Burdened by a slow economy and distracted politicians, the United States is facing some difficult issues — but it looks like we’ll have to wait until the next presidential election is decided before we can tackle them in earnest.
I know, it sounds crazy, but the truth is, we’re living in a time of political paralysis. As a power struggle between the two major parties takes center stage, the nation’s troubles are being pushed into the background. And at the root of this stalemate there is only one explanation: Republicans and Democrats are unwilling to work together. Why? The Republicans are fixated on capturing the presidency in 13 months; Democrats are doing all they can to hold on to the White House.
Meanwhile, the nation is crumbling.
Sources close to President Barack Obama insist this is not the case — re-election, they say, is not a White House priority at this moment. But the spirit of hope and change that Obama fostered during his 2008 campaign is quickly vanishing as the nation continues to struggle and Democrats remain unwilling to take the lead.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Republican lawmakers remain adamant that the good of the country, not electoral gain, is their party’s primary concern. Yet, as we have seen over and over, Republicans are quick to block any proposal that Obama and the Democrats put forth.
And thus nothing is accomplished.
As Cantinflas, the Mexican comic master of wordplay, might have said: Both parties act as though they’re doing something, but they’re doing nothing. Meanwhile, the country remains deeply divided and devoid of a clear direction, both economically and socially. With the Republicans and Democrats deadlocked, the United States is a do-nothing state — and it could stay this way for at least another year.
I have lived in the U.S. for almost 30 years and I have never seen the nation in such distress. With regard to the economy, the government operates on borrowed money, spending more than it collects in revenue, though politicians have yet to present a feasible plan that will reduce the deficit, pay back our debts and still preserve the hope of economic growth.
Of course, the people who are being hurt the most by our government’s inaction are the 14 million unemployed Americans and the additional 46 million who are living in poverty. Sooner or later, the public could be faced with dreadful economic consequences if we cannot get our act together.
As is the case whenever the U.S. enters a tough economic period, part of the blame is directed at undocumented immigrants. Lax security leads people to illegally cross the border to take American jobs, or so the tired argument goes. But while it is absolutely necessary that Congress eventually deal with the issue of 11 million undocumented immigrants living within U.S. borders, reform has become just another casualty of the political stalemate. Alarmed, or perhaps even encouraged, by the absence of the political will in Congress, some states have decided to act on their own.
Alabama is the latest to do so. The state’s HB56 legislation, most of which was upheld late last month by a federal judge, is the most brutal anti-immigrant law in the country. It enables local police to act as de facto immigration agents, allowing them to detain anyone suspected of living in the U.S. without documents and hold them without bond. It also allows Alabama’s public schools to collect information about the citizenship status of their students. Plus all contracts signed by undocumented persons in the state have been declared invalid.
Is this still America? The nation once known as the land of opportunity for recent arrivals?
The problems do not end with immigration and the economy, though. The U.S. is still fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are increasingly unpopular and becoming harder to justify. Officials at NASA have stopped sending space shuttles into space, which is akin to a car factory’s not producing cars. The Justice Department recently announced there are 21 million drug addicts in the United States, and the number keeps growing. And American students are being left behind by their peers in China and India when it comes to math and science.
It is painfully obvious that the U.S. urgently needs to reinvent itself and take control of its future, but our leaders have apparently decided that everything should just be put on hold while we see who will be in control next year.
That said, I, for one, still believe we can pull through. I came to this country because I admire its freedoms, its democracy — the notion of equality and the knowledge that no one is above the law. We must not forget that the U.S. is the world’s leader when it comes to innovation and creativity. We must not forget that this is the country of Facebook and Twitter, of IBM and Apple, of Hollywood and Disney, of Wall Street and Harvard, of the Mayo Clinic and Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
We must not forget that we are not a country that just waits around when things get tough. Unfortunately, this generation of politicians, so fixated on outmaneuvering one another, seems to have forgotten that.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos
© 2011 Jorge Ramos
(March 21, 2011)