There’s so much political rhetoric filling the airwaves (both analog and digital) these days. Seems we’ve all reverted to the level of the typical eight year old who believes whoever yells the loudest wins. Each side has it’s point of view (set in stone, never to be challenged) and everything the other side does is wrong, no matter what it is. They holler back and forth at each other and neither side listens or even attempts to fabricate workable solutions. Welcome to 2011, where political debate has degenerated to the point of mere posturing and posing. Sad thing is, I think we (the people) buy this baloney. I am afraid we will actually vote for the loudest, most condemning voice.
I am tired of hearing my fellow Americans moaning and groaning about big business sending jobs overseas. Many think that is un-American, un-Thinkable, immoral and so on. (Regardless of where their employees live, what’s really immoral is that many of these companies and their multi-million dollar a year CEOs DON’T pay their fair share of taxes!) Here’s reality: while the third world has been hunkering down, studying, getting smarter by the decade, we have grown duller, slower and, frankly stupider. They’re willing to do the job and do it well for half the cost; you’re the CEO, what would you do? We all want to pretend that we have a 50 foot wall erected around the borders of the country, that we are self contained and really don’t need the rest of the world. Truth is: we live in a Global Economy. And in that Global environment, the American workforce has grown less and less productive while wages have remained high (compared to the rest of the world).
A couple of weeks ago there were two news stories that caught my eye. One stated that SAT scores for American students were at record lows. The other said the American poverty level was the highest in history. That could be very depressing but then I have to look around. We still are the country that spawned Google and Microsoft and Apple. We are the people who have big dreams and big ideas. We have cornered the market on innovation. Not even the clever Japanese can match our output of great new ideas. But it is the shrinking minority of Americans who make that happen, the few who manage to actually study in school, work hard, think clearly and so on. I am so grateful to several friends who have late teen and early twenties children who are smart, clear and interested in everything around them. I talk with these kids and realize there is hope for the future . . . even a reason for optimism.
But generally speaking, we’ve let ourselves slide academically for years. We’ve not ingrained our kids with a love for learning and drive for accomplishment. Many graduate from high school barely knowing how to read or add. At the same time, the media tells them every day that they should magically become rich, beautiful and famous. Eventually they realize that they’re not going to be ‘discovered,’ and that they have no real marketable skills . . . and that’s when hope dies. These become the barely employable who really will vote for the guy who yells loudest. My hope is that we have enough smart, clear and interested kids coming up to counter-balance the hopeless, because when they become the majority . . . well, I shudder to think.
Here’s an interesting tid-bit: The results of a ten year study of obesity was recently released. The researchers followed 100,000 Americans for ten years and looked for common denominators among those who became obese and those who didn’t. I’m sure there was lots more to the study than this, but the report I saw said there were three things the obese seemed to have in common: potato chips, soda (diet or regular – it didn’t matter) and television. Just as Nancy Reagan had her war on drugs, Michelle Obama has her war on obesity. Ms. Obama’s war is probably more win-able and the benefits of winning would be a boon to the country and to the world. But she doesn’t seem to have a pert little phrase like Ms. Reagan had (‘Just say no’). Maybe it should be: ‘Put down the pop and the chips, turn off the TV, and read a damn book!’
I bring obesity into this conversation about the demise of the American workforce for personal reasons. I’m a bit of a health nut. Not a fanatic, just a nut. I really do believe if We the People got up off the couch, quit dumping garbage into our bodies, turned off the television and started to move . . . we’d become smarter, sharper, more energetic, more innovative and more productive. In short, all of our problems would be solvable. And the first problem we should set about solving is the political harangue that bombards us from all directions every day. Here’s an idea:
Why don’t we require all political statements, speeches and debates be delivered from treadmills moving at no less than four miles per hour? Even healthy people would find it hard to holler at that rate. And there would be stretches for all when they’d have to shut up to catch a breath . . . and during those times they might actually hear what the other side was saying.