Al Qaeda rises, the economy sinks: What progress, President Obama?

America is actually sliding backward towards chaos and the economic abyss as we approach autumn. Photo: President Obama (Kaster/AP)

NEW YORK, September 16, 2013 — One year after we heard that Al Qaeda was on the way out and economic recovery on the way in, these words from Lev Grossman’s 2009 novel The Magicians spring to mind:

“If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so.”

You would never know from taking our chief magician at his word, but America is actually sliding backward towards chaos and the economic abyss as we approach autumn. Discontent is rising across the entire political spectrum even after we hear President Obama’s many soothing sentences.

Young adults now rightly fear war without end as they wonder where the decent paying jobs are. It is frightfully dangerous on the battlefield, while college debts are tough to service as a barista or on the unemployment line.

Parents struggle to balance family accounts as politicians spend money with reckless abandon. If only families could print money the way the Federal Reserve has done to fund a deficit that remains monstrous in historical terms, though admittedly below recent peak levels.

Seniors shudder, as they sense Obamacare is closer to Frankenstein than the health care cure-all they were sold. Is it not more than quite concerning that the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, yet we still do not know important details concerning key provisions that go into effect imminently?

SEE RELATED: Putin throws America on the rhetorical mat

In political campaigns, it seems that facts matter little. Yet, when meeting America’s towering financial and military obligations, facts certainly do matter.

One cold truth is that radical Islamic Jihadists are surging back into action against America everywhere they can. Neither bombs nor rhetoric has curbed their determination to dismantle and destroy secular states. Whatever President Bush and President Obama have tried, will anyone concentrating upon America’s international standing dare to argue that we are winning or that peace is any closer to hand for all our costly sacrifices?

A second is that Americans are worse off in economic terms since the epic peak in 1999 when this nation reaped most financially from winning the Cold War.

Is the American led uni-polar world gone and lost forever? Is President Putin correct that America is not exceptional in a positive sense? Has living a dream exhausted our potential to cope and move beyond mounting challenges in vexing reality?

Today, as President Obama tries to shift focus back to his economic program, the tentative Syrian pact to control their chemical arsenal seems to offer only flimsy assurance that peace nears in the volatile Mideast. Meanwhile, America cedes leadership regarding the most vexing foreign policy issues in that region to Russia, a nation that defaulted on its sovereign debt fifteen years ago and, until recently, was barely a footnote in calculations concerning the global balance of power in the new millennium.

The American dollar continues to shrink compared to useful commodities (food, energy, timber) and stores of value (gold, silver, platinum). Everyday items and imports cost more while assets are worth less to key foreign investors, If economic progress means more people have more valuable money in their pockets more reliably, where is this the case in America?

Official government statistics show that wage earners at each level of the economy are worse off in real terms. Fierce global competition and the undeniable fact that Americans remain highly paid on world scale means that all private sector incomes are under threat.

As shadows lengthen and light fades in America, words may explain more clearly than numbers can how serious the plight is that we all face.

In September 2013, we are like a young boy seen in August 1976, crossing from Niger, just south of the Sahara, into Benin.

He was perhaps 11 years old, reed thin and unfamiliar with plenty, while we are mature, overweight, and unaccustomed to want.

He knelt down before arrogant border guards who whipped him with a cord, seemingly for sport. We still stand erect, though we are hobbled.

His eyes glistened as he slid his knees from side to side over the thin metal rail upon which his minimal weight rested. We are not yet moved to tears or subject to the excruciating pain he must have felt.

His arms trembled as he struggled to hold large bricks in each hand, for when he lowered an arm but several inches the cruel crack of a supple cord was a certain result. We carry a gigantic debt upon our own backs, but so far the international community is willing to let our nation and the Federal Reserve Bank pretend we can service and ultimately repay our obligations.

He suffered in abject humiliation fastened to a dry corner in a distant part of the earth. There was nothing anyone could do to save him. And here is where the story may differ in the telling.

America in 2013 need not be that poor little boy, shouldering obligations, like bricks. We need not embrace life in futile subservience to tired slogans that never actually work.

Instead, we can start by remembering the distant words of Aristotle that “the worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal”.

We need not pile on debts we may not be able to repay in service to the false dream of attempting equal results after we assure equal opportunity.

We can consider Thomas Jefferson who correctly noted:

“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition”.

Mr. President, you have run your last campaign. It is time to put platitudes to bed and analyze solid numbers concerning the earning capacity and financial leverage of this nation. Listen to one of your professed idols, Abraham Lincoln:

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is bring them the real facts.”

Americans are tired of needless fights that serve only to distract and divide us and more than ready to implement solutions.

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Charles Ortel

Charles Ortel became a lapsed member of the silent majority in August 2007 when he began alerting the public to dangers posed by structural changes in the global economy. Since then, Charles has appeared in the print, radio and television media with increasing frequency. Brass Tacks will attempt to offer non-partisan perspective on factors contributing to the unresolved, burgeoning crisis and discuss potential solutions. Graduated from Horace Mann School, Yale College and Harvard Business School, Charles tries to learn each day.  

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