4/19/14: Update here.
Tomorrow will mark one year since I posted “The Five Worst Problems In America Today and the One Thing We Can Do About Them.” It has been the most consistently popular post on this site; though it ranks second in total hits (after “50 Things New Teachers Need To Know“), the majority of those hits didn’t come as soon as it was published. Rather, its popularity has actually grown over time, garnering most of its reads within the last three months. It now accounts for nearly 10% of all traffic in the history of this site.
I think that merits looking back over the last twelve months and seeing what developments have occurred in the five areas I identified.
#5: Government Size and Spending
My worries of April 2008 seem quaint now. For example, in the original post, I lamented that China owned “nearly $500 billion of our debt.” The number today: nearly $740 billion.
And remember how I ended that section? The big shock was the fact that the government was planning a bailout that could cost taxpayers up to…$25 billion! Today, that sounds like the scene in Austin Powers when 60′s-era Dr. Evil tried to extort the 21st century United Nations for…one million dollars!
It’s actually difficult to pin down an exact number for how much the government has spent in bailouts since then, but considering that a list I put together recently put George Bush’s 2008 total alone at $1.1 trillion, and before he even took office, CNN was figuring several trillion morefor Obama’s plans, I think it’s safe to say that trillion is the new billion.
And does anyone think the bailout craze is over? When will it end? And when has the government ever done anything within budget, anyway?
#4: Individual Fiscal Irresponsibility
While Uncle Sam keeps burning through dollars faster than he can print them, the American people, on balance, may actually be doing better than they were a year ago. I was greatly impressed by this story from MSNBC that shows us spending less and saving more. That would be wonderfully heartening, and I hope it’s true. I’m not aware of any major stories that contradict that possibility.
#3: Decline of Morality in the Media
Hollywood gave us some pretty awful stuff in the last twelve months, but I can’t think of anything that broke any bold new ground in depravity, especially compared with what the mainstream has been forced to put up with in recent years.
Perhaps the worst transgression of the media last year was its slobbering, worshipful devotion to Barack Obama. 2008 may well be remembered as the year that journalism truly died. However, as much as conservatives love a good anti-media jeremiad, it’s also true that alternative, capitalist media are abundant and easy to find, and it’s also even true that there are some signs that the mainstream media may well report more fairly on Obama.
#2: Decline of Literacy and Education
While I didn’t read any new studies in the last twelve months that indicate bold frontiers in intellectual decline, there sadly don’t appear to be any ameliorating factors, either. This stock is holding steady at two cents a share.
#1: Decline of the Traditional Family
I’d be hard pressed to say which category saw more “progress” downward in the last twelve months: #5 or #1. While the government’s profligate spending ballooned to hundreds of times what anyone could have predicted, the assault on America’s homes made quantum leaps forward.
The biggest indicator here, of course, was California’s Proposition 8, which restored the normal definition of marriage after it had been briefly hijacked by countercultural activists, but did so by a fairly narrow margin. Far worse than the controversy itself was its treatment across the nation, as defenders of traditional marriage were demonized, harassed, and, in some cases, physically attacked.
The single incident that best encapsulated the ongoing anti-family trend was June’s revelation that 17 girls at a Massachusetts high school had made a “pregnancy pact,” and planned to raise their fatherless babies together. They even went to extremely dangerous lengths in order to get pregnant. An extreme case, but indicative of the larger culture’s mindset.
Speaking of which, of course, there was also Octomom. ‘Nuff said.
Conclusion: The One Thing We Can Do
I remain convinced that the only path to civilizational renewal is a return to orthodox religiosity. Unfortunately, reliable research shows that America has become less religious than ever. (Perhaps this deserves its own category in my list of top five problems?)
Has there ever been a cultural restoration that wasn’t grounded in morality, frugality, literacy, and piety?
Still, the promises of God are sure, and as we come to Him with our weaknesses, we will be healed and saved:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.