And, as demonstrated by last week’s comical congressional break-dance fighting over raising the debt ceiling, that’s precisely what we’re doing. Like everyone’s favorite directionally challenged male model, our nation just can’t turn left – because every time we reach a crucial political corner, we seem to substitute three 90-degree turns to the right instead.
So Earth to Matil, er, America: it might finally be time to switch things up, because Congress barely averting fiscal Armageddon this week was only the opening scene in what’s looking increasingly like a horrendously bad remake of the movie we all used to love.
Take, for example, the energy sector, where Americans continue to burn through terrorist-funding foreign oil as enthusiastically as if President Barack Obama had proposed a national gasoline fight. Absurd government subsidies to Big Oil, America’s addiction to colossal, definitely-compensating-for-something cars and our apparent desire to prop up repeat Worst-Country-in-the-World-Award-Winner Saudi Arabia all add up to us going up in spectacular flames faster than a bunch of male models sipping orange mocha Frappuccinos.
Or take a quick look at education, where our schools are rapidly degenerating into “Centers for Kids Who Can’t Read Good” (note to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: our education budget should be at least…three times this big). Once a world leader in education, America is now faltering as up-and-coming Hansels all over the world happily compete for the Model-Nation-of-the-Year crown we seem to be leaving behind. Depressingly, for instance, American 15 year olds scored just about average in reading and science (and below average in math) among their OECD peers on 2009’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Crushed by Shanghai (so hot right now), outperformed by Finland and soundly trounced by South Korea, the United States did at least outscore Kyrgyzstan and Albania – not really an achievement to write home about.
Meanwhile, as China feverishly extends transcontinental high-speed rail lines from Tibet to Beijing, our transportation infrastructure is looking increasingly like something out of a Derelicte catalogue. Discouragingly, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave us an abysmal overall grade of D on its most recent Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, with subscores as low as D- in drinking-water quality and wastewater disposal. (Note: “Water is the essence of life!”) The ASCE estimates that an astonishing $2.2 trillion would be required to bring the nation up to speed – $2.2 trillion we clearly don’t have. One particularly painful example: thanks to budget shortfalls in several states, many state-maintained roads were actually unpaved this year to save on maintenance costs, converted from expensive asphalt into cheaper gravel or dirt. For perhaps the first time ever, we are actually un-building America.
And as if energy, education and infrastructure weren’t depressing enough, the national debt is currently really, really, ridiculously bad looking – to the tune of $14.3 trillion. At this rate, even Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid miraculously managing to pull Congress’ underwear out of its pants during this week’s partisan walk-off may not be enough to save Social Security, Medicare, military salaries or the national park system in the long run.
But instead of one simple turn to the left – raising taxes on the super-rich, along with painful but necessary cuts in discretionary spending to help pay for long-term investment in education, infrastructure and energy – hard-line Republicans have been insisting on three spins to the right: no tax increases; sharp cuts in programs for the poor, old and sick; and nearly risking a catastrophic default in the name of doctrinaire ideology.
Ultimately, it’s going to take decisive, committed, “ambi-turning” leadership to fix our nation’s problems – which is why we originally elected you, Obama.
But since that glorious acceptance speech in Grant Park, honestly, I’ve been a little disappointed with that new look you promised to bring to America. Sure, we saw a little bit of Le Tigre when you took out Osama Bin Laden – but where was the hardened, presidential voice of Blue Steel during the “Ground Zero Mosque” debacle or last week’s debate on the debt? And where was Ferrari when we needed to get health care fixed – fast?
So when 2012 shows up, Mr. President, we’d all love it if you’d finally break out Magnum and freeze the insidious Republican ninja star in midair. It would save a lot more than the prime minister of Malaysia; it would save our country from itself.
And please, America: figure out how to turn left every once in a while. If we don’t, it may not be long before the rest of the world starts reading our eugoogly.
As long as he’s not at a photo shoot, feel free to contact Miles on his miniature cell phone anytime at [email protected].