It is argued frequently and with broad strokes that the United States is on a downward spiral. To those who have the ability to step away from the political arena and analyze it with a level head, most can come to the conclusion that these conclusions that damn America are strictly political doom-and-gloom attitudes.
Standing outside that arena also allows informed members of society to view all the facts that are often kicked aside in debate. With a historical and empirical perspective, a much different conclusion can be made.
How does one gauge a country’s overall success? Could it be the quality of life of its citizens? The economic power it projects? Could it possibly be its technological achievements and advancements? Maybe it is based on how many diplomatic solutions it brokers. Because there is no set way of determining how prosperous a nation is, a mixture of all accomplishments and its overall positive effects on society as a worldly whole can come close to the true measure.
The Historical Perspective
Even broader strokes have been made on both sides of the ideological debate regarding the United States’ history. It is often stated that toady, we live in a wretched, violent, unstable time period. However, the educated man would ask himself, “how much more difficult is international terrorism than communism or fascism, or slavery?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “[a] house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.” 1 His words were powerful, and his meaning was true. Hundreds of thousands of lives were in a constant state of ruin due to slavery. It was a challenge of their day, and it took men of Lincoln’s scope to solve it.
Nationalism and hubris engulfed Europe and triggered one of the largest world conflicts seen. The containment of a conquering Germany and the suppression of the militarily ambitiousness of Austria-Hungry were the day’s headlines, and the strong leaders of the United States and its allies took on that challenge.
The rise of Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia were surly a scary thought. Watching a fascist government slaughter millions of innocent people, and a communist one doing the same was a somber and painful thing to watch. Real people were dying, and real war came. Millions more died in the fight for equality and freedom, and in the end, true leaders like Roosevelt, Truman, and Churchill seized opportunities and dealt with the daunting problems.
And to some, not too long ago, the United States stood on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The most deadly of weapons were being mounted and ready to be launched. With the flick of a switch, millions, if not billions of people could have died if it weren’t for the leadership of the free and democratic world.
Today, international terrorism threatens the stability and tranquility of not only the American people, but again, the free and dem-ocratic world. The question is, are we in a more dangerous, vio-lent, and racist world today, than our previous chapters? Slavery affected everyone. Fascism threatened everyone. Communism endangered everyone. Terrorism jeopardizes everyone.
The Empirical Perspective
Fact-based numbers are helpful when it comes to measuring a nation’s success, and it will also conclude the exact opposite of a so-called “American decadence.” It would be illogical to walk through every economic, social, and governmental improvement (yes, there are that many), however the strongest and most far reaching fields are appropriate to look at.
Allow us to first look at our technology: one hundred years ago, in the United States, transportation via gas-powered vehicles was still under way. Only one hundred and forty-four miles of paved roads were available and a measly eight thousand cars were on what roads there were. The average pay was twenty-two cents an hour and the average worker made from two-hundred to four-hundred dollars a year. The five leading causes of death in America were pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhea, heart disease and strokes. Only six percent of Americans had graduated from high school, and only two out of every ten adults could read or write.2
Today, needless to say, is much different. In 2005, the United States ranked second in having the most internet users, third in active telephone lines, and third in active cellular mobile telephone use. We have more airports, more kilometers in roadways, and more railways than any other country in the world. We exported 927.5 billion dollars in goods in 2005 alone.3
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1997 to 2002 alone, the U.S. saw an increase in the number of paid employees in the following fields: mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information distribution, finance and insurance, real estate, rental and leasing, professional, scientific and technical services, managements of companies and enterprises, administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services, education services, health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation fields, and accommodation and food services.4
All of these jobs equal economic growth, and that has most definitely been true. In the past 12 months, nearly 1.9 million jobs were created. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent – lower than the average of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. According to an American Research Group poll, 50% of people that disapprove of George W. Bush said the economy is in a recession.5
Unfortunately, the President’s opponents could not be more wrong. Contrary to their belief, the economy is in an astounding state, one that has spurred a real GDP of 5.3% and maintained a low 4.7% unemployment rate. Because of the President’s tax relief initiatives set in 2003, business investment and job growth has steadily grown.
Tax Relief Spurs Growth – Chart
(Source: United States Department of the Treasury) 6
More Americans than ever are investing in the market shown by the Dow surpassing 11,000 on January 9th, 2006. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the deficit is now where it was during the 1990s and has continued to shrink. Our economy is strong, Americans are going to work, and the markets are benefiting from tax cuts. It could not be more crystal clear.
Another talking point of those who believe America’s golden days are behind her, is that our aspiring children are more disrespectful, and also believe that a variety of things including teen pregnancy, crime, and cancer are all on the rise. That could not be more incorrect. Between 1990 and 2000, the teen pregnancy rate declined by 28%. Teenage girls performing abortions have also decreased.7 Rising crime is also a common misconception. Crime is actually decreasing. The FBI reports that from 1993 to 2002, the crime rate has declined by 23.5%. Another FBI report concluded in 2004 projected the continuing trend: the rate of murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson have all fallen.8
Citizen’s health could also be a key factor in determining the success of a nation. The 2002 estimated national vaccination coverage of hepatitis was 90%, diphtheria and tetanus toxoids: 82%, Haemophilus influenza: 93%, measles-mumps-rubella: 92%, polio: 90%, varicella: 81%.9 Every national coverage percentile has increased from the 2000-01 statistics. The United States’ life expectancy is higher than one hundred sixty-two other countries.10 The number of Health Savings Accounts tripled from March 2005, to January 200611. Americans are living longer, and are becoming more responsible with their future health.
So is America in a state of decadence? With our technological prowess, economic growth, an increasingly more responsible youth, less crime and healthier citizens, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that America is on a downward slope. Quite the contrary, the trends that have been identified in this document all point to a positive direction, whether that is an upward slope of real GDP growth, or a downward slope of crime rates. To the educated American, the United States is a safer, more reliable, and a more prosperous place to live.