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Scruggs, Vassallo Debate: Is America In Trouble?

Dickie Scruggs: Is America in trouble? Absolutely not.

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs

In every way the United States of America is the dominant nation on earth. I say this not from patriotism but because it is fact. America dominates every authoritative index of economic, military and political strength, notwithstanding the alarmism in the current political season.

A leading index that ranks the world’s most influential countries is the World Presence Index, which has tracked the relative influence of every country since 1990. The United States is not only first, it is nearly three laps ahead of its nearestrival, the United Kingdom. China trails Germany, and Russia is behind (alas) France.

If conventional military power is measured, America has an even bigger lead. According to the Global Fire Power Index, America’s defense expenditures are nearly 4 times China’s and 10 times those of Russia (who doesn’t spend as much as Saudi Arabia on defense). Those spending levels are reflected in comparative American military strength. Significantly, according to these authorities, America has a two decade qualitative lead in weapons technology. If nuclear weapons are included, America’s lead is still larger.

In Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the main index of a nation’s economic output, America’s GDP in current dollars is the largest in the world-larger even than the combined GDP of China and Japan—our two closest rivals. The Pew Research Center’s survey of global attitudes finds that America “is seen as the world’s leading economic power.”

There is no significant measure of overall national power that doesn’t place America securely on top. America does not need to be made “great” because she already is.

And yet, this being a political year, some candidates are forecasting doom and gloom. One says that “the country is going to hell.” So what, he says, that America is in front right now? Our lead rests upon an $18 trillion national debt–a house of cards that will collapse at anytime. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Henry Adams famously said, “practical politics consists in ignoring facts.”

And so it is that the quadrennial trope about calamitous debt arises once again…in predictable sync with a new election cycle. And the mongers of doom are yet again wrong, especially about the national debt. I’ll explain why.

The national debt is what America has borrowed from the financial marketsto pay its bills. In simple terms, the national debt equals the sum of accumulated budget deficits. Today, America’s national debt is about $18 trillion, and economists forecast it to grow to $29 trillion by 2026.

Like a family’s debt, however, the amount of debt has significance only as a percent of income. Think of it as your house note. You likely can afford a bigger mortgage today than in 1980. That’s because you make more today than you did then. Since 1980 Americans have paid, on average, 10-13 percent of their annual disposable income in debt service, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who tracks that data.

By comparison, according to The Center for Economic Policy Research, the United States pays only 1.3 percent of its annual GDP in service on the national debt. That percentage will grow to a very modest three percent if the debt grows to $29 trillion in 2026. To put the national debt in context, think of it as a house note of $100 per month on a $100,000 home mortgage today, or a $250 monthly payment in 2026-if you continue to borrow.

So, to those who shill the national debt and the decline of America, I offer a quote from William Faulkner’s Nobel acceptance address, “I refuse to accept this. I believe that [America] will not merely endure: [she] will prevail.”

Steve Vassallo: Is America in trouble?

Steve Vassallo
Steve Vassallo

The easiest way to answer this question is just review the GOP voting numbers in the primaries to date. The 55 percent increase says volumes. People vote only like this when they’re mad, and this year they are fuming! We’ll look at several critical areas including those Dickie avoided for obvious reasons.

Let’s start with the national debt which Dickie did mention. Here’s the other side of the coin. According to USDebtClock.org, the current debt is $19.2 trillion accompanied by a federal budget deficit of $488 billion. This equates to spreading the debt per citizen at $59,254. The interest on the debt is $2.4 billion daily! Unless the Congress gets a handle on this soon, the debt coupled with entitlements will stranglehold the federal budget. In other words we will no longer be able to defend ourselves as we have since WWII.

Speaking of Defense, total naval strength (battleforce ships) is an important indicator of deterrence. Global Firepower lists the US third behind China and North Korea with only 415 ships in this category. China is second with 714 and North Korea first with 967. This does not provide any level of comfort as North Korea and China press forward with hostile actions involving military aggression. Our Navy has not been this weak since the early 1900s. Our Army manpower is at least a million short of where it needs to be.

The economy is always the final and most important issue that voters will ultimately decide between candidates in November. Quality job growth is problematic as middle class incomes ($25,000 – $100,000) have failed to increase since 2000 according to the Center for American Progress. The unemployment numbers are far greater than the government reports based upon the great deception of dropping individuals from the tabulation once they stop looking! College grads are having more difficulty than at any time since the Great Depression in finding meaningful full time jobs.

Here are some other statistics the Democrats will never bring up. The US ranks 115th in linguistic diversity, but first in the number of prisoners with 2.2 million. We rank 19th in National Satisfaction according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project while China is first. We’re two slots higher than Mexico! In healthcare efficiency (per Bloomberg.com) we’re 44th out of 51 countries whereas South Korea is fifth, a nation we protect from a military alliance.

We could continue on and on, but let’s reflect on the following and ask yourself: “Are we better off now than we were seven years ago when Obama took office?”

Consider these areas: World Influence, Education, National Safety, Healthcare Affordability, the Polarization of Society and last but not least, Confidence in the Federal Government. Any objective person would answer to the negative in each and every area. I’m at a loss to find any public or private sector that has gotten better during the current administration. And I don’t need to read a William Faulkner novel for a logical explanation. We’re definitely in trouble, but we could take the position of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman: “What me worry?”

Dickie Scruggs is one of Oxford’s best-known former attorneys who now expresses his passion for adult education through the GED in a unique state-wide program he has developed, aptly called “Second Chance.” Scruggs is a well known Democrat and anchors the position of the Left in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at DickScruggs@gmail.com.

Steve Vassallo of Oxford is a frequent contributor to HottyToddy.com covering a wide range of subjects. An arch conservative, the popular columnist holds the political position of the Right in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.

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