A year ago I wrote about how excited I was to see Barack Obama in the White House. I was happy to see the Bush administration end after eight years and hopeful that things would change for the better.
Some things are better, but I'm disappointed that we haven't gone far enough:
- Guantanamo is still open.
- Goldman Sachs still runs the Treasury Department.
- The Patriot Act, Department of Homeland Security, and other measures put in place to make us safer have not had the desired effect. We have given up liberty for safety and ended up with neither.
- Deficits continue to climb. Our debt is reaching the point where we won't be able to turn back.
- We're still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no end in sight. Yemen might be next. Sabre-rattling continues with Iran. At this rate we'll be fighting with the whole Middle East soon. How will we know "victory" when we see it? When does a war on terror end? At $1M per year per soldier, how long before we can't afford any more?
- Jobs continue to disappear and don't look like they'll be coming back soon. Part of the reason for unrest in the Middle East is a large population of educated young people who can't get jobs and establish themselves as adults. How long before our country finds itself in a similar predicament?
- Lobbyists and K-Street continue to represent a fourth branch of government that the founders never envisioned.
- Glass Steagall is still repealed.
The economy did not crater, as I feared it might back in September 2008. But it has not recovered much, either. The fundamentals are simply terrible. We cannot continue to spend and consume more than we save and produce. Eventually the Chinese and Japanese won't want any more of our bonds.
We're increasingly a country that indulges in magical thinking. Excessive belief in belief isn't getting us anywhere.
Our ruling class isn't telling us the truth: "We cannot have all-you-can-eat health care and low mortgages and billions on wars and still cut taxes. Hard choices will be forced on us soon if we don't make them ourselves. Let's start the discussion now before it's too late." Instead we have Fox News and talk radio.
Our educational system is falling behind. Our kids are encouraged to spend more time playing sports and game consoles and surfing the Internet and keeping up with the Kardashians and texting on iPhones instead of reading or doing science. Our colleges are turning out plenty of lawyers and MBAs and fewer scientists and engineers. Where do people think that innovations like iPhones and netbooks come from?
I'm still glad that Mr. Obama is in charge. But I hoped for more.
Our problems are bigger than any president. It should not take catastrophe for us to look inside ourselves and decide that we need to reconsider the path we're taking.