The Dismal State Of Our Union.

Upon listening to the last day of Neal Conan’s Talk of the Nation on NPR, I was surprised by Ted Koppel’s response when asked about the future. Turns out, Koppel shares many of the same concerns as I do. For what it’s worth, here is a compilation of my own views of the current state of our union and its future.

Civil Rights – How depressing that people are still struggling for civil rights nearly 150 years after the end of slavery! The Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act was a huge setback, unleashing red states to suppress minority votes.

Abortion – Although abortion was made legal in 1973, women are still fighting to wrest control of their own bodies from the old men who control our political system. Amazingly, women are now forced to fight for access to contraception!

Environment – Most Americans say they’re concerned about our environment. They just don’t act like it. Most refuse to sacrifice anything on behalf of our planet’s future.

Hunger – In the richest nation on Earth, 50 million people are unsure of where they’ll get their next meal. That includes 17 million American children!

Energy – Nearly 40 years after President Carter had solar panels installed on the White House, we’re still addicted to fossil fuels. We spill more oil than most other countries use.

Healthcare  – The dirty secret is that we have no healthcare system. We spend more than twice as much as other advanced nations, yet achieve worse outcomes. And we spend more on pharmaceuticals than the rest of the world combined.

Wall Street – Greed has turned large banks into high stakes casinos. Their gambling habit not only cost individuals and pension plans trillions…many families lost their homes. Yet any attempt to regulate these banks has been undermined by millions in lobbying efforts.

Income Disparity – The US ranks among the world’s worst nations for income inequality. 400 Americans control more wealth than half of our population, and the gap is growing. Yet Republicans believe that 47 percent are sponging off the rest!

Jobs – Simply put, we don’t have enough of them. And far too few of them pay enough to support a family. Corporate leaders and politicians, on the other hand, each make enough to support dozens of families.

Privatization – We’ve privatized prisons, prison healthcare, schools, our military, even our intelligence efforts. Although all of these efforts have proven to cost more than publicly run institutions, Republicans are pushing for even more privatization.

Pensions – We lost tens of thousands of employee pensions over the past 40 years, replaced by IRAs and 401Ks which were originally intended to supplement defined benefit pension plans. The money once used for employee benefits now lines the pockets of CEOs, executives and investors.

Politics – Our politics have continued to move to the right, even though our population hasn’t. When Republicans are in control, they unabashedly cram through partisan legislation. When Democrats are in control, they tentatively nibble around the margins instead of doing what they were elected to do. Both parties rely on large corporations to finance their political campaigns.

Tea Party – This is a relatively small group that has had a large impact. Based on lies and meanness, it seems its goal is to take us back to the 16th Century.

Surveillance – Following 9/11, we traded privacy for increased security. The NSA tracks records of our phone calls, search engine terms and emails. Banks and credit card companies track our purchases. And surveillance cameras are everywhere.

Guns – While the NRA works to increase the availability of guns, even for criminals and the mentally ill, manufacturers make guns ever more lethal.

Education – Thanks to conservatives, public education is underfunded and teachers are woefully underpaid. Enough said.

Science – Many now claim that evolution is merely a theory. But so is gravity! Of course, these people also deny man’s affect on climate change. (See education.)

Religious Intolerance – Islam is not the only religion with extremists. The intolerance of all religions seems to be growing.

Anger and Pettiness – Within 20 years of the end of the Fairness Doctrine, 91 percent of talk radio was conservative…mean, angry, venomous Rush Limbaugh-style conservative… and it’s getting worse. (See Tea Party)

War – There’s no denying it. The US absolutely LOVES war. We glorify soldiers and their war machines with military-style ceremonies and flyovers at nearly every large event. And we spend hundreds of billions on “defense” to build bigger, badder war toys.

Iraq – Iraq cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. The result of our sacrifices is that we have turned Iraq into a vassal state of radical Iran.

Afghanistan – Despite setting a deadline for withdrawal, there is no clear outcome for this war. We may leave the country no better off than it was when we arrived.

Syria – Yet another opportunity to dive into a war with no real reason or plan. But it is a war and some of our politicians don’t want to be left out.

War on Drugs – This “war” may have ruined more lives than the drugs themselves. It disproportionately affects minorities, filling our prisons to overflowing. Indeed, we have a larger prison population than any other nation.

Militarization of Police – As our soldiers return from war, they’re increasingly hired by police departments. As a result, police become ever more militarized…with assault weapons and assault vehicles…and further removed from ordinary citizens.

Journalism – In the 1980’s, TV networks began measuring the success of their news organizations by ratings which instantly sensationalized the news and created the “sound bite.”  Worse, most news groups have lost their independence as they were gobbled up by conglomerates.

With all this, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future, but the pendulum may soon swing the other way. I hope so.