Our Country- Through the Eyes of the Average American Teenager

May 26, 2011
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The 90s were a time of prosperity and wealth; the early 2000s brought unity after 9/11; and late December 2007 to the present has brought us the “Great Recession”. Many say that Generation Y’s only use will be to clean up the mess Generation X has left them. However, even if that was the case, we (Generation Y) have ideas. I sat down with a few of the great minds of my generation to discuss they predict will become of our country.

DH, a freshman in high school, is fervent about debating and speech. His passion for politics and our country is implausible, and is matched only by that of TJ, another freshman. T, a heavy right-wing Conservative, is years ahead of his own in knowledge in politics, the economy, and democracy. In one of our school’s rather chilly computer labs, we sat down to discuss our nation as a whole.

JG: What’s your view of our country at this point of time?
DH: At this point in time, I feel that it’s slightly concerning that so little progress has been made that this prosperous time period isn’t really as great as expected. We could have so much more wealth accumulation, except the choices of our politicians have not met the standards of our expectations.
TJ: There is a lot to use, there are a lot of resources, there is a lot of good in America. But President Obama came in and he tried to sell us this idea of hope. And so far he’s done pretty much nothing in my opinion to inspire Americans. I feel that fiscally we’re bankrupt, and we’re incredibly irresponsible. We have to start changing our ways now, or else our future is in trouble, really. I think that aside from the economic issues, we need a foreign policy. We don’t have that right now, and that’s one of the things that I think is really hurting America. So right now, as a country, we’re going to have to make tough decisions, or else we face a lot of future problems. So right now, America to me is not living up to its potential.
JG: What are some major flaws with our organization of government?
DH: Most politicians still look favorably towards their own agendas, not necessarily towards what is good for the people in general. They don’t arrive at consensus with the rest of the government, and tend to fight over debates that should be handled by the common man.
TJ: We need to first of all get spending under control. I think one of our biggest problems with foreign relations and how we’re going to deal with the world is our debt. Our debt is not a nuclear weapon, and it may not be able to kill us, but I think if you look at the repercussions of not getting our budget under control, which could lead to the downfall of America, it could. I think the first thing to go after when looking at spending and the budget as a whole is entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I think one of the problems is our foreign policy, which we need a stronger commitment to. And obviously, I think that with the struggling economy, there are definitely some pro-growth reforms that we can implement to help our economy prosper.
JG: Where would you like to see our country within three years, when we graduate high school, and when we graduate college and enter the work force?
DH: I feel that our unemployment should be fairly low-actually, much lower- and I feel that we can make improvements from nations such as China that import so much to us, and actually end up making a profit while still keeping the majority of Americans happy.
TJ: First of all, I want the sense of personal responsibility within all American individuals. We’ve relied on the government for too much, and look what it has done. Governments work best when they’re not in the way. Right now our government is in the way. So obviously looking towards the economy, I want better general tax policies, that’s one of the bigger ones to look at. I think with the highest corporate income tax in the world, that we should look towards lowering it, and hopefully we’ll have the lowest, whether it’s 15%, 10%, or 0%.
Secondly, I think, I want peace in the Middle East. Achieving peace in the middle east and Southeast Asia and in general around the world, it’s not going to be easy, but I do want to see a commitment to what we have going across right now, mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq. By 2014 I want to make sure that we still have troops in there, I do not agree with the president’s attempts to pull of out Afghanistan, and even NATO’s proposal of pulling out by 2014 concerns me a little bit. We saw in 2009 when General Petraeus put more troops in Afghanistan, we saw that the Taliban were further hampered by our commitment and presence in the nation. I believe that we do have an achievable goal in Afghanistan, a very difficult but achievable goal. And what that requires in order to be successful is not America looking at Afghanistan saying we’ve spent 120 billion dollars per year and we’ve been there for10 years, but rather, we need to look at what we have achieved. The fact that we’ve removed the Taliban, the fact that we’ve made Afghanistan more democratic, I believe that shows the progress that we’ve made and the fact that we can still make progress, and that requires our commitment, which comes, in my opinion, as we saw in 2009, with troops and with force.
I mean, Iraq, that’s another thing that people have said was George Bush’s side project that failed, and I disagree with that. Iraq right now is a democratic ally of the United States of America. A lot of people believe that the only democracy and ally that we have in the Middle East is Israel, but that’s simply not true. That’s another nation where I believe that if we continue our commitment, and we continue to let that nation prosper, we’ll have another democracy, which is the best form of government there is in the world.
That’s another nation where I do not want the United States to abandon its commitment. That all goes with what I was saying earlier about having a foreign policy. So by 2014, by the time we’re graduating high school and when we’re in college, I hope that we have a plan to follow regarding these foreign nations; these nations that we have become involved with, and hopefully we’ll be able to create some sort of doctrine/deal with these nations so that we have a policy to follow, so that we can help the world, and the United States, to prosper.
JG: If there was one thing that you could change about America, what would it be?
DH: I would feel that we can import some more helpful economic principles such as lower tax rates that provide more for the American people, such as implementing ideas that have shown favorable results such as making allies throughout the world, in especially tense regions.
TJ: I would change our budget and our fiscal status. I would try to reform entitlements by some sort of cap, and raising the retirement ages so that they don’t bankrupt America. We can definitely look towards privatization for NASA, for Amtrak and high speed rail, for the postal office. I would look to put in more pro-growth policies, cut the corporate income tax, implement a flat tax, get rid of the AMT, and probably put in some sort of legislation regarding our debt that would create some kind of triggers that would cut spending. These triggers would have to be ones that we cannot bypass, as we have done in the past. Getting our fiscal situation under control will be difficult, these are only some policies, but if I had to change one thing about America, it would be our fiscal situation.

Basically, you have the two major issues of economy and foreign policy. These are the two most foremost conflicts in our country at the time, especially as of late, with Israel and with the “Great Recession” that we are currently in.

As for me, I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with our country. It shouldn’t take a tragic event or a great victory (such as 9/11 and the killing of Osama Bin-Laden, respectively) to instill a sense of unity within America. Yet this is a chilling reality. Too many times we view solutions to problems as Republican or Democratic, instead of looking at the benefits and detriments of each solution. We are so divided, so separate, that sometimes it’s hard to view a country as a complete whole. Until we can do this, create compromises not based on bias, we are going to never solve any problem, or at least not effectively.

That being said, I believe this is one of our major flaws of government: separation. Once we can start working out of parties and as a whole, it will be much easier to actively work to make our country a better place, and then the world. We could be a catalyst, and set the stage for parts of the rest of the world to do the same. However, as ideal as this sounds, it is not very sound. The party system is deeply engraved within our scheme of government, and it will be extremely, if not impossibly, hard to dismantle it. I do believe, though, that it would create a tremendously superior environment (at least politically) in our country, as opposed to that of other countries.

As for where I would like to see the country, I agree with T in that we need to have some sort of foreign policy plan. It is essential to have one, as we cannot keep flip-flopping back and forth between ideas. Also, we cannot do things that will hurt us in the long run, despite how far ahead in the future. We should probably think twice before giving weapons to one man in the Middle East, and it is probably not a good idea to tell our only ally in the Middle East to return to their 1967 borders so that they will be smaller, and hence more vulnerable to attacks. It is ridiculous how absurd some ideas seem, even to me and other teenagers of my age. I may be young, but I am not naïve. It is ludicrous to have the mindset that we can implant democracy and peace throughout the world. Although it is beneficial to us, it is not our responsibility, and it is not our business to, either.

We have been taught our whole lives that democracy is the only way to have a successful and thriving country. Yet Great Britain seems to be doing fine. France is doing fine. Now, as an American, I love democracy and all it has to offer not just for me, but for everyone who lives here and is a legal American. Perhaps we don’t need to be the great bringer of Democracy. Perhaps we don’t need to get extremely involved with other countries’ affairs. Maybe then we could work on our problems, rather than worrying about those of others.

If I had to change one thing about our country, it would be notion that we need to rely on our laurels. Just because some things worked 80 years ago, such as social security, doesn’t mean that it can stay basically the same throughout that time. Our country has had a lack of reform throughout the past century, which is frightening. We cannot remain stagnant in an ever-changing world. To say that a system is perfect might be true for a period of time as a solution…but it is literally impossible for it to remain “perfect” over a great deal of time. This sounds logical, and seems to make sense. So why don’t we do anything about our immobility?

I’m not saying that we need to make any radical, fundamental changes, or even in the near future. We are surviving, at least for now. Yet if we remain idle, if we continue on this path that we are heading on, we will be left behind, and we will fall from grace. From being one of the greatest countries the world has ever seen to a paragraph in a textbook in the distant (or perhaps not-so-distant) future. We can deal with these problems that we face, but effectively is a different story. We can remain idle, or we can progress with the rest of the world. We can, and with any luck, we will. Yet we need to come together, not as parties, and not as states, but as a country, in order to effectively and efficiently move towards the future.

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