Opinion: America is a failing state
To make change, we need to reconstitute our republic
Along the lines of American exceptionalism, the United States has proven to be exceptional in the worst ways. For a long time now, our nation has been performing low in general humanity and high in the number of police brutality reports, incarceration rates and impoverishment numbers.
In fact, no other wealthy country has the horrible public health infrastructure and social safety net that we do. As supposedly the world’s only superpower remaining, half a million Americans are homeless and 34 million are impoverished.
Despite the incompetence and general buffoonery of President Donald Trump’s administration, before 2020 it was still widely reinforced that the United States reigned supreme in global matters. The emergence into the new year was a turning point in which no one could any longer place a muzzle on our crises. By Nov. 3, in the face of a pandemic-induced economic recession, 1,130 coronavirus deaths per day and a chaotic presidential election, it felt like the nation was on the verge of collapse.
Somehow, we’re still hanging onto our semi-functional democracy, and yet, internal conflict, failing socioeconomics and institutional backsliding are all indicators of a failing state.
The United States is a reflection of the violence caused by institutional inequality and poverty. The establishment injustice has made bitter racial and cultural schisms to the point where Black Americans feel criminalized at birth, and Indigenous Americans and people of color are painted by the same stroke.
Conflict zones, where the government fails to provide and leaves groups to fight over basic resources like water and minerals, aren’t found in far-off war-torn worlds; they’re found in our own country. Prime examples like the Navajo Nation; Flint, Michigan; and Baltimore, Maryland are a tribute to hundreds of years of neglect by those in power.
Adding to these ongoing issues, the comparison of the disconnect between the poor and wealthy today versus 18th and 19th century western Europe put together by French economist, Thomas Piketty, seems to echo in modern America. In the 18th and 19th centuries, even as wages rose, private wealth controlled by the top of a rigid class hierarchy dwarfed national income. Similarly enough, in 1965, a CEO’s paycheck was 20 times the average worker’s salary, and by 2018 CEO compensation was 278 times the typical worker’s earnings.
In order for the rich to remain on top, the movements of class conflict need to be managed by bringing them to a local level where it’s easy to subdue. In theory, if a conflict reaches and arouses the majority, they lose control.
Unfortunately, conflict being popularized isn’t enough to make change, to make change means securing institutional reform.
During the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests across the country this past year, the demands for reform were popularized but not implemented. The reason is easy to understand: our country rests on the laurels of laws laid down centuries ago; true reform cannot happen until those same laws are rewritten.
Some die-hard Democrats could argue that the election of President-elect Joe Biden changes the direction that our nation is heading in. But, establishment politics aren’t enough to solve this crisis. To save a failing state, the republic needs to be reconstituted — looking objectively at the blue duo of Biden-Harris, that isn’t going to happen during their term.
Our nation requires fundamental change if we want to remain a legitimate state. We can’t keep cycling through the same worn-out politics and expect there to be a change.
To achieve the goals that America is in desperate need of, change needs to be made in the bedrock of how we address racism, true separation of church and state, LGBTQ+ rights, education, taxes based on income and restore equity in social services and public health.
To create real change, we need to start from the beginning.
Samantha Margot is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and an opinion staff columnist for The Eagle.