1. Lack of affordable health care
Although the Affordable Care Act—recently upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court—will guarantee insurance for all Americans by 2014, cost remains an issue. Health care premiums have doubled in the past decade or so, outpacing inflation and wage growth. Per capita, the U.S. spends about twice as much on health care as other Western country, giving the America one of the most inefficient health care systems in the world. It appears unlikely that the ACA will rein in rising premiums.
2. Lack of affordable higher education
Like health care, costs of higher education have skyrocketed. The growing number of college students, combined with a government loan system that fails to use its massive leverage to compel universities to bring down costs, have pushed the amount of student loan debt past total credit card debt. Millions of millennials graduate college owing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars before they even own any property.
3. Moneyed influence in government
Corporations in particular exercise immense influence over our elected officials via campaign donations, lobbying, and other seedy yet legal means of doing so. In the U.S., it is hardly necessary for companies to engage in illegal activity to influence government officials since they have succeeded in legally rigging the system in their favor at the expense of those who can’t donate millions of dollars to a super PAC.
4. Foreign policy
More than two hundred years after George Washington warned of America’s involvement in foreign entanglements, the U.S. finds itself all over the world in a myriad of military commitments with various countries. America’s global military presence is justified on the grounds that the U.S. is “exceptional,” a steward of world peace. In reality, it is behaving much like every other world power in history, attempting to maximize its power and influence around the world, while its domestic situation deteriorates.
5. Focus on trivial bullshit
Although seemingly innocuous, Americans’ obsession with frivolous matters, such as celebrity-worship, poses a substantial obstacle to becoming truly informed on important issues. Every minute spent reading about, watching, or discussing Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, and other no-talents, is a minute spent not understanding what is going on at the levers of power. And I include myself in this category because watching sports has consumed far too much of my time.
6. Lack of LGBT rights
Currently, only six states perform same-sex marriages even though 51% of Americans said they supported President Obama’s decision to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. The number of anti-gay Americans is thankfully decreasing, but they will not go quietly. Witness the buffoonish outrage in response to Oreo’s decision to make a rainbow cookie in honor of Gay Pride Day in New York City.
7. Too-big-to-fail banks
Rather than fix the most glaring problem with the financial sector after the 2008 crisis, nothing was done. In fact, the too big to fail problem is worse in that these institutions are even bigger than they were before the crisis. Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch. Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia. JP Morgan acquired Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. Thus, big financial firms were bought by even bigger financial firms. And there is absolutely nothing—Dodd-Frank included—to prevent the kind of crisis we saw four years ago.
Some Americans could definitely afford to cool it on the anti-Muslim rhetoric. The so-called “Ground Zero mosque” fiasco was a sorry display of anti-Islamic fervor, not to mention an assault on the rights of private property.
In a similar fashion, most Americans are not fully accepting of those who are without faith. Amazingly, a majority of Americans say they would never vote for an otherwise qualified atheist candidate for president. Recent billboard campaigns launched by atheists have also come under fire for being offensive. Meanwhile, churches put up signs all the time demanding people repent or spend an eternity in torment.
10. Erosion of civil liberties
Americans are always screaming about liberty, yet most seem to have little or no problem with the central tenets of the pernicious USA PATRIOT Act, or warrantless surveillance of American citizens, or egregious violations of privacy at the airport or the bus station, or on the highways.
11. Lack of government transparency
Despite promising “the most transparent administration ever,” Barack Obama has led a very secret presidency, and one that relentlessly pursues whistleblowers and journalists seeking to illuminate the wrongs committed by the government. While the government is seeking greater transparency of and access to our personal lives, it is ensuring that its activities are obscured from public view. That is the exact opposite of how a democracy is supposed to work.