Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Has America peaked and begun a final decline?


This week, an arm of Underwriters Laboratories of Canada will warn consumers that 95 percent of products labeled environmentally friendly "green" involve misleading claims. Simultaneously, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission also will issue new rules warning manufacturers not to advertise "green" products without proof.

Here again, businesses willingly lure consumers with popular, but false, slogans, the sort of sugary corporate jingoism that drew millions of Americans into fatefully bankrupting home foreclosure deals as well as widespread investment in scams promising unimagined riches that were pure hoaxes.

America's commercial world, of course, teems with large and small businesses committed to honesty and quality products.

But unattractive evidence shows the American landscape in all directions being overwhelmed by a cheapening of ideals and standards, widespread social coarseness and incivility, street and family violence, fraud, an addiction to military solutions in foreign affairs, an acceptance of mediocrity in classroom achievement, politics seized by candidates indifferent to the public good and financed by anonymous corporate millions, debasing of religion by millionaire televangelists, public language once considered too obscene to repeat, an obsession with firearms that influences who governs from Washington, an anti-science and anti-intellectual movement thriving on myth and the reprehensible need to rely on loans from other nations to keep the U.S. budget afloat.

One absurdity illustrates contemporary American priorities. Even as public infrastructure (dams, roads, waterworks, bridges, etc.) falls into decay from neglect, the public nevertheless eagerly finances huge new professional football stadiums and baseball parks with special taxes to benefit multimillionaire team owners.

If Washington is especially gripped with political chaos that stalls meaningful governance, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell candidly explains why:

"The single most important thing we (Republicans) want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Continued partisan obstruction at every turn, folks.

Republican partisanship, however, doesn't totally explain the most injurious development in current U.S. public affairs—the naïveté, indecision and weakness of President Obama and the Democratic majority in Washington and their failure to deliver on major "change" as they retreated from major campaign promises of 2008.

This has encouraged, if not bred, coarse disrespect for the Obama presidency, a predicted loss of Democratic congressional seats and incomprehensible increased influence of cable TV's carnival showmen.

What all that adds up to is a weakened American character. Ethics, the capacity for bold thinking and visions, unity in leadership and esteem for intellectual achievement, rather than showmanship, have been substantially diminished.

Put another way, millions of Americans now regard Sarah Palin as the best mind in politics.

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