It's true that the "good old days" weren't always good, but we should also remember that our belief that we're completely superior to previous generations of Americans doesn't even remotely square with reality. It's fine to pat ourselves on the back for being wealthier, more educated and considerably less racist than we used to be, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that those less educated, backward people in their antiquated clothes were head and shoulders better than we are in a myriad of other ways. We should remember that the real problem isn't having a problem; it's having a problem and not even realizing that we have a problem. We have a problem and most Americans don't realize it.
1) Dependency: Our ancestors were some of the most independent people on earth. They spent months traveling across an unforgiving landscape, fought off Indians, built their own houses, ate the food they grew and carved out a life for themselves. Today, a large number of Americans are claiming that they're incapable of paying for their own birth control. There are 47 million Americans on food stamps, which is an all-time high. That's more than 1 out of every 7 Americans. Since 2008 more Americans have gone onto Social Security disability than the net number of jobs that have been created in that same time period. Within the living memory of some Americans there was no Social Security or Medicare in this country; yet we've gone from 16 workers for each retiree in 1950 to 3.3 today to an estimated 2 workers per retiree in 2025. If the money that workers paid into the system had been set aside to pay for their Golden Years, that wouldn't be so bad, but unfortunately that hasn't been done. Everything paid into the system has already been spent, which means that retirees are going to spend their Golden Years completely dependent on younger workers who'll have to pay an unthinkably high tax rate to cover the bills we’re leaving them today while they also fund the medical care and retirement of their much wealthier grandparents.
2) Debt: We've come a long way since the early days of the American republic when Thomas Jefferson had ferocious debates with Congress about whether we could afford to build a four-ship Navy to defend American shipping from the Barbary pirates. Today, even the almost half a billion dollars a year in corporate welfare that we give to PBS is considered to be a budgetary necessity in D.C. Additionally, we have a 16 trillion dollar debt that we're adding more than a trillion to every year. Despite the fact that members of both parties agree that this is "unsustainable," the most serious plan put forward to deal with it that could conceivably pass Congress (Paul Ryan's plan) wouldn't balance the budget for another 28 years and NOBODY seems to think that we can pay off the debt we already owe. By 2020, the United States is on track to need 19% of the world's GDP to fund our debt. It's frightening enough to think that we could be that dependent on other nations just to continue to function, but it's even more terrifying to realize that Washington politicians have no intent of stopping there. They intend to keep the pedal all the way down to the floorboard until we run right off a cliff into hyperinflation or default.
3) Decay In Entertainment: During WWII, when we had troops in the field, Hollywood made movies portraying them as heroes fighting for a just cause. Today, Hollywood undermines the war effort and talks about the troops like unstable drones. Actors openly encourage hatred against the country where they became rich and famous. Fifty years ago, Hollywood was much more culturally conservative and concerned about the moral values that television and movies promoted. Today, Hollywood generates a cultural sewer so rank that you'd have to go back to some of the more perverse Roman emperors to find anything comparable -- and that's before you even consider the habitual rudeness, stupidity, and ever present pornography of the Internet. You can’t expect a generation of kids who grew up without dads, never went to church, and spent their formative years watching Jersey Shore, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and anti-American garbage like Machete to produce an overabundance of model citizens.
4) Politics: As a society, we moved from expecting politicians to be better than the rest of us to expecting them to be more degenerate than the rest of us. Ted Kennedy left a woman to die in a tidal pool and was reelected. Marion Barry was reelected after being caught smoking crack. Barack Obama is the first President to be elected after admitting he used cocaine. Barney Frank had a prostitution ring run out of his apartment. Just this last election cycle, Jesse Jackson, Jr. was reelected from the Mayo Clinic. Because of the partisan leans of states and gerrymandering, for a majority of politicians, they have lifetime appointments and elections are mere formalities. Additionally, because of the corruption in Congress and the big money to be made off government decisions, serving in Congress has become a distressingly lucrative job. In 2010, the average net worth of a senator was 13.1 million dollars and the average member of the House was worth 5.9 million dollars. It's ironic that we hear so much negative talk about the "1 percent" from politicians in Congress because most of them are in the 1 percent and the majority of them got there through connections, corruption, and by handing out favors instead of earning it. If the people get the government they deserve, what does the quality of the representatives we have in Washington say about our people?
5) Marriage: Between 1890-1950 black Americans had higher marriage rates than white Americans. Since then, we’ve seen the unconscionable slaughter of more than 50 million innocent children since Roe v. Wade, an explosion of out-of-wedlock births and a deterioration of marriage. In 1900 the divorce rate in America was 8.1% while in recent years, it has hovered between 40%-50%. Additionally, the illegitimacy rate has gone up 300% just since 1970. Today, amongst under 30 women, 73% of black children, 53% of Latinos, and 29% of white children are born out-of-wedlock. Marriage in America is going through a Great-Depression-style crisis and there is nothing on the horizon that seems likely to lift us out of the tailspin.