To the editor:
Our country is in a sluggish recovery.
Official unemployment is around 7.5 percent, but 22 million are unemployed or under employed. Even if this situation improves, there is no guarantee that America will ever return to the prosperous years after World War II.
A global survey conducted in 39 countries shows that the majority of people see China overtaking America as the leading superpower.
Why? What happened with American ingenuity and drive? Some people blame three unsuccessful wars – Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — but I think that one of the roots of our problems lies in the moral and ethical decay of our society.
In the 1940s the top problems in public schools were talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, cutting in line, littering and dress code infractions.
Now we face drug and alcohol abuse, pregnancy, rape, robbery, assault and suicide. Who is talking now about the dress code?
In the 1980s, when I was giving lectures in high schools, I was shocked to see girls in provocative outfits. Maybe this can be considered freedom of expression, but what about Hollywood, which cannot seem to make a single film without pornographic acts and endless utterings of the F word? Decency no longer exists.
These are signs of the degeneration of culture. Islamic jihadists are happy to use them to recruit and inflame their religious followers.
There are other upsetting trends in our society. Students cheat more and more on exams, numbers of civic organizations are dwindling, charitable contributions are diminishing and the percentage of people who say that people can be trusted dropped from 70 percent in 1950 to 40 percent in 1980.
Beyond moral and ethical decay, our country exhibits signs of “old age,” according to the historian Jean Gimpel. These signs are: decline of communities, excess of formal higher education, decline of education quality, increasing role of regulation and litigation and decline of basic industries.
All these result in antisocial and non-cooperative behavior. Our congressmen and senators demonstrate the last perfectly. They cannot agree on anything significant, and because of that their approval rating is 10 percent. Gimpel also concluded that America has entered a period of terminal decline that will bring Western civilization down with it.
As the saying goes, the fish rots from the head. People smell the rot.
From Republicans we hear the old and tired complaint: “Our government is too big.” Right! But what does this mean?
First and foremost we have to understand that the government is just a bureaucratic machine and bureaucracy just like any other organization, has its own intrinsic traits. It strives to grow. It invents tasks. It is easier to hire more people than to squeeze efficient work from a smaller number.
On top of that, federal employees earn 30 percent more than people with similar qualifications in the private sector.
As philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer said: “The industrial revolution is now paralyzed by bureaucracy. That is the most basic evil. I see a real danger in the alienation of people from parliamentary politics and from government.”
Another root of our problems lies in Congress. Look at our elected representatives:
Elizabeth Warren with her $22 per hour minimum wage, Tierney, a man with impeccable integrity, Markey, promoting moral equivalence between the former USSR and the USA during the years of the Cold War and later speaking against our nuclear energy programs. Do not complain; you elected them.
We need to change the way we elect our officials. To me the most urgent measures in this respect are a drastic reduction in the length and cost of election campaigns, implementation of term limits for all elected officials, and streamlining regulations governing elections.
Seven Constitutional amendments concerning elections have been enacted since the end of the Civil War. Some states do not require a mailing address, in some states convicted felons vote, some states require a photo ID, some don’t.
It is time to clean up this mess, but nothing can be done without direct action by citizens. The liberal writer Hedrick Smith, in his book “Who Stole the American Dream?” says:
The most powerful action that average Americans can take is to organize at the grassroots, as the Tea Party did, and then put ourselves on the line. Ordinary people need to personally join the battle: Show up at town meetings with members of Congress; get out on Main Street and demonstrate; head for the state capital; take the bus or train to a march on Washington.
Like the civil rights protesters, or the military veteran bonus marchers during the Great Depression – or the Tea Party people today – average Americans can stage rallies and demonstrations and put up tent cities on the Washington Mall that make it impossible for Congress and the White House to ignore the needs and demands of ordinary people.
Isn’t it curious that a liberal journalist points to the Tea Party as an example for action?
So, readers, if you feel as strongly about this as I do, contact me.
Norwood Heights, Gloucester