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Monday, August 8, 2011

An-Nahar Newspaper: The Land of Missed Opportunities

[Administrator's Note: Octavia is now writing articles for An-Nahar Newspaper each week and we will provide them here after they are printed.]

This week is not like any other for the United States of America. The economic, political and military challenges of the past week have left many scratching their heads trying to make sense of it all while others are trying to devise ways to appease a population that is mostly confused, misinformed and powerless. Still others are looking for opportunities to shoot down more targets, aim at the arm that hurts, find loopholes and keep at it until the enemy surrenders completely beyond any capability to fight back!

America today looks like a mythical creature with one body and two heads at odd with one another. Instead of taking turns leading the body into safety and peace the two heads are fighting each other, unable to get along. Even worse, the two heads harbor a growing animosity towards each other and openly wish each other ill.

One of the deadliest incidents for U.S. forces in the Afghanistan war marked the end of an already tough week. Insurgents shot down a military helicopter during fighting in eastern Afghanistan killing 30 U.S. special operation troops, seven Afghan soldiers and an interpreter.

Hours before the helicopter crash, the U.S.’ credit rating was downgraded for the first time since the nation earned the top rating in 1917. Despite criticism by Democrats that there was an error in the calculations and that the quick announcement was politically motivated, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) still went ahead with the downgrade. It maintained that the ‘debt ceiling’ agreement reached by congressional leaders, after much wrangling and political maneuvering, and signed into law by President Obama, did not convince the agency that the required $4 Trillion in spending cuts were anywhere to be found in the compromise. The agency has even threatened to downgrade the rating further in the next two years if concrete actions do not lead to a general government debt trajectory as the S&P projects in its base case.

In the middle of all this stand the ordinary, hard-working, Tax-paying Americans. They have been watching their life savings dwindle in front of their eyes. The majority of them are unarmed and unable to take action to protect what they have to save the day. Unemployment figures are alarming and families are finding it harder to make both ends meet. Yet, lawmakers play politics as usual acting like they have the situation under control when in reality they don’t.

You don’t need to be an economist to realize the deep trouble we are in and how we got here. Start with the high, unexpected cost of the September 11 terror attacks and two wars fought on borrowed money. Add to that several tax cuts, expensive government programs and top it with the economic collapse of 2008 and the government bailouts that followed. You can see how the U.S. national debt rose to levels higher than $14.5 trillion according to the very depressing US debt clock, which is ticking away at a speed suggesting an imminent implosion in the absence of a drastic intervention. It does not take a genius to conclude that no single program can fix this problem and the debt can only go up. Some fear that at this rate, the debt could reach $20 trillion by 2020.

The coming weeks and months call for dramatic actions by President Obama and U.S. Congress to set the record straight. The U.S. government needs to reign in its spending and make significant cuts in all possible areas. Priorities need to be redrawn and all actions need to be taken to preserve the U.S. as “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” From this week forward, Americans must rise above party lines. Only by being Americans first and foremost can they save their country and help it live up to its old reputation as the land of opportunity.

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