The Five Biggest Problems Facing America

The Five Biggest Problems Facing America September 13, 2011

I watched President Obama’s speech last week, and I’ve paid half-attention to the Republican presidential debates last week and this week (primarily though the eyes of Stewart and Colbert).  And I disagree with all of them.  I do not think that a 9.1% unemployment rate is the biggest problem facing America.  In fact, I don’t even think it’s in the top five.

IMHO, the five biggest problems facing America, about which I will blog during the balance of this week, are:

5. Unnecessary wars

4. Inequalities in public education

3. Corporate tax loopholes

2. Medicare

1. Money in politics

What do you think of the list?  Agree or disagree, please weigh in as I tackle all five this week.


You can find all of Tony’s books HERE, and you can sign up to be the first to know about his next book, Did God Kill Jesus? HERE.

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  • 5. ignoring “allies” like Saudi Arabia & Bahrain as we pursue a strategy of violence in the middle east

    4. an intransigent frame around public education

    3. angry, unemployed or underemployed white men who see their primacy on the wane

    2. the control that u.s. corporation exert without any checks & balances

    1. poverty in ‘merika

    • bill

      unnecessary wars should be higher on the list

    • rusty covey

      no pro One solution would fix all of this. Superficial values, the modern day parent over the last ten years have lead their families in finding the fastest, easiest way to take care of their children. Dinner? No, problem! McDonald Drive thru. How about tangible needs? Parents are teaching their children, material things are about investments. Can’t make money unless a tangible item is sold. Children are learning poor values from their parents. How destructive are parents to their children up-rooting them every three years, when it time to sell their house, buy another one and sell it. The same goes for clothes, children are thought, its better to stay in fashion, than, it is to wear clothes until they are worn out or have out-grown them. We are setting our children up to depend on other countries. Depending on other countries will lead us to war. *Lets look at businesses in America, I have over 35 years working with over 40 companies in four different states, the biggest problem in businesses in America. The owner and/or management can’t leave their personal life at home. Or they can’t leave business life at work. When one suffers, so will the other. *To fix the problems in the world parents must be better role models. Its far to late for parents to discipline their child after the fact, like when they see the report card. “You can tell a lot about the parents by watching how the kids act and say things.

    • Charles slakan

      100 %, the number one problem is money in politics and the bigger problem is that it has been dressed up like the COMMUNISM in China to appear as though it came along with the Constitution. If a cop stops me for speeding and I offer him some tickets to the football game, or a donation to the police benevolent society or if he is running for something like sheriff, a contribution, what do you think would or should happen to me? I would be arrested for trying to bribe him. I am thinking that’s a felony?
      The point is calling lobbyists’ GIFTS to our elected officials campaigns and any other paid perk is bribery. They have dressed up with a nice name, lobbying.
      Lobbying is actually in our Constitution and anyone is allowed access to their representatives, but the Constitution does not include bribes and in no other place in our society is bribery legal!
      A congressperson may say well that money did not get any special consideration but the fact of the matter the regular Joe one of the 47% and maybe even some that are responsible could not compete with the money any of these entities throw around.
      They include churches, the pentagon(it’s like Alice in Wonderland, the government lobbying the government), very wealthy people like the guy that has th gambling casinos in communist china is making an arm and a leg but wants more government welfare to boot.
      Yes, they are all willing to pay to play for what? Because they just love those representatives, no we all know for what. Democrats and republicans are equally guilty, anyone that accepts bribes should be thrown out of office period.
      It undermines the idea of our republic, by the people and for the people.
      On the top of people, Citizens didn’t have to go to the Supreme Court to figure if corporations were people. A child could have told them, the criteria the Constitution sets is they are of voting age, they are either BORN here or naturalized, they can bear arms, they can walk imto a voting booth.
      It is so un-American to say a corporation is a person when a corporation, even it’s board consists of voters who often have varied views and employees that are also independent when it comes to voting. A corporation only votes one place, on the hill with a sack of money.
      The worst of all is that corporations and other entities do not have to be answerable to Americans when they donate which means that foreign entities could influence ourelctions and that is Unconstitutional.
      We need to take our country back from the lobbyists who offer bribes and the crooks that accept the money or favors, regardless of its form.
      Good for 1. Bribery on the hell

    • Caroline

      Is number5 supposed to be a good thing or ad thing. Amy way i say that child abuse is a very serious situation that we currently are dealing with.

    • Rob

      What do you suggest we do with those burdensome “white men”, bob?

  • Mary

    Yes. I had a conversation with someone earlier today in which the other person advocated for the government to show us how the money is spent before asking anyone to cough up another dime in taxes (regardless of income level). In some ways, money in government is a shell game. If you’ve ever worked in a college/university and watched the flow of money, you realize how circular the economy is…and that it might be a microcosm of the way the government handles money.
    And then there’s the money in politics. Money not only talks, it pulls the strings. So our elected officials who should represent their constituents (and the fact they rarely seem to might need to be #6 on the list) are owned by corporations. (Why do we bother to vote, again?) It seems to be the only way one can enter politics these days. And if you don’t have the money to get into politics to make some changes (assuming change is even possible given our current political system which renders even the best individuals with the best ideals impotent), what can you do but sit on the sideline?

  • Andrew

    Income inequality and the related problem of an increasingly regressive taxation system.

    Health care probably deserves to be on the list, not just Medicare. The rising cost of health care is a hidden tax that is, again, quite regressive in that it disproportionally hits the working poor.

    • Andrew, both of these will be addressed in the 5.

  • I don’t disagree that those are all major problems (especially the warmongering), but I think overconsumption is our greatest problem and is responsible for almost all the others.

    Our overconsumption is destructive of the natural environment, both in the US and around the world. It is destructive of the natural economies in those places producing the stuff we consume. It is destroying our health through obesity, diabetes and other diseases and infirmities that result from overconsumption. It is responsible for our mindboggling debt, as people and as a government. It leads invariably to war and the exploitation of the poor around the world. It is unsustainable. It is immoral.

    • Leslie

      Bill, I could not agree wit you more. We are committing social and literal suicide with our wallets. We are telling the corporations and the government (maybe the same nowadays) through our spending what we value, what is important to us as a nation. Unfortunately the mall and walmart are coming up as what we value the most as a nation.

  • Dan Hauge

    These are all big problems, and I think you could argue that high unemployment is a result of all five of them, in some way or another. But I think I would still put unemployment as just as important or more important than any of those 5. People out of work contributes to poverty, a lack of a sense of dignity for many, and short changes our society from the gifts and productive work of a lot of people. Why do you not consider unemployment to be much of a big deal?

  • Patrick Sexton

    Corporate tax loopholes? Seriously? Worse than crippling debt, a social security program that has no dough and soon-to-come massive inflation? Hmmm. I’m totally with you on education but I suspect we have different solutions: i.e. allowing poor children – not just those of privilege – to go to good schools through vouchers, charter schools, anything that will get them out of crappy schools.

    Obama has tried to be the second coming of Keynes with appalling (though completely predictable) results: high unemployment, massive debt, corruption and business sitting on its hands. How the economy isn’t number 1, 2 and 3 on your list is a mystery.

    But, well done, you’ve written something sure to get lots of responses!

    • Patrick, would you agree that the collapse at the end of the 8 years of George W Bush had a significant impact on high unemployment, massive debt, corruption and business sitting on its hands ?

      I was so pleased Tony mentioned corporate welfare. Our country is quick to villainize those who utilize programs in the economic safety net, but rarely do corporations get mentioned for their dependence on welfare programs.

      Just look at the aftermath of the ’08 financial meltdown. Tea Party goes after people at the end of the economic spectrum, while fin services & multi-nationals get off scott free.

      • Patrick Sexton

        Not sure I understand your question, but I’ll try. Our economy frequently has significant downturns, the one at the end of Bush’s term being an example. It did not need to become what Obama (and to some extent, Bush) made it: a 4 year recession of historic proportions. The similarities between Bush/Obama and Hoover/FDR are striking: they tried to “prime the pump” with government money and failed spectacularly. The trillion dollar stimulus was supposed to prevent 10% unemployment. Instead, it delivered and sustained it, just as FDR’s programs and tax increases did.

        As to corporate loopholes, I don’t disagree they are a problem and can’t stand them (especially the green energy subsidies: yuck). But they don’t just appear, politicians give them out. That’s why I get real itchy when government and big business work together (i.e. ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank). As for financial services getting off scott free, take a look at the 30,000 newly unemployed, former Bank of America employees. Those layoffs are due directly to the government forcing BOA to take over Countrywide and Dodd-Frank’s pernicious regulations.

        • patrick, you gotta be kidding. the great recession was no ordinary recession. We lost more jobs in this great recession than the last four recessions combined. It was was historic for an unprecedented decline in wealth. That wealth destruction is key to understanding the Great Recession since massive house price drops led to a foreclosure crisis that then fueled massive layoffs. Much of the unprecedented wealth destruction in 2007 and 2008 can be traced back to failed economic policies under President George W. Bush, when opportunities to put the economy and the labor market on the right track were ignored.

          • Patrick Sexton

            You just made my point: this is a much worse economic recession than history would suggest because of the dramatic burdens heaped on the economy with ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank etc. Would you hire a new person or give a loan to someone if you didn’t know the tax and regulatory impact you would face?

            Housing market problem came about because: the Fed kept rates too low, building a bubble (note any similarities to our current zero rate?), our government (Rs and Ds) demanded that banks lend money to people who couldn’t afford them, the banks didn’t do any due diligence and people borrowing from them didn’t seem to care they couldn’t afford the house they were buying (housing prices only can go up, right?).

            All that damage (during the Bush years) was exacerbated by the Great Keynesian and Regulatory Re-boot, which has failed so completely that….wait for it: we need more stimulus. All this combines to give us the longest no-jobs recession/recovery in history (during the Jimmy Cart…uh, Obama years).

            I don’t know what opportunities Bush ignored. Keep in mind the Dems were in charge by that point so anything supported by Bush would have been rejected and vice versa.

          • Correct.

            The housing market was the bubble that broke that was the start of the recession. Carter, Clinton, and then the sustained policies of Democrats – even though a Republican presidency – created the housing market’s recession. Both McCain and Bush made an effort to make adjustments but were blocked by Dodd-Frank (2003 if my memory is correct).

  • Ignorance and apathy among the majority of eligible voters should be somewhere in there.

  • 80-20 rule applies again

  • Jim Armstrong

    I think the education problem is wider than just the inequalities. Public education in general is weak and getting weaker. If one looks at the part that universal education played in US history, it suggests that we are gradually giving back all of those gains in a process that has a very long cycle and recovery time.

  • Katie

    Perhaps if you truly were listening then, you should look further into Ron Paul &/or the Libertarian party (of which he is not running for, so he’s kind of dull in that regard). the Libertarian party would address these issues by getting gov’t out of the business of people’s lives, including the areas you addressed. The problem with our country is people gave up caring about civics class and we have two competing sets of desires: big gov’t, or personal freedom and responsibility. You can’t have both. We want it all. That will be our downfall.

    • smrnda

      In some sense though, ‘personal freedom’ doesn’t just exist in a vacuum with the ‘individual’ and the government the only players. Ever heard of this thing called a ‘job?’ How free is a person at work? Am I free to decide that I’d rather not work 60 hours? Or that I’d like to get something aside from a high deductible health care plan that will exclude whatever medical care my employer finds personally objectionable? Are we free when an employer is free to just decide that they don’t want to hire people from a particular ethnic group? Or when they can dump whatever chemicals they want into the environment? I mean, Ron Paul’s answer to sexual harassment is ‘quit and get another job’ – great, so you can get another job and be sexually harassed. To me, the libertarian platform is a privilege white boy platform that ignores the fact that there are many sources of power, both legal and economic, and both need checks and balances. Ron Paul has also done on record that he thinks the rights of rich people and corporations to bribe the government is an inherent right.

      The problem with the belief that the only way to avoid some sort of crushing tyranny is a minimalist government is that hey, plenty of other countries have balanced a welfare state with tighter corporate regulation and not gone under or turned into tyrannies overnight.

  • Tucker

    Tony, I wonder if the issues you list are really more symptoms of deeper, and maybe more serious, problems. I suppose you will probably deal with that as you dive into each issue.

    Though it is difficult to pin down or define, I would say our biggest problems are spiritual, which manifest themselves as psycho-emotional and moral problems, and then as social and structural problems.

    • tucker, forgive me, but your statement seems awfully high minded. While I do not disagree that there some serious root issues, to paraphrase Jim Wallis – there is a lot of need for pulling bodies out of the river right now.

      • Tucker

        Bob, maybe you can help me understand your issue with my suggestion for Tony, because I am not sure I understand where you are coming from. You see, and I think I understand your paraphrase of Jim Wallis (who I like very much), that we should be pulling bodies (though I think it should be people, not bodies) out of the river rather than… what? Rather than blogging about these issues? I can imagine Wallis saying there is a time for talking and there is a time for action, and sometimes we just gotta stop talking and help people. I agree. And we know it is all too easy to say we should be helping rather than talking when posting comments to that effect on blog posts. But if that is what Wallis is saying, or at least what you are implying by paraphrasing Wallis, then you should direct your concerns to Tony who is about to do a bunch of blogging on the so-called big problems in our society instead of spending that time pulling people out of the river. The mere fact of blogging about issues seems more of a “high minded” activity than pulling people out of rivers. But maybe we need both. I had assumed, since this is a blog and not, for example, a soup kitchen, and since I am having a hard time figuring out how many people each of Tony’s blog posts are going to “pull out of the river,” that I would jump into the flow of ideas with my own ideas with a suggestion that Tony consider, as you put it, “serious root issues.” And maybe that’s really your main concern with my comments. But, you see, I do not see serious root issues, or considering them when talking about war and poverty, to be “awfully high minded.” In fact, just the opposite. I cannot think of anything more grounded, more causal, more fundamental, or more critical than the root issues underlying Tony’s suggested list. You might be right that we have to start pulling people out of the river, but I ask which river, which people, and pull them out to what? And we might ask, how did the river get there, and how or why did those people get in the river (did they jump in or were they pushed), and do they want to get out, and am I in a river myself, maybe a river I don’t even see though I have no trouble seeing other rivers, etc? Each of the problems Tony raises need to be dealt with directly and courageously, but then that’s the rub isn’t it. My concern is that Tony (who I also like) will merely add another obvious list of problems to another series of blog posts and give predictable answers, answers that have already been given, go largely unheeded, and don’t really inspire anyone. I hope, and this is behind my comments, that Tony digs deep into each issue and produces some unique insights and a call to action that includes the human soul and not merely the “awfully high minded” blather that goes for cable news. I trust that he will. But, as I said at the beginning, maybe I am misunderstanding your comments and you can give me some clarity.

  • mrich

    I think these 5 are at least in the top 7 or 8. There may be other ways to frame the 5 in other ways. I believe that Medicare should be part of a bigger issue–Healthcare. Inequalities in education are part of an overall issue of wealth inequality in the nation. Political issues, such as money and politics and corporate loopholes are both related to wealth inequality.

    Personally, I would welcome a discussion of these issues with a faith-based community that is committed to actually listening to each other’s arguments and is committed to seek solutions for the good of all.

  • Mine would be, in no particular order:

    1. Empire
    2. Corporacracy
    3. Education
    4. Health care
    5. Poverty
    6. Ecological crisis

    OK, I know that’s more than 5, but there is a considerable overlap and mutual dependencies, too. Corporacracy leads to a for profit health care system that cares more about profits than health, much of the ecological crisis is tied to poverty, poverty and a lot of the problems in our education system cannot be separated, and so on.

  • Someone remarked to me today on a similar point that our politcal and economic systems have trained us to desire the wrong things. We want entitlement programs, to avoid our fair share, revenge, and quite simply, to have our own way. Many of us are completely oblivious as to how the habits of our individual daily lives are reflected in these broader, national concerns.

  • Looking forward to this one.

    To premise the conversation, W. has been gone for awhile now and we are currently spending $10,000,000,000 a day under Obama’s watch.

  • Amanda

    5. Yes

    4. Yes

    3. Yes

    2. Yes.

    1. Yes

    TJ, where have you been all my Christian life?

  • Pat

    By saying the problems are facing America, I am guessing you believe these are present or future problems. If that is correct, it will be interesting to see what wars you deem to be unnecessary. Iraq is over, leaving Obama’s war in Afghanistan and any current or future interventions in the Arab Spring. And you did read that correctly – Afghanistan (Pakistan) is now Obama’s war.

    I would also suggest expanding 4 – the problem with education in this country is not just limited to inequality, nor is it just a product of public education.

    3 should also be expanded – are corporate tax loopholes any worse than the mortgage interest deduction? Also, are you sure you want to close corporate tax loopholes: the biggest corporate tax loophole is for employer provided health insurance. When McCain proposed closing this in the 2008 election, he got killed. For more info on loopholes, also known as tax expenditures, see this:

    I actually agree with 2 – though you could re-brand it government spending, of which medicare and medicaid are the biggest.

    And, I’m sorry to report, I have to disagree with 1 also. Money has been in politics for a long time and I find it hard to believe it’s any worse now than it was in other periods of our history – periods we all can agree were better times than these.

  • Simon

    Well, as an observer from accross the pond it soemtimes sounds liek the top five issues facign ‘merca are…
    5 – Immigration
    4 – Abortion
    3 – Crosses on public land
    2 – Intelligent Design in school
    1 – Heterogamous marriage

    On your list Tony I would have loved to see an ecological issue (beyond bashing BP for employing Halliburton to screw up the cementing job on one of its deep sea rigs.)

    As an aside, what were the five most pressing economic / political issues facing peasants in first century Palestine? I expect there would be considerable overlap with your list …
    5) Effects of global military superpower intervention
    4) Effects of dehumanising ideologies
    3) Effects of economically abusive local elites
    2) Effects of disease, disability and malnutrition
    1) Effects of disenfrachisement and domination

    Love the blog and looking forward to the next five posts.

  • Love the list Tony! I wonder how immigration reform, upward movement of wealth, and an economy that is motivated by consumption & greed all fit into this list?

  • patrick, you seem to be time-shifting

    the 8 years of massive de-regulation came under W – that the ownership society (remember that one ?) were the centerpiece of what pretended to be an economic policy

    how exactly can ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank impact a collapse that started in 2007 and reached its nadir in late 2008

    and now a rant:

    how is it that conservatives, who make an idol of “personal responsibility”, refuse to take any responsibility for wrecking our economy. taking us into a war of choice and squandering a surplus ?

    rant over

  • Patrick

    I’ve no intention of ranting or spewing. I’ll simply finish with this: either you believe liberty is primal or you believe government knows best.

    For those interested in what happens if we continue to follow the current ‘gub’ment knows best’ course, as your distaste for less regulation makes clear, please read The Road to Serfdom by Hayek.

    Thanks for an interesting discussion. Tony, I hope you are well!

    • Scot Miller

      Of course, this is the classic black/white fallacy (AKA the either/or fallacy or the false dilemma). One may believe that “liberty is primal” or “government knows best” (also a classic straw man misrepresentation, by the way), or you can believe that individual liberties are important and there is a positive role for government in the lives of citizens (see Rawls A Theory of Justice).

  • Liberty is clearly key to part of our country’s narrative – less so for sacred scriptures in the Jewish & Christian traditions. To wit, liberty shows up 97 times, while justice shows up more than 300 times and the poor are discussed more than 500 times.

    I think it would be fascinating to engage in a discussion around the outcome we are shooting for. I confess, liberty is rarely on my radar screen. I gravitate towards the common good, towards communities that are deepening their recognition of the sacred and pursuing the ultimate outcome best for the greater whole. Aristotle was the first to articulate an ethical understanding of common good, followed by Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.

    As for Hayek – the most complete rejection of the concept of social justice comes from Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian School of economics:
    “ There can be no test by which we can discover what is ‘socially unjust’ because there is no subject by which such an injustice can be committed, and there are no rules of individual conduct the observance of which in the market order would secure to the individuals and groups the position which as such (as distinguished from the procedure by which it is determined) would appear just to us. [Social justice] does not belong to the category of error but to that of nonsense, like the term `a moral stone’.

    • Patrick Sexton

      And here you have spotlighted from whence our differences likely start. Little causes me as much angst as statements like: “pursuing the ultimate outcome best for the greater whole.” It means someone (or worse, a group of ‘elites’) other than me knows what is best for me. I find that to be incompatible with liberty. While in cases that can be true (parents with kids; laws against driving drunk; yelling ‘fire’ in a theatre, etc.) I believe Hayek dead on. When government gets involved (licensing barbers; wasting money on ethanol or green energy; increasing home ownership) I find that it is tragically incapable of doing the right thing.

      As a person of faith, I believe liberty is my greatest protection from the vicissitudes of those who claim they know what is best. “They” could tell me I could only worship in a state-sponsored way (see England, Church of and Stalin, Joseph).

      Life is nasty, brutish, etc. But at least with liberty, I have a shot.

      • Patrick,
        As someone who believes both parties are partially at fault, I wonder if you can recognize two important issues from my perspective:

        1) When business has lost any sort of moral fiber and is solely for the purpose of profit (at least the vast majority of business), then we fail to love our neighbor. Who stands up for the people when business has virtually all of the power and cares for nothing beyond profits and avoiding lawsuits? (aka loss of profits)
        2) How does the vast majority of the Republican party not recognize their own faults that have helped lead to the economic mess we find ourselves in? To paraphrase Jesus, “Look at the plank in your own eye.”

        I’m a ‘job creator,’ the select few who get special status in America. The republican party, the party of my family lines, doesn’t expect me to pay my share for the benefits I receive for being an American nor do they really support job creation since they have yet to support significant immigration reform which would help the entire agriculture sector in America.

        In reality, both of these issues are about votes and have very little to do with liberty. They are about power, greed, money, and a lust for creating our own salvation. The other side of the isle has its own issues, but failing to recognize the deep issues within the republican party fails the biblical text at least as much as the other side.

        • Patrick

          Just saw this post (not sure how I missed it). I don’t look at politics through a moral filter (outside of corruption or cheating on a spouse, etc.) because it isn’t fair. One example: I find it immoral to continue paying unemployment benefits to people for 99 weeks. Not because of the cost, but because (as studies have shown) it prevents them from finding a job.

          As for blame on the mortgage mess, I have said earlier both parties deserve blame. But on the scale, Dems are more at fault. It was Clinton and a Dem congress who passed the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) that forced banks to push mortgage loans on people that couldn’t afford them. It was Bush who noted that Fannie and Freddie were disasters waiting to happen but got little help from Rs and opposition from Sen. Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank (who famously said he didn’t believe they were a problem but, if there was, he would rather “roll the dice.” Nice of him to gamble – and lose – trillions of our money. And stay in power.

  • Patrick, we do disagree.

    Life is Nast – and joy filled. Life is brutish – and gentle.

    At least with God – creator, sustainer, redeemer – and with God embodied in communities, we all have a shot.

  • Scot Miller

    From Paul Krugman:

    In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds. Don’t take it from me, take it from Friedrich Hayek, the conservative intellectual hero, who specifically declared in “The Road to Serfdom” his support for “a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life,” and singled out health in particular.

    Given the agreed-upon desirability of protecting citizens against the worst, the question then became one of costs and benefits — and health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money. As many observers have pointed out, the Obama health care plan was largely based on past Republican plans, and is virtually identical to Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts.

    Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.

    And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

    • It is interesting how ‘compassionate conservatism’ has no traction these days. Perhaps though, evangelical America is so solidified behind the republican party that their votes are expected rather than desired?

      Having recently finished Frank Schaeffer’s most recent book titled ‘Sex, God and Mom’, I find his thoughts on the the ‘right’ and evangelical America to have much value. Americans talk about ‘ObamaCare’ as a four letter word while entirely ignoring the millions of people who can’t afford to see a doctor when necessary for healthy living. We cover our disgust of the new health care laws under the guise of ‘liberty’, and yet we fail the biblical text to love our neighbor.

      Somehow we’re still o.k. about ignoring our neighbors plight on the same day we heard a sermon of the ‘Good Samaritan.’ But of course, we never find ourselves in that story. We’re good church going republicans… or so we tell ourselves while we proclaim the kingdom to our coworkers who were not in church on Sunday…

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  • Dan Hauge

    I know I’m weighing in a bit late, but I’m trying to focus my own thinking on this issue. I do admit some of it is visceral and emotional, a sense that it simply isn’t right that we need to let those who are already wealthier and more powerful continue to amass as much as they can, while minimizing help to people who are either weaker, or in weaker positions. But emotion isn’t all bad. I think you can argue that the prophets got pretty emotional over the behavior of the rich and the fate of the poor.

    But, we can’t just think out of our emotions, so here are some other thoughts. It seems to me that any talk of liberty also has to take into account the effect that our actions have on others. We have laws against speeding because without them, those using their liberty to drive as fast as they want have a greater chance of injuring or killing other people. You could say “well, life is nasty, brutish, etc. but with more freedom at least those who are better skilled drivers at fast speeds will thrive, and those less agile will be the ones hurt, so it will encourage everyone to be better drivers.” In the same way, conservatives like to talk about the benefits of a free market separating the winners from the ‘unproductive’, giving the rewards to those who deserve them. But just how much do we need to let the economic “losers” lose in the name of liberty? Those with less entrepreneurial spirit are unworthy to bring their child to a hospital when they get ill? Those who are only able to find minimum wage jobs in the present economy are undeserving of a roof over their heads with decent plumbing? When people get sick from an industry polluting the river they live by, they simply deserve what they get because they haven’t had enough ambition to make it to the penthouse suite?

    The other thing that occurs to me is that conservatives rail against government control of our lives, as though economic power is not real power over other peoples’ lives. Both governments and corporations are made up of human beings, yet governments are (in Patrick’s words) “tragically incapable of doing the right thing”, and apparently those who run private businesses are inherently capable of doing the right thing. What, exactly, makes those who start businesses inherently more virtuous than those who govern? (I’m aware that liberals often turn this equation on its head, implying that anyone involved in a large business is inherently evil. Personally I see public and private sectors as different locations of power that do need to be consistently balancing each other to keep that power from getting too concentrated). This whole idea is based on my understanding that bosses and people who run corporations and financial institutions have just as much or more actual power over how other people live their lives as governments do. How much money I can earn, whether or not my local lake is clean, whether or not public transportation will come to my neighborhood–all these things that affect my life are influenced by private businesses exercising their power, just as much as government.

    It’s not just about government telling us all what is best for us. It is recognizing that our actions affect each other, and affect our environment, so putting limitations on our behavior, including our economic behavior, is necessary to some extent.

    • Patrick

      Dan, you bring up many good arguments. I’m sorry that I can’t address them all or I’d be up all night and bore the bejeebers out of everyone. Since I’m not very smart, I have to keep things simple. For me, the difference between all this stuff can be found in the difference between South Korea and North Korea.

      The question to me is, which environment is more tolerable: the one based on liberty (South Korea) or the one based on the needs of the state (North)?

      I choose South Korea.

      Yes, there are poor people there. Yes, there are those being horribly taken advantage of by others. But even those people – the worst off in South Korea – are better off than every single one of their neighbors in the statist North.

      If you take away the ability of the ‘winners’ to reap the benefits of their actions, you will forgo those benefits. Capitalism must have winners to ensure our society continues to improve. Anyone remember when there was just Ma Bell? Show of hands: who chooses a) that government-backed monopoly where everyone was safe or b) the messy current structure where many ‘loose’?

      As the case of North Korea (and Detroit and California) show: when you punish the ‘winners’ everyone is a ‘loser.’

      Seems to me that our job as followers of Christ is to do what we can to make sure there as few sufferers as possible and to help them when possible. Saying we need to use diplomacy is nice but begs a question: if we aren’t a military threat, why would another country care what we think?

      This is not a false choice, but a simple distillation of what occurs in the real world. I am just trying to point out that those who wish for a less-militaristic America need to understand the impact of their desires.

      And I’ve gone on waaaaay too long. Sorry!

      • Dan Hauge

        Okay . . . but I would say that ‘making sure there are as few sufferers as possible and to help them when possible’ can easily include using some taxes to pay for government assistance. I don’t see how that “punishes” people who do well to an odious extent.

        Like you, I also would prefer South Korea to the situation in North Korea. If you are somehow saying that increasing the marginal tax rates on millionaires instantly turns our society into North Korea, I would say that is rather out of touch with reality.

        Also worth noting, South Korea has a single payer, national health insurance system. And apparently the existence of this system does not automatically turn them into North Korea.

        • Patrick

          Great response! I was trying to make the point that the country based on liberty is better than that based on the state. I didn’t say South Korea is my model of a great country. America as it is today – even with ObamaCare – is my model (still waiting to hear from others on that topic, by-the-by).

          Obama is not raising taxes on those making over $200,000 (Webster must have changed the definition of ‘millionaire’ while I was at the bar) to pay for anything, because, in reality, there aren’t enough of them (and many fewer since he’s been president).

          I truly don’t know why he is proposing it – unless it is because he believes what he said on the campaign: that we just have to “move the money around a little bit.” I hear his 2012 campaign slogan will be “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Sounds like a winner!

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  • Steve Lochner

    I find it odd that as human beings we see a problem, then look at it further and claim only a part of the original problem is really the problem. Everything you named as being the biggest problems in the country can be attributed to one overall problem: Not enough money. Unnecessary wars don’t start just because somebody was feeling bored. They start as a means to ensure access to resources (oil, labor, etc.) or to ensure obedience to a lopsided relationship that is weighted towards the US. Inequalities in public education are a result of richer neighborhoods bringing more money through property taxes and the poorer neighborhoods not having enough money. Corporate tax loopholes are a result of people with money exerting their influence to ensure it is sustained. Since those of us who are employees don’t have money, we can’t utilize influence to ensure the money flows to us, or at least more evenly. Medicare is a problem in that it is going to have to cover more and more people as we lose more and more money. Money in politics is only a problem to people who don’t have money.

    According to the Fed, we have about $9.5T in money in circulation. $14.5T in federal debt, about $2.5T in State/Local debt, and about $35T in private debt. We have about 5.5 times more debt than money in supply. No wonder we have so many problems.

  • You fix money in politics and you fix the other four problems.

  • Halley

    I agree with the list. I feel like corporations should be higher on the list though. I see no reason why a person can create a corporation and then the corporation becomes a completely separate legal entity. There is no reason why someone should be able to create something and then not have complete responsibility from it. I also realize that it is more complicated than that, but in a nutshell that’s all a corporation is. It’s beginning to make a lot of people angry that they, as individuals, pay more taxes than corporations. I am a Business Student, so I am not against corporations all together (I work for one), but cutting their taxes is completely unnecessary. We will be in the same boat as the 3rd World countries if we cannot get a grip on the growing income gap.

  • Austin Green

    you sir are a spineless liberal

  • Travis

    What do they mean inequalities in public school systems?

  • Ok I am just hear to say one thing that means a lot

    Im 11 years old and can promise I dont get alot of things adults but I do get one thing . We are stupid some times I look at some of the things our goverment does and some of the things we as pepole of the contry do and it really makes me mad . We kill we hurt we tear our seleves apart . We biuld our seleves up to tear our selves down . Im doing this because I do some times think
    and want you to think to to . We are going to fall . If we continue . Please why cant we understand . Its sad because it is happening so much now even kids get what is going on . Once these other contries notice how weak we are there going to start war then were will we be . Think about and please ask god to blesd america

  • Mike furniss

    I would agree iv been to America before. Im from Canada and I believe that Obamacare is the biggest problem facing America today

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  • Nancy

    OMG! this is helping me a lot on my homework awesome website. Thx 😀

  • Brian

    I also believe that there are way too many disagreements among politicians for there to be a stable government!

  • Great 5 although the money in politics is only touching the tip of that iceberg. These people don’t work for this nation any more. One term limit would be a great beginning, the President should not appoint Supreme Court Judges. Think of the mortgage melt down, people getting 100% loans that don’t qualify for car loans, then put them into 2 yr ARMs.
    That’s a poison pill waiting to happen while FOUR federal agencies turned their heads.
    It had to be planned to slow the world economy on our backs.

    I believe this recession can be solved and solved rather quickly if actions were taken to curb taxes and reorient those monies into small business.

    Our problems are so massive and meanwhile China is making commerce all over the planet while we make war. They are coming folks, I saw this in 83.

  • Craig

    Why not: the lack of an inexpensive drug that would make everyone healthy, happy, prudent, fair-minded, loving, conscientious and smart? It is worse than the lack of a fair and efficient tax code, educational system, or health care for the elderly. Remedy each of these latter problems and you’ll still have a lot of sad, hateful, unreasonable people.

  • Charles slakan

    Medicare was one of those cases that lobbyists, the insurance entities bought our representatives. It took almost 15 hours to finally bribe enough of them so that this unfunded bill passed.
    But that’s only the top of the glass, I am a vet and veterans are also insured through the government but our prescription plan is negotiated with the insurance entities and so many of the drugs available to me are lower than those of a medicare recpient.
    Now the government rewards military with this program and who can argue about that. But in the end, if a social security recipient does not have to use his Social Security Disabilty( the main function of SSecurity), then those citizens are rewarded with medicare that is NOT negotiated. Military, non- military, all of us Americans are citizens and this shows not just a reward but a preference for Vets over medicare recipients.
    Everyone should have their medicines negotiated; it doesn’t matter who is receiving what, what matters is the government is administering the same thing two different ways to Americans.
    That was the heavy lifting, so here is something to think about, if you accept corporations are people, then you will not have a problem with it.
    Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott was the CEO of a company that after a doctor saw a patient, re-wrote the paper, sent it to madicare and got paid. A few weeks before the feds finally moved in, Scott was asked to resign with an astronomical parting gift.
    His corporation was busted for more than 7 felonies and fines that amounted to almost 2 billion, imagine how much loot they pilfered if that was the fine.
    Rick Scott was depositioned and pled the 5th. over 50 times, none of the persons involved in that corporation have been apprehended or jailed. In fact. like I said, in Florida Rick Scott was rewarded with the governership. I believe his wife may still run a corporation just like that which was also Rick’s, he signed over to her. As soon as he became governor, he created a blind trust.
    Everybody that voted for him, knew he was a grand thief, but because the democrat running against him supported Obama care, they forgave poor Rick and there’s no telling what he’s doing now, lots more money runs through this state than his crooked companies.

  • Charles slakan

    Supreme Court Justices should have term limits. Judge Clarence ? has an oriental wife that lobbys for some of the cases they hear and he is not recused.
    A man would have to be exceptional in today’s world not to be influenced by the money that gets thrown around and the power they can amass over a period of a lifetime.
    No one should have such a burden, life is different now then when the Founders wrote our Constitution.
    For instance, say anything about gun control and the powerful gun lobby is in Washington and the ruling this court made conerning handguns in Washinton D.C. proves power not the Constitution spoke.
    Clearly, every child that’s ever watched Davy Crockett would know he had a one shot ball and powder musket rifle and if he had a hand gun it was the same. Can you imagine if when Washington was trying to raise a militia, and 60-70 were getting ready to sign only to have one man kill the whole militia in seconds, what would have happened?
    They had no idea such a weapon would be created but on the other hand they didn’t have to tell settlers after the Revolution, you can’t keep that cannon in your log cabin; yes, I know there are Indians but you can’t have a cannon.
    Traditionally when I was a kid almost every man either hunted or fished, but a hunter would never hunt a deer or quail or anything with a sub machine gun and a banana clip. And in the house a man may have a smith and wesson, or colt, but not guns handguns with extra clips and bullets that are so scary I don’tourt even want to go there.
    Those guns are made to kill people, plain and simple.
    Getting back to the Constitution though, nobody including the Court can defend these guns when only single shot muskets were what it referred to when it talked about keeping arms!

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  • Nameless

    Unnecessary wars? Are you KIDDING me? Did you get hit in the head and forget all about 9/11? Or do you simply think the US shouldn’t have retaliated after that and decided to let terrorists walk all over us? Absolutely pathetic. Go join your Taliban brothers, terrorist.

    • Paula Grimes

      Thank you nameless in wherever; I really believe that 99% of American people have forgotten 9/11 . . . . . .guess that what the governments of the world wanted us pions to do. . . . .that crisis will stick in my brain for eternity. The first time the United States of America’s soil was SHIT upon by an outside force!

    • D’Anna Johnson

      Are you stupid? George Washington was the one who told our country to stay out of wars and to be neutral. That was our founding father saying that. So yes most of the wars America has involved itself has nothing to do us and we jumped into it just to appear as heros to the rest of the world.

  • Dee

    I have read and enjoyed all the comments, and I do agree with all of you except the Taliban person at the bottom you sir are ignorant. Any how with all of your great comments and ideas how come no one is doing anything. You blog well enough but why no action, your words are true and they carry weight so how come none of you have done anything to change a thing? Is it because you lack the money or resources? Most people say who am I to make a difference, I think that’s our downfall. Who am I, I am a person who suffers day in and day out at a shitty job and crappy pay because I want to live. I am a human being, I think we all have forgot what it means to be a human or to be humane towards others, that’s our biggest problem. You all are articulate and smart and a majority of the populace in merca lacks in those areas, you speak of community and liberty, but what do you do to improve it and could you not do more? We the people are the most powerful thing in this country/ world, and we are the problem, we do not speak up because who am I to say what is wrong and will people follow me. Look at your blog and ask yourself that again. We need an actual plan, pulling people from the river and throwing them into limbo is not the way, I agree we need to pull them, but we need to offer a better way, working out of greed and selfish desires is no longer a way we as a whole can survive, I believe two heads are better then one so why would a whole country of heads not be better, we have a common goal we all share and our biggest worry is to live. So live and help others not for selfless pride to make yourself feel better because you are being selfish, but because it is the HUMANE thing to do as our title implies unless your not human. I hope to see more from your blog not only discussions, but maybe one day someone will get the balls enough to just say fuck it and take on our system and trust me you are not alone in your fight, and what you do in this life matters, it matters to every person on this planet because you could the spark that ignites the flame of change. My rants over sorry for the length awesome blog though.

  • Chika Okwor

    OMG THANKS EVERYONE! so much this has helped my me in my assigment so much but i still have so many questions to ask about the us economy

  • Luke Breuer

    I completely disagree. See Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language ~~ Abuse of Power for the real problem, as well as Jacques Ellul’s The Subversion of Christianity:

    And what about another concept that seems to be essential in the life of Jesus Christ, that of weakness, which is linked with anti politics? What can be more the opposite of what we are? Is not the spirit of power at the heart of all our actions? I concede that it may not exist among some so-called primitive people in tribes that know no violence and seek no domination. But these are such an exception that we certainly cannot take them as a natural example of what humanity is in general—if there is such a thing as “humanity in general.” (164-5)

    Until we can speak truth to power instead of power speaking sound bites to us, we are screwed. The Holy Spirit flees when we steep ourselves in lies. Why? He cannot do anything with us if we are unwilling to face what is true in plain language. Jesus said to use power to serve instead of lord it over others in Mt 20:20-28; until that happens, there is little hope.

    Josef Pieper, a catholic theologian in German during WWII, understood how language and power get entangled and how “The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language.”, to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here’s Pieper:

    What the world really wants is flattery, and it does not matter how much of it is a lie; but the world at the same time also wants the right to disguise, so that the fact of being lied to can easily be ignored. As I enjoy behind affirmed in my whims and praised for my foibles, I also expect credibility to make it easy for me to believe, in good conscience or at least without a bad conscience, that everything I hear, read, absorb, and watch is indeed true, important, worthwhile, and authentic!

    And thus, language itself is corrupted, for it no longer is used as a vehicle for truth.

  • Don Nasca

    22 million American’s are working in shit part-time, low pay, or temp no benefit positions with no hope in-sight and you don’t think unemployment and underemployemt is a problem?

    Without good wages we force millions to need food stamps, welfare, free medical care, free daycare, and masses of people who turn abusing the disability system (because they are obese and depressed for having no purpose in life other than to consume junk food and watch TV) to using drugs, selling drugs, and committing crimes; ALL OF WHICH those of us who have decent jobs have to pay for.

    Income inequity is the number one crisis by far and away. All the other problems go away when everyone has a good job, it builds self-respect, ability to own a home, stability in the family and on and on. Corporations don’t need to fuel wars when the economy is booming and their growth is dependent on an alive and healthy workers.

    As long as we ignore the plight of the bottom 50% and celebrate the top 1%, we in the middle typing on the internet are all screwed. In the last 35 years the buying power of the middle-class is flat, the lower class has declined, and the top has skyrocketed.

    I don’t expect anyone to get a free handout unless they are truly disabled and I don’t expect anyone to be paid billions or hundreds of millions so they can hoard it away in foreign tax shelters while riding around on 300 foot yachts and jetting around on private jets. If they are not reinvesting in American workers, they are no better than terrorists to the future of working people.

    The super rich don’t care about America or it’s people, they only care about how much more they can take from the idiot GLOBAL masses who fight each other over the nonsense they create and propagate on their mass media systems.

    I want to change the game and give the masses tools to start taking back their fair share of our nations resources and growth!

  • IamOverit

    There is one BIG problem with American churches. They are loosing true Christians who do not worship God in a man-made temple and who do not “adhere” to the doctrines of men. The American church ( denominational, brick and mortar, big business, 401C3) IS the whore of Babylon. I was born again only when I escaped “her”. I NEVER found Jesus in any of the temples men have built. He is not there.

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