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by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado There are few places on earth to compare with the fall season in America. Autumn manifests itself in vastly different ways across our country’s varied landscapes and climates. The brilliant fall colors in my native New England belie the fact that foliage is actually dying to produce the spectacular effect but the thinning afternoon sunlight and lengthening shadows of shorter days remind us that the end of the year approaches. And what a year it has been. An historic election involving an African-American virtually unknown on the national scene less than two years ago, a former prisoner of war and a female governor of our largest state and another newcomer to the national scene. There was, and is, an overwhelming sense among the American people that our country was heading in the wrong direction. They now place their hopes, therefore, on the ability of the man who will lead us through the next four years to effect the promised change. There will indeed be change because things cannot continue on the present track. But the change will not please all Americans. As a candidate, Barrack Obama spoke of the virtues of spreading the wealth among Americans. That’s a frightening concept for many because it’s the central tenant of socialism. Mr. Obama plans to raise taxes on most businesses and corporations on Americans earning more than $250,000, the 5% of taxpayers already paying most of the taxes. He proposes tax “refunds” for most of the bottom 60% percent of taxpayers who currently pay only a tiny percentage of the federal income tax. Other promised social spending includes universal health coverage which will likely morph into a single payer system. Proposed payroll tax refunds will hasten the day when social security taxes will be insufficient to cover benefits which must then be reduced, delayed or paid out of income tax receipts. How will all this be paid for? Any economics major can see that closing all the tax “loopholes”, imposing “windfall” profits taxes and ending the war in Iraq will not begin to pay for these promised goodies. The solution will be increased deficit spending to add to our already massive federal debt owed to foreigners who will soon own us. It may be this massive debt that finally pushes America off its perch as the world’s dominant nation and accelerates a decline in world prestige and influence from which we may not recover. All the world’s dominant powers in the past have eventually peeked and declined. America’s turn is eagerly awaited in some parts of the world. A common feature of each decline has been overextension, through military expeditions or empire building, or both, without sufficient industrial or financial base to support it. Nothing is inevitable, of course, but the signs of decline are everywhere and it is not unpatriotic to notice them. Indeed, if we do not recognize the signs, we will continue to delude ourselves into believing in our own invincibility and hasten the decline. The first and most obvious sign is the decline of the family unit; the high incidence of divorce and the percentage of children born out of wedlock. We have created a culture that now seems to accept the idea of rearing children without a resident father, whose absence denies the child an important role model and virtually assures behavioral problems. Children are increasingly turning to gangs and at a younger age, for the socialization and sense of family that they need. Most single parents are too busy scratching out a living to devote enough time to helping their children learn. As a direct result they are underperforming in school and it is the fault of neither the schools nor the teachers. It is the consequence, primarily, of a failure in parenting. Our kids are not brighter than ever, a senseless mantra, endlessly repeated. They are, in fact, dumber than ever. They may have impressive digital skills but they don’t read or write well and their math and physical science skills are, on average, abysmal. One quarter of high school students in California drop out. In Los Angeles, it’s one third. Among blacks and Hispanics, it’s even worse. The exception to the trend is Asian-American children. Why? You know why. It’s the culture. The parents are involved. The culture prizes learning and education. America is not producing the mathematicians and scientists we need to stay competitive in the world. China and India each produces more graduate scientists and engineers than we do. Indeed, we train many of them in our universities while our graduate students focus on the soft curricula. Unfortunately, most of the foreign students return home because of our ridiculous immigration policies that favor uneducated laborers over trained scientists and engineers. Our culture is in decline. Political correctness keeps us from acknowledging it. Our behavior, language and entertainment have grown coarser. Our appetite for addictive drugs fuels international crime cartels. We don’t know how to save or to live within our means and we are obsessed with materialism. Our politicians are self-serving. The late, great colonial powers of the past have seen their springs and summers pass as their influence on the world stage faded and they became cradle to grave welfare states. Is it now America’s autumn? And can winter be far behind? CRO copyright 2008 J.F. Kelly, Jr. J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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