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A Superpower in Decline: Is the American Dream Over?

Part 4: The New American Nightmare

One Monday in September, six weeks before the mid-term elections, the CNBC television network invited President Obama to a town hall meeting with voters. One after another, members of the audience stood up to air their grievances: about the job crisis, America's crisis and the feeling of hope that the country has lost since the excitement of the 2008 presidential election.

Velma Hart, a stout woman in her mid-40s, stepped up to the microphone. "Mr. President," she said, as her eyes teared up, "I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I'm an American veteran and I'm one of your middle-class Americans. And quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are."

Hart, who is black, voted for Obama. It was an obvious choice for her at the time, and she says that has never felt closer to an American president before. She is about the same age as the president and, like Obama, she has children and a job as an executive. She works at Amvets, the American veterans association. If anyone is a natural Obama voter, it's Velma Hart.

"The financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family," Hart said. "My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot-dogs-and-beans era of our lives. But, quite frankly, it is starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we are headed. And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?"

No Real Answer

The president smiled thinly. He mentioned the "right steps" that had been taken but he had no real answer. He couldn't reassure her or even argue with her point. Her dream was his dream, he said.

The unemployment rate in the United States is at about 10 percent. But when the people who have stopped looking for work and are not registered anywhere are included, the real number is likely to be closer to 20 percent. For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans have a problem with long-term unemployment.

Hart's worries, in other words, have become the new American nightmare for many. In a country with a limited concept of social cohesion, laughable from a European perspective, the quiet demise could have unforeseen consequences. How strong is the cement holding together a society that manically declares any social thinking to be socialist? The US economy lost almost 100,000 jobs in September. Is this Obama's fault?

Dinesh D'Souza, a former advisor in the White House of President Ronald Reagan who is now the president of The King's College in New York, has written a 258-page bestseller about Obama, "The Roots of Obama's Rage." The title itself ought to be a joke.

It has been a long time since the United States has had such a levelheaded president as Obama, a man who governs so dialectically and didactically, who spends so much time listening, weighing options and calmly arriving at his decisions. The president has a lot of problems, including many inherited from his predecessor. He also has a hard time coming across as warm and empathetic. He is good at generating enthusiasm in crowds but, unlike Clinton, he is not adept at connecting to people on a more personal level. Obama feels uncomfortable when he faces someone like Velma Hart. But angry? Obama?

Full of Hatred

The Tea Party, that group of white, older voters who claim that they want their country back, is angry. Fox News host Glenn Beck, a recovering alcoholic who likens Obama to Adolf Hitler, is angry. Beck doesn't quite know what he wants to be -- maybe a politician, maybe president, maybe a preacher -- and he doesn't know what he wants to do, either, or least he hasn't come up with any specific ideas or plans. But he is full of hatred. And so is Dinesh D'Souza.

Indeed, the United States of 2010 is a hate-filled country.

D'Souza says that Obama's father was an anti-colonialist and that he dreamed of his native Kenya liberating itself from its British colonial rulers. His son Barack has the same dream, says D'Souza. He wants to put America, the neo-colonial power of the 21st century, in its place. "The most powerful country in the world is being governed according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s," D'Souza writes. "America today is governed by a ghost."

D'Souza's book has been a huge success, reaching fourth place on the New York Times bestseller list. The Washington Post published an opinion piece by the author, Forbes had him write a cover story, and D'Souza himself thinks he knows why so many people believe that Obama was not born in the United States and is a Muslim. People can't identify with him, says D'Souza, because he doesn't believe in the American dream.

This is the climate in the country leading up to the Congressional elections on Nov. 2. It isn't shaped by logic or an interest in rational debate. The United States of 2010 is a country that has become paralyzed and inhibited by allowing itself to be distracted by things that are, in reality, not a threat: homosexuality, Mexicans, Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, health care reform and Obama. Large segments of the country are not even talking about the issues that are serious and complex, like debt, unemployment and serious educational deficits. Is it because this is all too threatening?

Gridlock as the American Status Quo

It has become a country of plain solutions. People with college degrees are suspect and intelligence has become a blemish. Manfred Henningsen, a German political scientist who teaches in Honolulu, Hawaii, calls it "political and economic paralysis." One reason for the crisis, says Henningsen, is that the American dream, both individual and national, has in fact always been a fiction. "This society was never stable. It was always socially underdeveloped, and anyone who talks about the good old days today is forgetting the injustices of racist America."

Agitators like Glenn Beck are "nationalist, racist and proto-fascist," says Henningsen. "They take advantage of the economic situation, almost the way the right-wing intelligentsia did back in the Weimar Republic."

Gridlock has become the modern America status quo, and the condition Henningsen calls "institutional idiocy" is especially obvious in the country's most important legislative body, the Senate, which has come to resemble a royal court where nothing has happened in centuries.

Each state elects two senators, including Wyoming, with its 540,000 inhabitants, and California, with a population of 37 million. If enough senators from states with small populations band together, they have the capacity to block everything, which is precisely what they do. And no one questions the rules, both written and unwritten. The Senate is no longer a club in which the members speak to one another. The filibuster, a way of blocking legislation through continuous debate, was the exception in the past, but today it's the rule. The Republicans have already used the filibuster to torpedo more than 100 of Obama's proposals.

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1. If 1/3 sit in front of computers, of course low standard of living
lakechamplainer 11/01/2010
I think the main reason US standards of living have stagnated is the ocmputer, for several reasons 1. Simply put, if 1/3 of the workforce sits in front of the computer, 1/3 of the work force is not doing something productive - farming, making furniture, teaching, cooking, etc. 2. Computers are used by management to monitor employees, which limit productivity 3. Capital spent on computers, which is almost all not providing a real return on investment, is capital not put into productive use. There are some good uses for computers, for example on controlling/monitoring high speed, high quantity production or assembly or packaging lines, but these are the exception to the rule.
2. Florida
esperonto 11/02/2010
Goodbye to it. Florida was always a skid row state, coursing with drug addiction, prostitution, voodoo, mafia, Cuban terrorists, and hurricanes. You see the failure of this new suburban retirement planning, but in fact this is only a small superficial section of Florida. Much of florida has always been homeless, poor, police brutality, and skid row. You can search through youtube to see pictures of police cutting up the tents of homeless people, young kids beating up homeless. The dream was only a superficial segment of Florida, that excluded much of the population. That is the most naive thing of all. For a state with only a shallow sense of community and grift work for old retired rich people and down to earth, straight forward Mexican slavery with all the bells attached. To me the only wonder is that people only feel sorry for these oblivious home owners! This is shot in Saint Pete Florida, a relatively small city: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrPdZmPB36U The reason they do that is not just about the physical act of removing homeless. Its psychological harassment to criminalize the minds of the tent owners. After their tents are cut up, their minds become more guilty, and they have more of a marked look. Normal people will realize they have been marked subconsciously. That is the mentality of the American South: guilty until proven innocent. I guess if I was a genius like these police I would understand that being smart and successful means being ruthless. Really smart people hate the poor and want to destroy them. When you are really smart and well pampered, nothing is better than killing the poor, destroying their homes in Palestine, or killing them in Afghanistan. When you are really intelligent, rich and successful, nothing is better than eating human flesh. Maybe you would care for a tomato instead: http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2009/03/politics-of-the-plate-the-price-of-tomatoes I know, If I had some self respect and pride or patriotism, I could kill and enslave the poor with a clean conscious like normal sane people. Then I would only worry about some middle class home owners and take the idiotic European view of the "American Dream". If I believed in the God, I could enslave and kill like a real Christian.
3. American dreams are at loggerheads
sirajul 11/02/2010
A great article by Spiegel, and I like to thank Spiegel staff writers Klaus Brinkbäumer, Marc Hujer, Peter Müller, Gregor Peter Schmitz and Thomas Schulz for this thorough 6-part story on America's past, present and future. With the midterm elections holding today, and both Democrats and Republicans distancing themselves from the brand America, the country’s leadership, as hinted by the storywriters, is coming to an end. Indeed, American leaderships have had hands in the initiation of the losing, though not publicly. Many months before the actual changing of the America, a political swing is on the move. Its scope and extent remain unclear, yet the seeds of a new foreign policy have clearly been implanted. The earlier strategy, which treated diplomacy as a second choice and saw the military pre-emptive strike as America's fundamental right, has verified to be unsuccessful. Despite the consequences of who are going to be the actual rulers in America, the return of the ‘Right’ is alarming. ‘The demonisation of political opponents, the end of debates, the condemnation of intellect, these are all maybe ominous signs’ that the American dream is over.
4. computers
esperonto 11/02/2010
Zitat von lakechamplainerI think the main reason US standards of living have stagnated is the ocmputer, for several reasons 1. Simply put, if 1/3 of the workforce sits in front of the computer, 1/3 of the work force is not doing something productive - farming, making furniture, teaching, cooking, etc. 2. Computers are used by management to monitor employees, which limit productivity 3. Capital spent on computers, which is almost all not providing a real return on investment, is capital not put into productive use. There are some good uses for computers, for example on controlling/monitoring high speed, high quantity production or assembly or packaging lines, but these are the exception to the rule.
Lets not forget computers control heart machines in hospitals, etc. I don't think computers can be blamed entirely. And you know farming and furniture making still go on, but as you know, capitalism has monopolies on small business. If IKEA makes furniture, how can I make furniture? If a giant corporation owns many hog farms, how can a normal person own a hog farm? Nevertheless, there are many people who are still farmers, furniture makers, etc. One thing that may have suffered is fine art. Painting, drawing, and many of the fine arts that were more prominent in the 1960s before computers are now completely passe. Also there is a "buy local" movement to counteract your problem of online shopping. At least where I live, people are encouraged to "buy local". I have seen it in other towns as well. I think the movies people watch decrease the standard of living. I was on a greyhound bus recently and it had movie screens in it that played an extremely stupid movie. Though I couldn't hear it, because I refused to put on the earphones, these monitors were reflected all around the bus in the windows at night. I was bombarded by one of the most stupid movies I have ever seen about someone who works in the house of congress who becomes Noah and builds an ark. I felt after I had seen its flickering mobs of bamboozled actors that my quality of reality had been reduced, even without hearing any audio. Its no wonder I have no TV and mostly watch older movies that have no special effects or CGI graphics. Definitely TV, Mass Media, and Hollywood films these days are reducing the population to very shallow reality. I have been very picky to choose only real socialist news and older movies with bad camera work and live action stunts where appropriate. Look at this for instance. I dont like the song so much, but this guy goes crazy. He jumps around with a kind of energy they don't have at all in these computer generated imagery movies. He does backflips off the wall. I am not even that old. This way before my time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW02c5UNGl0 Hong Kong films used to be like that in the 1980s. Stephen Chow for instance is extremely good. Many Kung Fu films are also quite good for this kind of humor action. A fat guy is often his side kick. The fat guy is maybe even as funny as him. He dresses up as a girl sometimes. http://www.youtube.com/user/tithya0youtube#p/u/206/hnMwKnkeYGY CGI just gives like magic powers to the director. It provides too much fantasy. The plots of these films get really stupid. I mean, Congressman transforms into Noah? Retarded. Still, some computer art is quite good, like this comical portrayal of Evelyn Rothschild and Rockefeller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Tz8l-t1o4
5. Travel
esperonto 11/02/2010
Zitat von lakechamplainerI think the main reason US standards of living have stagnated is the ocmputer, for several reasons 1. Simply put, if 1/3 of the workforce sits in front of the computer, 1/3 of the work force is not doing something productive - farming, making furniture, teaching, cooking, etc. 2. Computers are used by management to monitor employees, which limit productivity 3. Capital spent on computers, which is almost all not providing a real return on investment, is capital not put into productive use. There are some good uses for computers, for example on controlling/monitoring high speed, high quantity production or assembly or packaging lines, but these are the exception to the rule.
I have used computers for so much though. Once I got a job online in Turkey. I ended up going there for 9 months! All because I applied for a job online and emailed to a Turkish business owner. If it were not for internet, I would never have been in Turkey, so I can thank computer for that. Computer is very fun for me. I use it mainly to gather information. For instance, if it wasn't for the USA Esperanto website, I might not speak Esperanto. I did a mail order course with them for a certificate. It was by normal mail, but essentially I applied for it online here: http://esperanto-usa.org/ Educational tool unparalleled. Now I can read a book in Esperanto almost fluently.
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