It may be the fact that I am in my own twilight that makes me see America’s decline so clearly. The robust land that I read about while growing up in Jamaica is no longer. I came to America in 1979 expecting to find an exciting society, bravely going where no man has gone before. And I found it – 33 years ago. Back then, this was the country that put a man on the moon. This was the country where teenagers could earn enough to buy a car. And they knew how to keep it running, too.
Young people all over the world envied Americans. We all wanted to put a dollar down and buy a car. But by the time, I got here, I was in my forties, and America would soon be growing old, too.
In the ensuing years, Uncle Sam has changed from an adventurous superhero to a crotchety old codger.
Put a man on the moon? Are you nuts?
America is no longer the envy of the world. Recent studies show that young people have a better chance of beating poverty in several other countries. They’re more likely to be stuck in an economic rut here than there.
The ruling class is firmly in control in America. Power and wealth have become concentrated in relatively few hands, and those hands are extremely tightfisted. The elite are not about to share the wealth, they’re using their clout to subvert democracy and keep the rest of us down. Life in America is no longer an exuberant game in which everyone – or almost everyone – has a chance to grab the brass ring. It’s a game of Whac-a-mole; if your head pops up, look out, there’s a mallet waiting to smash it.
The reasons for the change are complicated. But globalization is number one. When American capital was freed to move to low-wage, no-regulation countries and make goods there which they could export to America without a penalty, America’s middle class was on its way out. Now, there are few manufacturing jobs in the United States, and the ripple effect has wiped out much of the professional class. Outsourcing has spread to the highest levels of the workforce. It’s futile to graduate from an American college when the white-collar job you were hoping for has been outsourced to some place like Singapore.
So there you are with a massive student loan to pay off, and the only employment available is picking peaches for a few cents a basket. Or flipping hamburgers for minimum wage. And they don’t even offer courses in peach picking or burger flipping at MIT. So you probably don’t have the credentials to get those jobs.
Even if you take Newt’s advice and go have a bath.
I lie in bed and watch the golf on TV. They’re playing in China. I understand the Chinese are building 10,000 golf courses for their mushrooming middle class. I bet the same kind of thing is happening in Korea. And who knows where else?
Meanwhile, golf is dying in America. Courses are closing.
You can’t play much golf on $8 an hour.
Bye, bye, Miss American pie. I click the remote and roll over. It’s time for an old man to go to sleep.