and personal charisma. If you think about it, why does a third grader need to know anything about volcanoes? Why is it that, according to the National Science Foundation, only 26% of high school students in the United States scored at or above the proficient level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)? Why is it, in the most prosperous country the world has ever known, 15% of adults have an elementary school reading level, another 5% cannot read at all, and 70% likely cannot read every word in this blog because they only read at a high school level?
The American education system is designed to turn out a workforce of quasi-educated, disciplined, cooperative adults who are submissive to authority. It is not designed to teach students how to learn, if anything, it has become a system that teaches children to dislike learning altogether.
The consolidation of American media and the business model of the corporations who own them have destroyed discourse and have polarized the American electorate to a level never seen before. Accountability to the American public is gone, primarily with the repeal of the fairness doctrine in 1987 and the unintended consequences of section 230 in the Communications Decency Act, but those are by no means the only things that led us to the state of media today. Advertising is the reason media is no longer accountable to the American public. Media is accountable to their advertisers and their shareholders. Media is no longer the fourth estate; media is a profit-driven industry that needs eyeballs on screens, and as the old saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and all the spin-offs thereof provide entertainment and are driven to sensationalize and polarize because that is what keeps their viewers coming back.
The 24-7 opinions of pundits and the race to churn out click-bait headlines have destroyed the news industry, and as such, it has destroyed discourse in America, especially in American politics.
In 2023, this topic needs no introduction. Our country has an incredibly fragmented election system. Rules and procedures can vary from precinct to precinct, and that is to say nothing about how the states handle the process. This is also why claims of widespread election fraud are just nonsense. It isn’t possible to “steal” a national election in the United States. One could call that a benefit of the current system, but that would be the only one. Our primary issue with our fragmented election system is that far too many Americans are ignorant of how it works and have very little time to pay attention to local and state races if they’re paying attention at all. That inattention has several consequences for our country: gerrymandering, voting records of representatives, intraparty corruption, and susceptibility to misinformation and outright lies are just a few of them.
There are several changes we need to make to our election system, and we can start by advocating for the introduction of ranked-choice voting in every state. We also must lose our dependence on political parties and look at the candidates themselves. The election of George Santos, or whatever his name really is, is a perfect example of how the letters D and R have ruined the body politic in our country.
The statement “my tax dollars” brings my blood to a boil. That phrase has meant absolutely nothing for more than 50 years, yet the American people and even sitting members of congress who do, or should, know better, utter it for one purpose: it divides us. Republicans use it to rile up the base about social spending and Democrats use it to rile up the base about the rich not paying their fair share. The first thing we need to do is get the American public to understand how taxes work because far too many still have no idea what they are talking about. The current issue with the debt ceiling is a great example. The second thing we need to do is scrap the whole damned system and start over.
“Taxes” as they are currently understood are not only convoluted, the system itself is antiquated to a point having it in its current form coupled with a fiat currency system makes me wonder why we don’t still use heroin to treat the common cold. I mean, the IRS knows exactly how much money any one person owes, yet we still go through the process of trying to lie to them in a manner that won’t get us put in jail. And if you’re rich enough, you can pay a couple of accountants and attorneys to complicate your taxes enough that no one person would ever be able to decipher it. That isn’t as hard to do as you think if you know what you’re doing.
We need a drastically simpler way to balance the money supply, but more importantly, we need a way to fix the glaring issue with our money system that is disproportionately impacting low- and middle-income families while making the top 5% of the nation’s wealthy wealthier every year.
No, I am not arguing for an end to capitalism, relax. There is, however, a glitch in capitalism, and we need to address it. The United States is built on an idea of personal responsibility, individualism, self-reliance, and all the other tropes that made a person successful when they had to hunt and grow their own food, fend off wildlife, and people who would do them harm. You know, more than 100 years ago. The industrial revolution revealed the glitch in capitalism, taking us off the gold standard as Nixon did in 1971 not only made the glitch more noticeable, but it results in a borderline humanitarian crisis 50 years later.
I am just going to come out and say it, but I promise to elaborate in time because this issue can turn into an argument quickly. The United States needs a wealth cap. The capitalism we live under right now is the literal embodiment of the game Monopoly. Have you ever played Monopoly? The goal is one person ends up with everything, as people who either made mistakes or had a run of bad luck lose everything. What if Monopoly had a rule that said, “Upon a player putting hotels on both Boardwalk and Park Place, the player has won the game, and all assets must be returned to the bank. The remaining players continue the game until one of the last two players put hotels on both Boardwalk and Park Place.” I’ll guarantee one thing, there will be a lot fewer divorces or fights between siblings. If you’re like me, people refuse to play Monopoly with you.
We need to restructure capitalism, period. Right now it is rewarding the people who put hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place with exponential growth and making it more and more difficult for other people to succeed.
The United States Constitution
I’m not sure which one I’m going to get more hate for, capitalism or the constitution. I grew up being told the United States Constitution was divinely inspired, that it was a sacrosanct and perfect document and that anyone who supported changing it was a godless communist who wanted to destroy America. Then I got my degree in law and public policy. I pursued that degree because I wanted to write policy for a conservative think tank and help protect the United States from those godless communists and the left who wanted to destroy our constitution. Imagine my surprise when I was introduced, not indoctrinated—trust me, some of my professors hated me because I was an adult student and I pushed back hard—to information that helped me realize I might be a bit overzealous. In time I was able to deconstruct my belief in the sanctity of the constitution and realize it is an imperfect document written by imperfect men. Rich, land-owning, white men who didn’t have the backbone to end slavery in 1789 resulted in the inevitable Civil War.
The United States Constitution has been significantly altered more than 400 times since Chief Justice John Marshall established judicial review—or the ability to declare a law unconstitutional—in 1803. The document does not serve the United States well anymore. Consider that we have no power to pass congressional term limits because the foxes are guarding the hen house. That alone says the document is imperfect. But I shall elaborate further.
I hope everyone understands my criticism of our great country is a product of how great our country is. Our country is not perfect, however, and there exist several flaws that are slowly leading us down the road of a constitutional crisis. We must let go of the dogmatic love we have for a document written nearly 100 years before the light bulb would be conceptualized and accept that it is not going to govern the United States forever. We must accept that capitalism needs limits. We must accept that our education system is failing us, our election system is failing us, our tax system is failing us, and our news media has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo because it feeds at the trough of its masters.
We either fix it now or fix it when the convergence of these issues is complete, and they finally destroy the country. The choice is ours.