Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can America Be Saved?

Our nation and the world are struggling to avoid a complete collapse of our economies. We have a president that has done more in his brief time in office than any other president. We have leaders of the manufacturing and financial industries that continue to shamelessly lavish themselves with bonuses while their businesses have failed or are failing due to their mismanagement. We have a minority party, the GOP, whose leaders, both official and unofficial, are focused only on obstructing the efforts of our president and the majority in Congress. I'll be the first to admit that were shoes on other feet the Dems would probably do the same thing, however; now is not the time for tit-for-tat. Matter of fact, IT NEVER IS, when the participants are our elected officials.

Does their conduct give you hope that we can recover more than momentarily, if at all? I'm talking about more than our economy. I don't want to sound like the Moral Majority, which was anything but, however; the leadership of this country is rotten with greed. The crime rate of elected officials, at all levels, is higher than it is in the general population. The crime rate of business leaders is probably no better. Our business leaders are unethical - generally speaking they don't care if their employees are fairly compensated; they don't care if their employees workplace is safe; they don't care if their manufacturing process pollutes the environment and poisons their neighbors; they don't care if the product that they produce is of "adequate" quality, reliable and safe. Their only concern regarding their customer is that the customer thinks that the product is quality, reliable and safe. I spent more than 30 years working for a large consumer products corporation - PepsiCo. Managers at all levels became less ethical over those three decades. One of the last projects that I completed while working for the largest franchise of PepsiCo, The Pepsi Bottling Group, was to bring all of the companies bottling facilities in the U.S. in compliance with OSHA regulations regarding employee exposure to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is an ingredient in most of Pepsi's products. The often antiquated equipment that is used to carbonate and package the beverage continually releases carbon dioxide into the workspace. Every one of the facilities in the U.S. was audited and every one of them continuously exceeded the legal limit. In a few plants the exposure level was almost 10 times the legal limit. The vice president of the engineering group I worked in opposed the project. Companies do the right thing only when they are obligated to do so by law and then only when the government actually enforces the law.

Leaders without ethics are not found only in our businesses. Our politicians are no better. Our major political parties - the Republicans and the Democrats - do not represent the People. They represent themselves. While they are not serving themselves directly they are serving their party leaders, the lobbyists and the PACs without which they would not have been nominated and could not remain in office. Each of us can think of at least a few politicians that have been caught violating the ethics of their office and/or the law. Illinois will soon have two ex-governors in prison at the same time. Our last vice president was recently indicted by the state of Texas for prisoner abuse in some privately owned prisons in Texas - prisons that he owns. And, one of previous attorney generals, Gonzales, has also been indicted by the state of Texas for attempting to stop the investigation of the prisoner abuse. Our previous president is a war criminal who knowingly violated our laws and our international treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners of war; he violated the privacy of American citizens through illegal wiretapping; he manipulated the federal courts and attorneys to protect himself from those who opposed such violations.

We complain that Islamic fanatics threaten our democracy, our safety and our religious freedom, but have you paid any attention to the lying, cheating, thieving, immoral, self-righteous Christian fanatics in the U.S. that want to control your government, dictate how you will live and eliminate other religions? How many religious leaders have been caught doing the very acts that they condemn. How many TV evangelists prey (not pray) on the weak, the poor and the sick to live richly on the millions of dollars that they steal from their followers by making promises that they cannot keep, by offering cures that they cannot deliver?

The worst sign of our decay is our own conduct. How many of us want something for nothing? How many of us will ignore the plight of another? How many of us think like conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, that "people are poor in America ... not because they lack money," but "because they lack values, morals, and ethics?" How many of us respect others and have raised our children to respect others? How many of us cheat on our taxes... not a lot but a little? How many of us drive through stop signs and rush through yellow/red traffic lights? We expect honestly from others when otherwise means a loss to ourselves but not the other way around. If while loading your purchases into your car you discover that the check-out clerk forgot to ring up a $6 item in your shopping cart do you take it back to the store? When was the last time you volunteered?

We have a lot to fix. The problem is not "them" it is "us." We have to change ourselves. We have to start respecting each other. We have to help each other. We have to take charge of our government. The worldwide economic collapse started in the U.S. We have more lawyers per capita and sue more often than any other country. The percentage of the U.S. population that is in prison is much higher than in any other country. We have more murders per capita than any other country. We have more crime per capita than any other country. We are one of the few nations in the world and the only Western nation that stills executes criminals - including minors, the mentally retarded and the mentally ill. The annual production of this nation is higher per capita than any other nation yet we do not have the highest standard of living, we do not have the lowest birth mortality rate, we do not have the highest performing schools. We have more doctors and hospitals per capita than any other nation but we are not the healthiest nation. We are the largest economy in the world but our infrastructure has decayed. We are the most powerful country in the world but we have too often abused that power to serve our national needs while rarely using it to stop genocide as in Sudan and Rwanda.

Can America be saved? What will you do?

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