The US Economy: Setting the Stage for Sustainability

As the most powerful nation on earth, the US has a profound responsibility to lead the world to sustainability. But we are failing miserably in this role.





The US Economy Takes Center Stage (Unfortunately)

Like it or not the US economy for the foreseeable future will be a central focus for other nations. Our economy, after all, affects the economies of all other nations in one way or another. The US needs to exercise prudent and sound fiscal policy to ensure our own economic health and to allow us to maintain our solid foundation from which we can focus energies on sustainability.

Our earth is faced with unprecedented sustainability challenges. In fact, that is actually a misnomer; WE are faced with unprecedented sustainability challenges – the earth won’t care much either way – it’s only OUR survival and/or well-being that is threatened – and the future of our children and the generations that come after us.

Unfortunately we are creating an extraordinary mess – both for ourselves and for our children.

It is my personal opinion that most people would agree that we have a responsibility to care for our living space and ensure that we proudly hand to our children and their children a safe, clean, and sustainable environment.

But we are not on that trajectory at the moment.


A System Hijacked

We of course operate within a system. The system by which decisions are made in our society is just that – a system. It is a set of laws, regulations, political processes, and societal actions. And guess what? We created this system! Our system is not a law of nature nor an edict handed to us from God. It is a system we created.

And one we can change!


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The US Declaration of Independence


But our current system in the US is one that is dominated by those with disproportionate power. Our system has become not one defined by all men – but by a few.

Corporations, the wealthiest individuals, and coalitions have long wielded disproportionate power. The wealthiest individuals and corporations can afford to hire lobbyists who can speak to lawmakers, without stop, on their behalf. Do you think constantly whispering in one’s ear will have an effect over time?

Citizens United was a supreme court case in which it was decided that due to First Amendment provisions, the US government could not restrict corporations from making political expenditures.

Corporations, under the system we have permitted, now have free reign to influence – some would say design – our system.

Wealthy individuals and coalitions are free to do the same.

With their money and power they have done just that – designed the system they prefer.

Does this sound like all men are created equal to you?


The Failure of Journalism

Journalism Bought Out

Certain media outlets in the US (and quite assuredly to be followed in other countries) have been bought out by individuals or organizations with causes to promote. These organizations act like journalistic enterprises but prey on the trust that the concept of ‘journalism’ conveys. These organizations brilliantly hide from regulation under the cover of ‘journalism’.

But they are driven by an agenda. This agenda is oriented around the disempowerment of the people under the guise of being anti-govenrment. Government (in a true democracy) is the expression of the rule of the people. But many organizations don’t want to be governed by rules that benefit the people. They would rather treat people as sources of wealth for themselves. They don’t want to play by rules. And they don’t want to pay taxes.

To this end they have figured out that by controlling The Conversation they can achieve their ends of low (or no) taxes and no rules. They can do what they want, take what they can get, and not pay any taxes to “annoying” governments.


Journalism for Money

Media organizations that have not been bought out are, almost without exception, for-profit. For-profit media organizations have little ability to serve the public good. They must chase ratings in order to be able to sell advertising. Sensational content is usually more profitable than important content.

When media becomes entertainment, it has to be entertaining. Important, thoughtful, and challenging usually doesn’t fit the defintion of entertainment.


Journalism Blowing in the Wind

Other journalist blow with the wind. They follow, without much thought, the subjects of the day. They provide little leadership.


Misinformation Reigns Supreme

Led by the ideologically-driven media organizations, misinformation has become nearly accepted! The ideologues have been extraordinarily effective. So effective that their version of reality has nearly become accepted with mainstream for-profit media following like lap-dogs.

Has your perspective been influenced by ideological media? Think you are smarter than they are? Then take a simple test.

Which of the following are true?

  • Since WWII through the Carter administration, all administrations of both parties reduced national debt.
  • Republican administrations since Carter (Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush II) increased spending and increased national debt.
  • Clinton decreased spending, reduced the size of government, ran multi-year surpluses, and reduced national debt.
  • Deficits have significantly declined in the last two years (even before the sequester).


Answers: All of the above.


A Necessary Distraction

Unfortunately ideologues have gained control of news outlets. Their agenda, in my opinion, is breaking the back of our democracy. They don’t want to pay taxes, and if that means gutting programs like Social Security, then so be it. The only solution they offer is reduced spending by the US government despite the obvious fact that the US budget deficit issue is a three-legged stool with employment, tax rates and spending all playing an interactive part (see my article, Fixing the US Budget Deficit: All Gain; No Pain). We have clearly demonstrated how this works in the decades following WWII during which prudent policy prevailed and my article Why the US Budget Deficit is Not the Biggest Issue explains how politicians from both parties wisely handled high levels of debt in the past.

Since the ideologues do not want a balanced budget, those lessons are roundly ignored.

The majority of remaining for-profit media chase the ideological media outlets like puppies in a litter allowing most of the media agendas and conversations to be determined by them.

In this series on the US Economy we aim to attempt to provide some factual information and to set some of the records straight. We hope this series brings some facts and some historical learning into the maelstrom of rhetoric and agenda-driven misinformation. We hope our nation will set aside some of the nonsense dominating our attention at present so that we can focus our attention on the much more important issues affecting global sustainability.


Please read the facts in this series and the lessons learned from history and judge for yourself.


This article is posted in The Conversation (our sustainability opinion section) and in the Learning Center (our section with sustainability articles that are primarily educational).


Tracy Crawford

CEO Rain8 Group LLC