Victor Davis Hanson has listed America’s problems. They are many and severe. They are made worse because we have been lulled into complacency by the sing-song rhetoric of our clever president. We no longer think about facing our problems. We push them aside and hope that they will solve themselves.
We have learned that audacity measures our ability to hope. Thus, we are are effectively doing nothing.
More precisely, Obama and his supporters are hoping that the bill does not come due until he has left the White House. Then, the nation’s great minds will implore us to indulge our reveries of the good old Obama days and to blame everything bad on Republicans.
It’s fair to call it decadent. It’s fair to say that most Americans are unwilling to accept that the problems are real. Most Americans believe that the nation is as great as it was eight years ago. In that they are surely wrong.
Civilizations rise and civilizations fall. Many decades ago, in the early 1960s, I had the privilege to meet Max Lerner, author of what used to be considered an important historical work: America as a Civilization. At a time when America was great, Lerner noted that all great civilizations decline, that greatness is not forever.
To counter that view, Hanson suggests that civilizational decline is not organic and is not written in the movement of the World Spirit. Political leadership, coupled with cultural decline, with a loss of civil virtue will put an end to the greatest civilization. If we refuse to accept that we have problems and refuse to address them, we are surely headed for decline.
Hanson lists our most significant problems and points out that we do not have the will to see them clearly. Worse yet, our leaders do not have the political courage to face or to solve them.
He begins with the national debt. As you know, the Obama administration, with the able assistance of the Federal Reserve has ballooned the national debt. Thus, it has engineered something resembling an economic recovery. It is close enough to a recovery for the administration and its flunkies to sell it as a great success. The next administration will surely be charged with picking up the pieces when the bubble bursts.
Once simple and logical solutions to our fiscal and social problems are now seen as too radical even to discuss. Consider the $20-trillion national debt. Most Americans accept that current annual $500 billion budget deficits are not sustainable—but they also see them as less extreme than the recently more normal $1 trillion in annual red ink. Americans also accept that the Obama administration doubled the national debt on the expectation of permanent near-zero interest rates, which cannot continue. When interest rates return to more normal historical levels of 4-5% per annum, the costs of servicing the debt—along with unsustainable Social Security and Medicare entitlement costs—will begin to undermine the entire budget.
Obama has papered over the problem with policies that have created a bond market bubble and have kept the stock market afloat. They have done so while stifling economic growth:
The Obama administration has tried to reduce the budget by issuing defense cuts and tax hikes—but it has refused to touch entitlement spending, where the real gains could be made. The result is more debt, even as, paradoxically, our military was weakened, taxes rose, revenue increased, and economic growth remained anemic at well below 2% per annum.
And then there is the problem of immigration. The nation is absorbing large numbers of illegal immigrants from cultures whose values are different from ours. Some of these immigrants will assimilate. But, the larger the number the less likely it is that they will adopt American values. They are more likely to bring the pathologies of their host nations with them. It’s one thing to help Salvadorans adjust to America. It’s quite another for them to turn America into a larger version of El Salvador.
The Obama administration has been running an open borders policy. Hillary has proposed the same. She has even expressed her admiration for the queen of open borders, Germany’s Angela Merkel. It’s a formula for national decline.
In Hanson’s words:
No nation can remain stable when 10-20 million foreign nationals have crashed through what has become an open border and reside unlawfully in the United States—any more than a homeowner can have neighbors traipsing through and camping in his unfenced yard.
Ideologues believe that we can solve it all by bathing in a warm bath of tolerance. They want us to adopt a multicultural attitude wherein we accept all cultures, all customs, all mores, and all habits as equally valid. If that is true, why would anyone adopt the culture of a host country? But, if they do not want to adopt American customs why did they come here? Do they want to be parasites, hollowing out the culture from within?
Likewise, there are few multiracial societies of the past that have avoided descending into destructive ethnic chauvinism and tribalism once assimilation and integration were replaced by salad-bowl identity politics. Common words and phrases such as “illegal alien” or “deportation” are now considered taboo, while “sanctuary city” is a euphemism for a neo-Confederate nullification of federal immigration laws by renegade states and municipalities.
And yet, if you say anything against illegal immigration, you are a bigot. We are about to turn into Europe, overrun by aliens who refuse to assimilate but who are happy to abuse and molest local women. And who, of course, have mastered the art of going on the dole:
Illegal immigration, like the deficits, must cease, but stopping it would be too politically incorrect and painful even to ponder. The mess in Europe—millions of indigent and illegal immigrants who have fled their own failed states to become dependent on the largess of their generous adopted countries, but without any desire to embrace their hosts’ culture—is apparently America’s future.
Hanson sees America’s cultural decadence at play in its inner cities, and especially in its African-American communities. The rise of gangster culture, fully supported by our first African-American president, has helped produce a broken culture where manliness is defined in terms of criminal activity and where violence against women is celebrated in hip-hop. Those who traffic such images have been welcomed in the Obama White House. Effectively, our president has been underwriting this cultural aberration.
The African-American community must, in the fashion of other ethnic communities in the United States, change its cultural norms around masculinity. It should define maleness in terms of a two-parent household and a father’s daily guidance and support of his own children. In a larger sense, the misogynist, anti-police, violent, and often racist lyrics of rap music should be as ostracized as Jim Crow-era stereotypes of blacks eventually were.
Rather than call upon black leaders to lead a cultural revolution against pathologies that are out of control, most liberal minded people would rather denounce anyone who points out the problem as racist. And blame it all on white privilege.
Strangely enough, saying that African-Americans are capable of transforming their communities, seeing them as responsible moral agents, is racist. Blaming it all on white privilege—making blacks dependent on whites—is considered to be enlightened and tolerant.
The cures for the maladies of the inner city are civic reengagement, honest talk, economic entrepreneurship, self-help, and self-reliance in the black community. Liberal elites who avoid the inner city and send their children to mostly white and Asian prep schools fear honest talk as intensely as they mouth off about racism.
Of course, the Obama administration has systematically retreated from world leadership. Thus, it has left a leadership vacuum that is being filled by other nations. Since it does not believe in the beneficial exercise of American power and influence, it has been able to maintain enough of an appearance of strength to shut down most debate.
The result could have been foreseen:
Under the Obama administration, the old postwar order led by the security guarantees of the United States abruptly ended—the vacuum filled by ascendant regional (and often nuclear) hegemons. Russia is expanding control, or at least influence, over the old Soviet republics and Eastern Europe. China carves out a new version of the old Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere at the expense of the democracies in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. Iran is on the path to be the nuclear adjudicator of the Persian Gulf’s oil depot. Radical Islamic terrorism has made the Middle East a wasteland.
America’s “lead from behind” abdication is variously explained by financial weakness, anti-imperial politics, or simply exhaustion. But the result is not so ambiguous: to restore deterrence as it existed before 2009 could be in the short-term as hazardous and costly as the long-term consequences of appeasement are fatal.
To solve this problem America would need resolute leadership and it would have to pay a price. For now, Americans seem perfectly happy to whistle past the graveyard.