You know the popular refrain: that the nation is declining because the establishment refuses to fix the social, cultural, and economic problems facing the country.
Or to parrot Donald Trump, the establishment is keeping American from being great again.
But who is the establishment, or if you will, the established order?
And what are the problems facing the country that the establishment is not addressing?
My top five problems are listed below. And below the list of problems is a tally of the millions of Americans who have a vested interest in the problems continuing and who thus make up the established order. You can skip the top five problems and go directly to the numbers and still understand the gist of this commentary.
Top Five Problems
Deficit Spending: About 66% of federal spending now goes to so-called mandatory programs—to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare. Another 17% goes to national defense, which is one of the primary constitutional responsibilities of the federal government but, ironically, is classified as a discretionary expense. Many states and municipalities also have huge unfunded liabilities for the pensions of public-sector employees and retirees, including firefighters and police who are seen as heroes by much of the populace.
The Federal Reserve: The central bank is the enabler for the deficit spending. Also, its quantitative easing and stock market "puts" have caused massive distortions in certain asset classes, have enriched Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, and have created credit binges and bubbles that are followed by economic recessions and long-lasting financial hangovers.
Currency Wars: It's too complicated to explain here—and too complex for a presidential candidate to turn into a campaign soundbite—but central bank shenanigans are contributing to currency wars and trade wars between nations, which in turn is accelerating the hollowing out American manufacturing and putting the nation at a competitive disadvantage.
The Education System: K-12 public education is a unionized, socialist monopoly in which the users of the system are subsidized by non-users—a perfect petri dish for waste, bureaucracy, bloat, and non-accountability. College education is becoming just as wasteful, bureaucratic, bloated, and non-accountable, due to the corrupting influence of tuition loans, government grants, and ever-increasing regulations. Also, both systems are dominated by left-liberals who favor big government for the simple reason that they benefit personally from big government.
The Regulatory State: The regulatory state and its sibling the nanny state have become so pervasive that the USA has plummeted in worldwide rankings on the ease of doing business and starting a business. (On a personal note, my son will be returning to the States next month from a seven-month assignment in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emeritus. While he looks forward to seeing family and friends, he doesn't look forward to leaving the entrepreneurial and competitive environment of the UAE for the hidebound, paternalistic USA.)
All of the above has resulted in the USA economy and culture shifting from savings and production to indebtedness and consumption, from self-reliance and industriousness to dependence and mooching, from a free market to crony capitalism and crony socialism, from real learning to brainwashing and indoctrination, and from a confident nation of innovation and hard work to a nation that believes it can't compete with the likes of corrupt Mexico and commie China.
The Establishment in Numbers
Note: Numbers are rounded and are actual or estimated totals.
150 million: the number of Americans who receive a government entitlement, handout or subsidy
8 million: employment in the financial industry
17.7 million: the number of federal, state, and municipal employees, excluding public school teachers and administrators
3 million: the number of public school teachers
210 thousand: the number of public school superintendents, principals and administrators
50 million: enrollment in K-12 public schools (versus only 2 million in Catholic schools)
1.6 million: employment in higher education
9 million: this is equal to half the total employment in the healthcare and social assistance industries and reflects an educated guess as to the percent of workers in these industries who are dependent directly or indirectly on government money
5 million: the number of private-sector employees, consultants, attorneys, and accountants who specialize in regulatory compliance and thus are dependent on the regulatory state
Total: 245 million
Of course this total of 245 million includes some double-counting. But the astonishing number still gives you an idea of the size of the establishment—of those who benefit from the status quo and resist real change.
By comparison, there are only 18.6 million workers in the goods-producing industries of manufacturing, mining, and construction. Another 2 million are in agriculture, forestry, and fishing.
Democrat politicians want to add to the 245 million, and Republican politicians know that it is political suicide to try to reduce the number significantly.
Anyway, those who rail against the establishment are correct that the establishment is destroying America. They're just wrong about the make-up of the establishment.