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Thoughts about Our Divided Country

December 13, 2018

When I look back at how our country has changed, these are some of the issues that have created our divided country. 

 

Making America great is a popular slogan, but greatness is not accomplished by just a strong stock market or by getting involved in multiple dangerous conflicts in the Middle East. When America was at its peak, 3 things were affordable: housing, higher education and health care. It seems greed put all that in the past and now our country is angry and divided. At the height of the housing market, people talked about their homes like they were stocks. Their value was checked on a regular basis and often a topic of conversation. The then Fed Chairman helped create that problem by lowering interest rates to avoid a small recession, but greed took over. Our banks and businesses loved it as did people who flipped houses. Not just buy an older house and fix it up and sell it, just buy it and sell it at a much higher price.Then the situation collapsed in 2008 and the US government had to bail out the many dishonest institutions that were involved. Housing never really recovered as homes are still too expensive for young people.

 

Connected to that problem was our higher education system. When the value of homes increased yearly at a high rate, families were encouraged to borrow (re-mortgage) their homes to pay for college.It seemed like a great idea, the increasing value of their homes would pay for college and with colleges having many potential students and families that were willing to pay, colleges kept raising tuition. Today many universities act like businesses that need to buy property and expand while raising tuition to ridiculous amounts. Of course once the housing crash came, students were left with the prospects of going to college and graduate owing debts that would take years to pay off. Not to mention that colleges have a high drop-out rate (44%), so one can go to college for a year and leave owing a lot of money. As an aside think about this,  25% of students in high school drop-out and about 25% more take another path, so the 50% that want and are willing to pay for college apply. Colleges then pick the students they want and have a higher dropout rate then our high schools. Talk about institutions that get little criticism for their problems. 

 

Health care: A number of problems to be discussed are upsetting, but health care is the most confusing. Once again some degree of greed has taken over this system. I remember in the late 50’s and 1960’s that doctors would visit homes and have time for a cup of coffee.They had visiting hours and you were seen by the doctor. Today appointments are needed and for specialists you may have to wait weeks.I will not pretend to understand why an MRI in the USA costs $1100 and in Australia only $350 and that ratio with other countries seems consistent with pharmacy costs, doctors salaries, and administrative hospital costs.What is clear is that greed is involved, when President Obama began the development of the affordable care act, an army of lobbyists representing insurance companies and medical businesses strategically influenced our Congress to undermine what could be accomplished. It is a complicated problem that makes most Americans who do not have paid health insurance angry and a part of our divided country. They resent that many poor people get free health care or at reduced rates while health care costs undermine their ability to have a better lifestyle and care for their family.

 

Hunger in America- how can the greatest food producing country in the world have 15.9% of their people struggle with hunger, including 12 million children? It is the reason why most schools, have breakfast programs along with a lunch break.At the same time we have one the highest percentages of overweight (67%) or obese people. If the numbers are correct, then less than 20% of our population does not struggle with hunger or are overweight. In our divided country, it does not take many overweight people who are also poor and have food stamps to be a point of discussion with many Americans. They are viewed as having an abundance of food and not needing government support. The reality is that they are poor, have many problems and food is a source of pleasure, so they eat poorly consuming a high diet of fat and carbohydrates. And still too many children go to school hungry. Schools while getting better need to improve as to what foods they provide for students. Too much is still a fast food offering and not the high energy meals they could offer, but again it is a business and deals are made based on a budget.

We have an incredible country, but greed is a growing problem that is the cause of much of our division. And those who are the most greedy are also in control, especially now.  Time will tell how our country deals with these problems, but our schools can provide some solutions by helping people learn how to better cope with problems. And perhaps as people learn to control their obesity problem, we can also learn how to better help those who are hungry.

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