Why is the U.S. struggling today?

Published 8:59 am Friday, August 29, 2014

Consider this quotation: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

Was that uttered by a right-wing radio talk show host? Was it expressed by a Fox News commentator? Neither is the case.

Historians attribute the above quotation to Alexander Tytler, a Scottish professor at the University of Edinburgh who lived from 1747-1813. Writing well over 200 years ago, Tytler said that “the average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years.

During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.”

If we consider July 4, 1776, as the birth of the United States of America, we are now 238 years old.

Simply put, the U.S. government has spent itself into such a hole most honest economists wonder if we can recover. As of mid-August 2014, the U.S. has an accumulated debt of $17.6 trillion, a current budget deficit this fiscal year of $570 billion, 46 million U.S. citizens on food stamps, and 34 million on Medicaid (not to mention Medicare for those over 65 years of age). We have 47 million U.S. citizens listed at poverty level. College students have accumulated $1.3 trillion in student loan debt with the poorest job market in decades facing them when they graduate.

There are many valid explanations as to why we are in this predicament. For now, a focus on the rapid erosion of the middle class provides a few answers. The closing of U.S. factories and moving their production overseas has created much of this situation. Why has this occurred?

The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. U.S. workplaces are also some of the most regulated in the world. Companies such as General Electric, General Motors and Hershey have decided it is more profitable to move to foreign countries. They can employ overseas workers for a fraction of what they would have to pay union and nonunion workers here, not have to deal with wage and hour laws, be free of occupational health and safety regulations, and keep their profits overseas to avoid most taxes. The net accumulated result is that US factories close, their former employees move onto government assistance programs, the upper class gets wealthier, and the accumulated federal debt gets much higher with each passing year. The middle class for the most part has now moved to the lower class.

It is believed that there are 12-20 million undocumented and illegal immigrants in the U.S. today. Many corrupt employers pay some of them “under the table” thus allowing them to gain government benefits, tax free income, and healthcare.

It is obvious that JOBS should be the number one priority. Everyone agrees with that but NO ONE seems to be doing anything about it. Do you hear leaders in Washington talking about job creation programs? No. This should be front and center of their respective agendas every single day.

This is not about blaming Democrats, Independents, Libertarians or Republicans — they are all guilty to some extent. The executive and legislative branches of our federal MUST come together for the common good, and possible survival, of the United States of America.

ROBERT N. “BOB” HOLT, a Franklin native, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, N.C. He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His e-mail address is hrobert@vt.edu.