America is a fascinating place. They struggle with obesity and dominate athletics. They have the finest education institutions and comparatively low literacy and mathematics skills. They have the wealthiest economy in the world and unsustainable debt. They’re one of the most prudish and socially conservative nations in the developed world who also produced Las Vegas and Hollywood.
This paradoxical place has an interesting future ahead. The rise of populism poses a problem, particularly for America. Left-wing populism from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez carries with it promises of social programs that are numerically impossible for America to fund, given their current debt levels – their economy could be in more peril than it already is if they come into power.
America currently stands at $22 trillion in debt. Their annual revenue is only $4 trillion. If interest rates return to levels during the Reagan years, where they had reached 18%, then the American federal treasury will be bankrupted. Given that interest rates are on the rise, the state of the union looks grim indeed.
Right-wing populism poses another threat – xenophobia. As the land of opportunity, America has attracted people from all over the globe to make a better life for themselves, but as a multicultural society, the rise of xenophobia is going to be divisive.
Division is likewise problematic because their system of governance demands a measure of unity to pass laws. The end result is that Republicans and Democrats compromise on their expenditures to claim a modicum of victory and they never manage to dwindle down expenses.
Going forward there’s another issue America must come to grips with. People are beginning to wonder why they must relinquish half of their paycheck to the government for funding wars, give up their children’s lives, and kill people overseas, only to have terrorism increase rather than decrease. Terrorism resulting from their overseas violence will have pressing national security concerns.
Last night Trump’s calls for unity have the potential to compromise on spending promises made by both parties. His call for a wall has the potential to increase distrust of Mexicans. It also appears as though Mexico won’t be paying for the wall after all, and thus it will remain another expensive project.
However, Trump did call for fewer wars. This may have short-term consequences but in the long run, should serve American national security interests. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the idea that if you drop a bomb on someone’s child the family will hate you is an idea which has been lost on neoconservatives and the bulk of the Democratic party.
The state of the union is not good. There are challenges ahead. People appear to be turning toward extremes on the right and the left; and worst of all, away from liberty as the answer to societal problems. But I remain optimistic. America is a nation of paradoxes. The current system is unsustainable but if there was a nation innovative enough to solve these issues and to overcome these pressing challenges it would be a land of opportunity.