The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘European Union’


Yesterday President Obama took a break from fund raising (although he will resume his schedule for that purpose later in the week) to offer a statement on the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over the Ukraine and wag his finger at those who are impeding the effort to provide the 298 victims and their families the dignity of closure.  The “speech” seemed perfunctory, devoid of either passion or real outrage which we all should feel about this act of terrorism. Of course, there wasn’t much outrage when President Putin acquired Crimea.

The president of the United States has not been alone in providing a muted response to what most believe was a tragedy that either was directly attributable to Vladimir Putin or at the least one in which he was a willing partner.  The leaders of Europe have been similarly silent.  It took a former head of state, Tony Blair of the UK to make a statement which accurately reflects the outrage that we all should feel.

It is neither surprising nor difficult to understand why Obama generally avoided facing the issue head on.  That is clearly his method of “non-operation.”  If he doesn’t acknowledge something he must believe either that it doesn’t exist, it’s someone else’s problem to deal with or it simply will go away.  If he doesn’t give much of a hoot about how black children are being murdered regularly in his home town of Chicago, why worry about a few hundred Europeans who were blown out of the sky somewhere in Europe?  But why the silence in Europe?  The simple answer is energy – and much of the European Union’s dependence on gas which flows abundantly from Russia and through Ukraine.

The Maastricht Treaty was signed by the members of the European Union in 1992.  The goal was to reduce dependency on carbon based fuels and to replace them with “green” fuels, purportedly to the benefit of the world’s ecology.  In the twenty-two years since its enactment, some progress has been made by the EU members to replace oil and gas with alternate fuel sources as the following chart shows:


The information contained in this chart is for the year ending in 2012.  The total estimated population of EU countries for that same period was approximately 505,000,000 – and the four largest countries by population, Germany, France, UK and Italy housed more than fifty-five percent of those people.  The four countries which achieved the best records of finding alternative sources of energy, Sweden, Latvia, Finland and Austria had approximately 26 million residents, representing a little more than five percent of the total population of EU countries.

Not surprisingly, the four most populated EU countries had average or below average rates of replacing carbon based fuels with alternate energy sources – suggesting that while developing renewable clean energy may be an admirable goal, this technology is still in its infancy and is unable to provide a sufficient replacement for our traditional fuels to large numbers of people.  That lesson is clearly lost on President Obama – but it is abundantly clear to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the leaders of other countries which are dependent on petroleum products from Russia.  It’s difficult to negotiate with the loan shark who is holding your family hostage, threatening them with death, if you fail to make a payment.

In some respect, the seizure of Crimea and the murders of 298 plane passengers is partly the fault of the Obama administration’s focus on green energy – whatever the price in terms of increased energy costs to be passed along to consumers, the loss of jobs in the coal industry, the failure to enable the creation of new jobs with the Keystone Pipeline, the refusal to permit LNG processing plants by the EPA which could provide at least some replacement for Soviet fuels that could be shipped to Europe to reduce that continent’s dependence on Russian energy – well, the list goes on.

The president’s recent photo-op (which he has publicly said he hates doing) eating at a local restaurant, somehow brings an image of Wimpy to mind.



“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” —Proverbs 29:18


Oh, to be in Greece – or at least to be aware of what is going on there.  Greece, the birthplace of democracy (the derivation of the word comes from “demos” which we normally translate as “city-state”.)  This Sunday the Greek people will vote to elect new members of Parliament.  The vote is widely viewed as a referendum on whether or not Greece will continue as a member in the European Union.

A few months ago while the Greek government was negotiating with its counterparts in the EU you may remember that there was wide-spread rioting and protesting going on in Athens.  It reminded me of a scene from what we used to call a “third world country” – certainly not something I would have expected to happen in the capital city in a Western European nation.  But it happened nevertheless – and it happened in the birthplace of democracy.  Why are the events in Greece important for those of us in the United States?

There is a lesson to be learned from the Greek experience.  It is a simple one – in fact, it is one which most of us already know as individuals.  That lesson is that you cannot continue to spend more than you earn for eventually you will consume your savings and there may well be no one who is willing to extend you credit to continue your profligate life-style.  That is true for people and that is true for countries as well.

The Greek nation is now at a point where it has exhausted its own ability to remedy its problems and must look to the generosity of its neighbors for assistance.  If you’ve ever been in the position of having to go hat in hand to a friend or relative for financial assistance because of a personal situation, you know how humiliating and stressful that is.  Perhaps the cause of your problem was of your own doing – perhaps something that was out of your control occurred.  Irrespective, you are now at a point where you must literally, “beg, borrow or steal” in order to get by.  That is Greece’s situation today.

The Greek people are upset, worried and, perhaps a little too late, they are motivated to express themselves at the ballot box.  That expression of their opinion is at the heart of the democratic process and concept of government.  And that is the reason for this post.

In Nevada on June 12, 2012 we held an election – a primary election.  As always, I shared my opinion with my fellow Nevadans by casting my vote.  I participated in something which was new to me since I moved here – it is called “early voting”.

Once upon a time when you voted there was only one day to do so – that was on election day itself.  A few people who were conscientious and knew they would be out of town on that day obtained absentee ballots and would be able to express their opinion through that vehicle.  But that was a very small percentage of the votes cast.  For the rest of us that meant finding a little bit of time on election day so that we could participate in the democratic process and vote for those whom we believed would be most capable of representing us.

By contrast, Nevada voters have it easy.  Early voting lasts for almost two weeks and is available at wide variety of locations – including many supermarkets which we would normally frequent as part of our shopping.  When I went in to vote, it took approximately two minutes to identify myself and register and another five minutes to accomplish the task.  I then went on to buy some groceries.

A few days later I wanted to see if any of the candidates for whom I had voted were going to be on the ballot in the general election this November.  In the course of trying to accomplish this, I happened on a statement made by our Secretary of State in which he said, “We were hoping for an eligible voter turnout of at least twenty percent – but I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

That statistic shocked me.  Less than one in five of us who are registered (and who knows how many of us don’t even bother with that) actually took a few minutes of our time to express our opinion at the ballot box.  According to all the polls, that can’t be because we think that the economy is terrific and we’re all wallowing in more wonderfulness than has ever shone its face on the North American continent.

No, there’s a simple if disturbing explanation for this.  We’re just too damn lazy, too complacent and too apathetic.  We’re too self-centered and too egotistical.  We believe that we are entitled to the best of everything (without having to do anything to obtain it) and that things will always be great for us because we’re “special”.

That’s the way life in Greece has proceeded for several decades.  That is, until the rude awakening came that the world doesn’t work that way.  It didn’t work for the Greeks and it won’t work for Americans either.

It may be true that when you vote, you don’t necessarily get what you thought you were getting.  But if you don’t vote at all, you certainly get what you deserve.

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