How to ruin a country, a recipe for disaster

Last Call

The recipe of how to ruin a great country starts with a political system that is broken and divided into two fractions that seem unable to produce any results for the people who elected them.

Unfortunately, that is happening in a time when decisive actions are crucial for the well-being of the U.S. and when the world needs our leadership to create a sustainable planet.

Then add decades of failed foreign policy. At the center of it, the unnecessary and unproductive occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Together with our other various involvements in Syria and Pakistan, the cost has escalated to an incomprehensible $4.79 trillion, according to a report from Boston University political science professor Neta C. Crawford. To read the 21-page report, go to In the meantime, we are unable to find common ground with China and Russia over global affairs, and as a result there is no resolute plan for eliminating the undeniable threat of climate change. While we let this simmer with no clear way forward, prepare unrest at the home front by mixing up some of the following ingredients:

Let large corporations get away with white-collar crime that hurts ordinary consumers, and when the businesses get caught, simply slap a fine on them, which they shrug off until the next time. To this add a generous helping of a crumbling infrastructure — just at a time when gas prices are low and money could be raised to fix it and create good paying jobs (the ones we lost to outsourcing manufacturing overseas). Make sure that racial tensions are at an all-time high and that income inequality has reached a boiling point. If the meal needs a bit more substance, simply fall short on all the promises we hear over and over again from all politicians: that we will overhaul our school system to prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow, and for those who make it through a four-year college, add a healthy serving of student debt. All while we continue to increase the national debt with no end in sight.

Does all of this sound a tad cynical and unnecessarily pessimistic? Well it might be, but this is exactly what is happening. Unfortunately, neither of the mainstream candidates for president is offering any clear path forward — which explains their negative ratings. While one pretty much guarantees much of the same, the other vows to change it all but with completely unrealistic measures and expectations. Since when do billionaires really care about the rest of us —unless their name is Bill Gates — especially one who seems to be mostly interested in himself?

When I bring this up in private conversations, the most common answer I get is: Yes, but it is not better in Europe or anywhere else in the world. While that might be true, is that really the measure of what we are capable of? Did our nation not set out to break all barriers and create a new world order? Maybe my interpretation of the “American dream” is way too naïve. All I know is that if you are born in a underprivileged community, your odds of getting shot or ending up in prison are much higher than your chance for upward mobility — and that is exactly the opposite of the way it should be.

As I’ve said many times in this column, I’m a capitalist at heart. But I also know that if you create a system where the tide does not lift all boats, we eventually are all going to end up in the swamp.

What we need are leaders in politics and business that put aside their personal greed and start to believe that creating common good is the core of what matters, and that sharing wealth across the entire population helps the nation in the long term — and in return their own agenda. While this sounds like a stark contrast of what is happening now, we should not underestimate the American will to reinvent itself.

In the meantime, the going will continue to be rough and will create plenty of bumps and bruises.

If you didn’t like the taste of the above recipe, try the following:

  • Limit the terms of any political office and pay a generous bonus based on measurable success, and limit the influence of lobbists.
  • Fight terrorists on their own turf, not their own soil.
  • Tax corporations based on the amount of goods and services they sell in the U.S., regardless of which tax haven they choose to shield their earnings.
  • Raise the minimum wage to a living wage in order to reduce welfare.
  • Instead of investing in rebuilding foreign countries, invest in rebuilding our own communities and give states that depend on the production of fossil fuels the money to diversify their economies.
  • Strengthen institutions like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that have the power to stop financial institutions, consumer brands, etc., from taking advantage of ordinary consumers.
  • Add an ingredient of your own choosing.


Please send your comments to I would like to get your feedback on this idea.