U.S. needs new direction, vision

A nation is like a human being. If you don’t have the right priority, you end up messing up your life. In contemporary America, our leaders at the highest level have the priority issue mixed up. Since World War II, America was looked up to. The middle class in America could live up to their dreams and wishes. The way things are going, it looks like a time will come when America will only be for the rich and wealthy, while the middle class will be getting squished and the working class’s hopes and aspirations will be turning to a nightmare. Young men and women who are enrolled at American universities and colleges need to challenge themselves and think and ponder why America is getting off track. They need to figure out how America can reestablish its prominence in science, culture, political values and world affairs. America is making two strategic mistakes.

* Internationally, America is not using diplomatic tools effectively. It looks like our guiding principle to solve international affairs is to use military tools and threats.

* Domestically, our policies are not making us competitive, and our investment in education, health, income, and retirement are not up to the true American standards.

What is happening in international affairs is really worrisome for the future of America. We are engaged more in fighting with “dwarf powers” like Iran, Iraq and North Korea. We are avoiding the real challenges that would make us empowered to fight and challenge our real competitors. Since the demise of the former Soviet Union, we are mistaken in thinking that our sole superpower status will last an eternity. We need to understand every potential “big power” more or less knows how to be a “big power”. They are spending more on education, research and competitive economy. We were better in playing these games before, but other nations are catching up with us. We need to develop a sensible strategy to compete with China, India, Russia, Japan and the European Union. Data shows that our preeminence in science and technology is not guaranteed. We graduate 70,000 engineers annually, whereas India graduates 300,000 and China graduates 600,000. We can’t play the same game we’ve been playing for the last half century in relation to education and research. It’s a new time, a new century, and we need new priorities. In domestic affairs, we are making too many mistakes in terms of setting up our priorities. Our federal budget is ridiculously unbalanced because we spend much more than we make. We waste too much money in war, corruption and red tape. We have borrowed more than $8 trillion, and a gigantic chunk of this money is coming from foreign lenders. We are creating an unacceptable social underclass. The wealth divide is too skewed, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Our poverty rate is increasing and health coverage is decreasing, particularly among children. Children poverty rate increased from 16.2 percent in 2001 to 17.8 percent in 2004. According to Economic Policy Institute’s latest biannual report, in the period 1979-2003, household income grew 1 percent for the bottom fifth of households, 9 percent for the middle fifth, and 49 percent for the top fifth, and up 111 percent for the top 1 percent. In 2004, the top-earning 1 percent of households held 34.4 percent of all net worth and 42.2 percent of all net financial assets. The bottom 90 percent received 57 percent of all income but had only 28.7 percent of all net worth and 19.1 percent of all financial assets. The discrepancy in income and wealth distribution in America is rather disturbing. Our spirit of egalitarianism and sense of fairness are being challenged.In end, our best hope is our youth, who have the potential to do the right thing. But they have to equip themselves with the appropriate skills, knowledge and facts. Every fall, universities across the United States must welcome freshmen. And we can only hope that they will be able to face the challenges of this new century and put America back on track.Dr. Nasir Ahmed is a professor in the GSU Department of Public Administration