The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


On this Veteran’s Day, all Americans should offer a prayer of gratitude for those brave men and women who have given of themselves by serving in our armed forces.  They are the defenders of our country and fulfill one of the most fundamental Constitutional responsibilities conferred by the Founding Fathers on the Federal government – the protection of the nation from foreign intruders.

Many have fallen in the task.  Many more have returned home shattered in body or mind by their service.  Most have never heard those of us who have not served say so much as, “Thank you for your service.”  Almost all of us take them and their role in protecting the nation for granted, and that is a terrible shame.

As a child growing up I had an image of the armed forces that was pretty much formed by television.  Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko, Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle and, of course, the indomitable Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway in “McHale’s Navy” presented us with a light-hearted look at our men in uniform.  Perhaps we needed to laugh to distract us from the serious business in which they were actually involved.

Several days ago I saw an interview with R. Lee Ermey, better known as “Gunny” who is a retired Marine turned actor.  You might remember him for his portrayal as the hard-nosed DI from the 1987 movie, “Full Metal Jacket,” the story of a platoon’s training during the Vietnam War.

The interviewer asked him, “What do you consider the biggest problem that America is facing?”   Ermey responded, “There are too many people who are willing to sit around and collect a paycheck from the government rather than go out and earn one on their own.”  He’s on to something there.

One of the most touted “benefits” of Obamacare is that people will supposedly be able to have their insurance “subsidized,” that is if they don’t make too much or too little money.  Those who are doing well and contributing to the economy will get nothing.  Those who do nothing and feed at the public trough will get Medicaid – which provides next to nothing.

Our politicians in Washington talk about subsidies as though they were the children of Israel, wandering around the desert and a merciful God miraculously provides them with manna.  But we all know the truth – that is that subsidies are merely a way for those who do not have to get something from those who have earned what they have.  It would be fairer to refer to this as a tax rather than a subsidy.  And, of course, if the “tax” is insufficient to cover the subsidies we will just put the deficit on our National Credit Card balance.

Ermey was a fortunate man.  He recounted that when he finished his time in the Marine Corps he was sitting around the house when his father said, “If you plan on sitting on your duff you’re mistaken.  Go out and earn your keep.”  And he did.  As he explained it, he got a “lousy” job and then got a second one that was just as bad.  But he had the dignity of working and paying his own way.  And those lousy jobs led to better ones and then others that were still better.

It’s been forty years since we ended conscripted military service.  During that time the number of Americans on some form of public assistance has skyrocketed.  Some of those who receive supplemental food assistance and are the beneficiaries of other welfare programs have become enrolled as a result of the lackluster economy.  For others it is the inevitable result of family tradition.

Perhaps it’s time that we re-thought our position on having an all-volunteer armed forces.  Instead of encouraging a life of indolence, would we not be doing them and society as a whole a favor by going to our eighteen year old welfare recipients and telling them, we want you to, “Be – All that you can be.”  The discipline and skills that they would learn in a military environment would serve them well for the rest of their lives.  And the taxpayers would actually get a return on their investment.

Who knows, the mere suggestion of having to spend a few years in the armed forces might actually get a few of them “off their duffs” and out in the workplace.  And that would be a good thing in and of itself.  Whether that actually happens will, of course, be up to Congress and the Commander in Chief.

Since there is such a high correlation between welfare recipients and crime, particularly in our inner cities, we might just transform some of these young men from their present direction of threatening your life to defending it.  And for that, all of America would be grateful.

Comments on: "DEFENDING YOUR LIFE" (12)

  1. I suspect it (the draft) will return, along with variations of an involuntary WPA. While the current arguments for and against subsidies, welfare, etc., are value-based (i.e., who’s deserving and who’s not), and come from a ‘status quo’ mentality, the coming paradigm shift (i.e., the demise of ‘Toy Land’) will effectively put everyone’s feet back on the ground…as well as their thinking. And the clock is ticking…

  2. I hear what you’re saying, and I sympathize strongly with the goal. Wrong method though, I think. The purpose of the military is to fight our wars, in the proper course of that they produce outstanding men (and women as well). That is a side benefit.

    They are not however, in business to produce better people. And a large army is not necessarily a good army. During the cold war it was said of the Red Army that “quantity has a quality all it’s own.” Where is it now?

    The volunteer military backed by strong and readily used reserve formations is, I think, the proper formulation for a free people. Now, how else can we make more of those fine upstanding citizens that the armed forces gave us? Proper parenting, perhaps. I think it telling that a high percentage of the military come from what is sometimes called the heartland.

    • In large measure I agree with you. However, one of my best (and most successful) friends loves telling the story of his youth when he was a self-described juvenile delinquent. He transgressed one too many times and was finally given a choice by the judge who heard his last case – Jail or the army. He chose the latter – and it really transformed him into a responsible person by providing the discipline which he lacked at home.

      I suspect you’re right that if there are any traditional values left in this country, they are more likely to be found in the heartland than on the coasts.

      • That anecdote is common, and true in nearly all. I think it a fine solution for a basically good kid that needs direction. I’m not a hard-liner about this at all.

        It’s just important to remember that the military is not a social work agency, as a main goal, it does build good men and women but it’s a by-product, and if we increase the number at some point it will fail.

      • I agree that straightening some out is a by-product of military service and should not be the main focus. On the other hand, ignoring these problem kids, as we now do, leads to the inevitable outcomes that we see in every one of our major inner cities.

      • That is very true as well. I didn’t say I had an answer for this one 🙂 i think the real answer is better parenting but we would do well to find a stopgap for a generation or two. The military to a point, sure. I don’t know what else, unless we can get them out in the real world somehow. The real, real world, not the artificial one of the inner cities, but one where success can happen.

  3. Loved your reference to the Israelites in the desert receiving food and water from a gracious God. The difference as you point out is God doesn’t have to print money and hand it out. Resources are unlimited. But we poor humans sometimes have the mistaken opinion we can outclass God and do it by printing money. This we do without reservation until eventually it takes more and more printed money to buy less and less. Money after all is no longer backed up with precious metal, it requires a kind of faith that the paper system has value. That myth was exploded without the help of Myth Busters long ago. It only has value when backed by productivity now. I think we are borrowing foreign productivity back up now to finance our wants and we need to learn lessons from our ancestors. They realized they had to put out effort if they wanted to survive. Collecting their needs in those times required effort. Looks like Western civilization will be a repeat of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, for much the same reasons. I’m appalled at the alternative.

    • Perhaps the essential problem is that our legislators and “leaders” think they are God – with unlimited resources at their disposal – our resources.

      As to the fiat money system – boy, there you see the ultimate in religious belief – far more faith than reality. At some point, whether it’s gold, platinum, diamonds or tulips, people will expect to have something tangible to hold on to and with which to conduct business.

  4. You write well, great

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