During the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was the richest and most envied country in the world. It was also unrivaled as the world's manufacturing powerhouse. Americans proudly regarded their country is a model, and many people around the world agreed.
Today, the US is still the world's largest economy and pre-eminent military power, and it's still a country of great resources and wealth. But things have changed tremendously over the past half century.
More than ever before in our history, the American people sense that something is very wrong in our country. They are concerned about rising social-economic inequality, an erosion of national identity and purpose, increasing social polarization, and growing contempt for the US around the world.
Polls show that, as a long term trend, ever more Americans think that the US is "on the wrong track, and that this country is "in a state of decline." Surveys also show that Americans now believe that life for their children will be less prosperous and secure than it has been for them.
A popular song of the 1960s, "California Dreamin'," had the line, "I'd be safe and warm, If I was in LA." Los Angeles is still warm, but these days LA County is home to more than thirteen hundred criminal street gangs with 150,000 members. In one recent ten year period, the toll of lives taken by these gangs was nearly six thousand killed. That's more than the number of Americans who lost their lives in the Nine Eleven attacks of 2001, and in the Afghanistan war -- combined.
No one in the world today looks to Los Angeles as a model city. In listings of the world's top 15 "quality of living" cities, not one is in the US. In survey after survey, this country's place in global ratings of quality of life has been slipping. Likewise, the US has been steadily falling behind in education, engineering, science, and basic literacy.
During the 1950s and 1960s, California had one of the nation's best educational systems, with an enviable network of quality elementary schools. Today the achievement level of California schools is near the bottom for the entire United States.
Just a few decades ago, the US was the world's premier creditor nation. Today it's the number one debtor nation.
Demographics, they say, is destiny. In 1950, every state and every major city in the US still had a majority European-origin population. Today four states -- including Texas and California, the most populous -- and most of our major cities have majority non-white populations.
This change has been especially dramatic here in southern California. It's no exaggeration to say that over the past half century, this region has been transformed more fundamentally than Poland, Hungary and other eastern European countries changed during nearly 50 years of Soviet Russian occupation and domination.
The great demographic trends in our country are forcing -- year by year -- dramatic changes in our culture, our politics, our educational level, our economy, and our quality of life.The comfortable, proud and confident America of the 1950s and 1960s is gone -- gone forever.
To imagine that California might return to what it was in 1960 is about as realistic as to imagine that Alaska will once again be Russian, or that Louisiana will return to being French.
The anxiety that Americans across the country feel about the future is much more than worry about the troubled economy. Americans have never been so socially divided, confused about themselves as a nation, and worried about the future.
In this situation, a failure of political and cultural-educational leadership has brought an unprecedented breakdown of trust. Nothing better underscores this erosion of trust than the Iraq war fiasco. In the months leading up to the US attack against Iraq in March 2003, government officials and much of the media -- as we now know -- deceived the public with alarmist falsehoods to justify the invasion and occupation of that country.
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10 Signs the US is Becoming a Third World Country