The world today is a troubled one; the United States, in 2008 alone, saw its financial, housing, and automobile markets melt down-- and its Federal government was forced to step in with drastic, less-than-ideal solutions in an attempt to mitigate the problems.
2009 exposed the dramatic sovereign debt crisis in Europe, with the European Union attempting to determine whether to let Greece drag the entire region down with them.
The Middle East has seen "Arab Spring" protests throw the region into chaos, while much of Asia, particularly Japan, was hit with tsunamis that put nuclear reactors on the brink of complete ruin.
The natural disasters that hit Asia are of course easy to explain. The "Arab Spring" protests seem like more of an expression of general malcontentment than representations of singular problems. The causes of the Greek financial crisis are also limited and easy to articulate.
problems, however, appear to be more systemic and widespread. Indeed, in the past two years, there have been no fewer than nine disparate, well-formed and complete explanations for the American plight, many of which have strong supporters and, to add to the confusion, equally strong detractors.
Republican Tea Partiers explain that all of the United States' problems have come about as a result of too much government regulation; if the regulatory pressure on Wall Street wouldn't have been so strong, financiers wouldn't have needed to resort to the kinds of practices that caused the melt down.
Democrats argue just the opposite-- the passage of the Dodd-Frank bill says as much.
Tea Partiers also claim that it's ridiculous amounts of spending that have gotten America into trouble, and that until Americans change their attitudes towards entitlements, America will be running the risk of meeting the same economic fate as Greece.
Some Democrats however, backed by reports from the Congressional Budget Office, claim that the Republicans are simply posturing-- debt levels will eventually fall to more normal levels naturally, even if nobody intervenes.
Along alternate lines, Libertarians say that it is the Federal Reserve that created the financial and housing bubbles by keeping interest rates too low for too long. The Federal Reserve is the source of America's ills!
Another argument bandied about, mostly by Democrats, is the United States' government has fallen prey almost entirely to regulatory capture; meaning, special interest groups, and not the voices of the people, are running both the Federal and state governments.
Or as some politicians see it, America's issues really revolve around energy independence, or its current lack thereof. But even here, agreement is difficult to come by; Democrats would like to see Federal subsidies back emerging energy technologies, while Republicans prefer to make use of traditional energy reserves already present in the country.
Or, rather, maybe all of America's problems are because the credit rating agencies are crooked, as claimed by Al Franken?
Perhaps the current state of technology is the problem? The academic, computer scientist, and musician Jaron Lanier published the book "You Are Not a Gadget", which lays the blame for America's problem at the feet of Silicon Valley technophiles, who have destroyed the creative middle class by locking in the wrong internet-related technologies.
Or maybe the people have created all of their own problems, and America is simply a reflection of its divided public, which first elected a liberal President, then rebelled and elected right-wing Tea Partiers to the House and Senate?
To take it one step further, perhaps capitalism itself is sheer folly? Maybe Marx's predictions about the methodology were correct after all?
It is clear that the first thing the next President of the United States is going to need to do is to determine which of the above theories-- or which combination
of the above theories-- is truly the root of the country's trouble. The next thing the President will need to do is act as a firm but just, and resolute yet conciliatory, leader that can unify the House and Senate towards solutions to the nation's root causes.
Obama has clearly not
been that leader, as even many Democrats have been bemoaning the fact that they didn't nominate Hilary Clinton back in 2008.
Getting the country back on track will be no small feat given the spaghetti-mess of dilemmas outlined above. But the gravity of the situation is the perfect test for the Republican form of government that the United States employs, a test that the system will hopefully pass with aplomb.