Why America is Dying...and What to Do

Politicians may claim America is on the upswing, but in fact, it’s in freefall.

People are working longer and harder and aren’t staying afloat. In 2004, 1.6 million families will file for bankruptcy, an all-time high.

It’s not surprising we’re having to work longer and harder. According to the Tax Foundation, in 2004, the average taxpayer worked from Jan 1 until April 11 just to pay taxes. As a result, today, it usually requires two incomes to make ends meet, especially to own a home.

Among the 10 wealthiest nations, the US has the highest violent crime rate. And it's not because of the US's weak gun control laws. Brazil and Malaysia have very strict gun control laws and their murder rate is almost triple the US rate. Switzerland and Israel have high gun ownership rates but much lower crime rates than in the US.

Not so long ago, civility and integrity was assumed. Today, they are often considered quaint ideals to be ignored when expedient. For example, have you noticed, that when you phone or email someone, you increasingly don’t even get the courtesy of a reply?

If our children are our future, prospects are bleak indeed. Schools ratchet up the standards, but most students graduate high school without even basic skills. Despite four decades of increases in education spending and the US spending more per capita on education than any of the 25 leading industrialized nations(!), the respected National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that fewer than 20 percent of 17-year-olds read at a “competent” level. In major cities, so-called "job illiteracy" is rampant. For example, in Los Angeles, 53 percent of adults are unable to read a bus schedule or complete a job application.

The question is why are we becoming a third-world nation and what should do about it?

Here are five central causes of America’s decline and recommendations for their amelioration.

Differential birth rates

The people with the least ability to be good parents have the most babies. According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the average number of children born to US women is 71% greater for high school dropouts than for college graduates. The average IQ of the dropouts is less than 96. Study after study show that such low IQ is a powerful predictor of poor employment, crime, and drug abuse.

The effect of the differential birthrate is geometric. Over five generations, every 1,000 female college graduates will have produced 12,000 babies. 100 high school dropouts will have produced 135,000!


High schools, especially those with high teen pregnancy rates, should provide full and open sex education, for example, including role playing of how to respond when a boy says, “If you loved me, you’d let me.” or “I don’t need to wear a condom.” That sex education should include in-school birth control counseling and distribution of free contraception including long-term but reversible contraceptives such as Norplant.

Focusing on those with the greatest deficit rather than the greatest potential to benefit

Schools reallocate ever more resources from the high achievers to the low achievers, from the students with the greatest potential to profit and in turn contribute to society, to the students with the least potential. President Bush's massive No Child Left Behind program is a perfect example. All its carrots and sticks are for helping the lowest achievers.

All students are entitled to an appropriate education, but we need to reassess the current balance of our spending to ensure that those with the greatest potential to profit are not shortchanged. The reallocation to low achievers is not just of money. Although a metaanalysis of 76 separate studies(!) by James Kulik at the University of Michigan proves that placing high-and-low-achieving students in the same class helps neither high nor low achievers, we increasingly do so because it’s ‘equal”. The problem is that for all students, it’s not equally good, it’s equally bad.

Imagine there were two schools. In both schools, 1/3 of its fourth graders were reading below grade level, 1/3 at grade level, and 1/3 above grade level. At School A, the fourth graders were assigned to a class at random. At School B, students were assigned to their class based on reading ability. School B will undoubtedly produce better readers because most teachers can't effectively teach a class with a wide range of student ability. But educrats’ desire to even appear to help low achievers trumps options that would benefit all students, especially capable ones.

Job training programs, like school programs, also focus on those with the least potential: former welfare recipients and other hard-to-train people. Meanwhile, millions of highly educated, skilled and motivated white collar workers sit un- or underemployed because so many white-collar jobs have been shipped to India, China, the Philippines, etc.


As with education resources, we must reassess the balance of how we spend job training resources to ensure we don’t shortchange those with the greatest potential to profit and contribute to society.

Uncontrolled immigration

This is a nation of immigrants and we are the better for it.

But unlike previous waves of immigration, the current one is uncontrolled, consisting heavily of illegal immigrants. That means that countless people are entering this country without having been screened for communicable diseases, felony convictions, etc..

1.5 million illegal aliens, one million from Mexico alone, illegally become US residents each year. And many of them soon obtain phony ID to obtain a wealth of services compliments of the US taxpayers: subsidized housing, welfare, social security, etc. Exacerbating the problem, illegals’ birth rate is more than double the US average, with each offspring, from birth, eligible for the myriad government programs available to citizens.

We're already seeing enormous effects of illegal immigration on:

Health care

Current US law entitles all illegals and their families to free emergency health care, and many jurisdictions provide far more extensive services than that. Our health care system is already overwhelmed. For example, thousands of Americans die each year because of lack of adequate nursing and other medical care. Illegal immigrants, coming from poor countries, have great health care needs. And in addition to common diseases, illegals bring challenges not normally faced in the US, for example, 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the past three years came in from Mexico, India, and Brazil, 16,000 new cases of multiple-drug-resistant, incurable, and communicable(!) tuberculosis. The Centers for Disease Control reports that illegal immigrants account for over 65 percent of communicable diseases (TB, hepatitis, leprosy, AIDS, etc.,) in the US. Immigration officials are supposed to screen out immigrants who are carrying diseases, but there is no health screening for illegal immigrants.

Illegals’ further burden the health care system because they disproportionately do heavy physical work, which causes their bodies to fall apart faster, and because the violent crime rate among illegals is staggering (See below).

The burden of providing health care to illegals extends beyond disease and saving crime victims. For example, because of illegals’ high birthrate, in Colorado, which has a mere(?) 100,000 illegal immigrants, taxpayers in 2003 alone paid for 6,000 illegals to have their babies. That’s 40% of the births Medicaid paid for in the state. To get immediate care, the illegal must only say “I am undocumented."

The Washington Times reported that dozens of hospitals in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California have either closed their doors or face bankruptcy because of losses caused by uncompensated care given to illegal immigrants.

The author of that article, Brenda Walker, writes, "More than 40 million American citizens do not have health insurance while they pay in their tax bills for free medical care for Mexican nationals, many of whom are illegally working at American jobs - a double-dip rip off. Furthermore, hospitals closing and emergency rooms crowded with illegal aliens mean that an American needing speedy treatment may have to wait far longer to receive it. Such delays can mean the difference between life and death."


America’s public schools already suffer under severe budget constraints, causing large class sizes, textbook shortages, and leaky ceilings. Yet, US law requires that all illegals receive free public education K-12. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that this costs taxpayers $7.4 billion dollars each year.

The Pew Hispanic Center calculates that, within seven years, the children of immigrants, legal and illegal, will account for one in nine school-age children in the US. The Urban Institute estimates that already, 15% of all school children in California are illegals, many of whom speak little English. These students are usually mainstreamed in classes with native English speakers. This means that teachers must slow down instruction, denying native English speakers their right to an appropriate-level education.

The challenge is even greater because not all those students’ native language is Spanish: For example, in my nearest major school district, San Francisco, it would not be unusual to find a class that had native speakers of Chinese, Russian, Tagalog, Spanish, and English. Imagine the challenge of trying to educate them all. If your child were in that class, would you be confident that he or she would receive a quality education?

Immigrant advocacy groups such as La Raza and the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) have additionally burdened the public schools by demanding that schools provide special controversial programs such as bilingual education, in which students are taught in Spanish for much of the day. Bilingual education programs exist throughout California even after longitudinal research has not demonstrated their effectiveness and after a voter-approved ban on those programs.

Imagine if Americans illegally entered Mexico, demanded that their children be educated in the Mexican public schools for free and that they be taught in the same classes as Mexican children, and in English. They’d rightfully be laughed or thrown out. Yet, that’s what’s going on with illegal aliens in the US.

La Raza and MALDEF also pushed through legislation that allows, in 19 states, illegal immigrants to not only attend any public university in those states, but to pay in-state tuition, while legal residents of neighboring states must pay the out-of-state rate which is three to eight times more. It’s quite an injustice, for example, that a legal resident can be denied admission to taxpayer-supported Berkeley and must attend community college so an illegal foreign national can attend Berkeley—at in-state rates! And in the ultimate irony, reverse discrimination admission policies can result in an illegal with B grades in high school being admitted while a legal A student from a neighboring state, willing to pay the much higher out-of-state tuition, is rejected.


Illegals' crime rate is astonishing. For example, in Los Angeles County, 2/3 of felony warrants are for illegals. One in seven inmates in California state prisons are illegal immigrants, serving time for crimes other than being in the US illegally. California taxpayers alone spend $500 million a year on incarcerating illegals.

Amazingly, because of so-called sanctuary laws, police in illegal-saturated cities such as L.A., San Diego, Houston, Austin, Chicago, and New York are prohibited from reporting even felons' immigration violations to federal authorities.

Even an illegal who has committed murder rarely gets deported. According to statistics from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 80,000 illegals who have served prison time for felonies including murder, rape, drug smuggling, and armed robberies, are roaming our streets. This is frightening indeed because, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, within three years of prison release, 62% commit another crime.

Illegals’ crime rate shouldn’t be surprising. Their first act in the US is an illegal one—defying US immigration laws, and many soon break a second law: obtaining phony ID--readily available on the street for $50 to $75. That enables them to steal a wealth of benefits reserved for legal residents: from subsidized housing to health care to welfare, for themselves, their children, and other relatives they later send for.


Can we ask legal residents to be honest--for example, to pay their income taxes—while the government takes our tax dollars to reward lawbreaking illegals with legal status, an array of services for themselves and their families, plus full US citizenship for all subsequent offspring? In officially welcoming millions of lawbreakers into the US, we exacerbate America’s already declining honesty.

And the effects of a dishonest society are profound. Already, we hear of endless examples of rampant dishonesty from corporate malfeasance to welfare fraud, from student cheating to elder scams to a Democrat operative forging a document to smear the president of the United States: Watergate from the Left A viable society requires that we can trust what people say and do.


All 19 of the 9/11 terrorists were in the US illegally. Peyton Knight, Director of Legislative Affairs for the American Policy Center, a Virginia think tank, writes, “At a time when America is under attack by Islamist holy warriors, the Census Bureau estimates that as many as 115,000 illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries are living in the United States."

Ironically, illegals’ supposed benefit to the US--doing the work Americans won't do--is only true because corporations refuse to pay a living wage. If corporations paid $15 an hour plus benefits to pick crops and clean hotel rooms, legal residents would gladly do the work. The current system of open borders is nothing more than corporate welfare--allowing corporations to get immorally cheap labor.

The notion that illegals contribute more than they cost the taxpayer is untrue. A just-released study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that illegals, each year, cost the taxpayer $10 billion dollars more than they contribute. That is not surprising given the above heavy and illegal use of government programs and the health care system, and that illegals report so little income. Because so many illegals are paid off-the-books or earn low wages, they contribute little in taxes. And unlike most legal residents who pump much of their income back into our economy, illegals send large percentages of their US earnings back to their home country—an estimated $23 billion last year was sent to Mexico alone.


We must penalize large employers of illegals severely enough that they won’t hire illegals. That will force corporations to raise wages and benefits to a level at which legal residents will do the work.

In addition we should work with the Mexican government to improve conditions for their citizens so they’re less motivated to come to the US illegally. The US must use its influence to improve the notoriously corrupt Mexican government. In addition, we should use our Peace Corps to teach entrepreneurship to residents of Mexico, offering microloans as appropriate.

Reverse discrimination

In practice, "affirmative action" is often reverse discrimination. Colleges are masters of deception with statistics, avoiding the most germane statistic: the average SAT score for whites, Asians, Blacks, and Hispanic students attending the college. At most selective colleges, the racial difference is astonishing. For example, at the University of California Berkeley, the average SAT score for Asians and Whites is 1400, for Blacks just 1170. And you get 400 points just for signing your name! And not disclosed are the “special admits,” mostly Black, who are admitted with even poorer scores. Reverse discrimination, of course, results in less qualified people getting slots in our prestigious colleges, which are the launchpads to leadership and important positions in the professions.

Lest you think the reverse discrimination ends after admission, as a former faculty member at four universities including Berkeley, I know that my colleagues and I were pressured by minority activist organizations and administrators to give passing grades to minorities who did not deserve one.

That pressure even extends to life-critical medical education. Nine UCLA medical school professors urged that an African-American medical student be terminated from medical school because of poor performance. But the student made racial discrimination claims and to avoid the long, expensive lawsuit, and the race-card media campaign the student threatened to launch, the medical school has allowed the student to return.

Such problems accrued even in the landmark Bakke case, which paved the way for reverse discrimination admissions. Patrick Chavis, an African-American was the student admitted to UC Davis medical school instead of the far more qualified Alan Bakke. After Chavis graduated, Nicholas LeMann, in a New York Times Magazine cover story, proclaimed Chavis “the poster boy for affirmative action.” A few years later, however, it turned out that Chavis should have been the poster boy for anti-affirmative action. Instead of being the “physician who gave back to his community,” he opened a liposuction clinic and botched many. In one case, afraid of being discovered as incompetent, in the middle of the night, Chavis wheeled one of his patients out of the hospital, badly bleeding. The patient died. Chavis’ license was finally revoked.

Dr. Bernard Davis, when he was department chair at Harvard Medical School saw, first-hand, the reverse discrimination toward African-American students. So, he told his wife, “If I ever need surgery and I’m looking up at an African-American surgeon, wheel me out.” If there’s that much incompetence among African-American medical students at Harvard, imagine the situation at the vast majority of colleges, which do not get cream-of-the-crop students.

While less obvious, reverse discrimination is equally severe in the workplace. As a career consultant, in the confidentiality of my office, I’ve had dozens of senior employees tell me that Latinos and especially Blacks are hired and promoted over much more qualified Asians and Whites. They often are given plum positions with big salaries and fancy titles, but placed where, as one executive put it, “they can do no harm.”

In short, our racial guilt is resulting in less qualified people becoming our doctors, lawyers, airplane pilots, and executives. As a result the quality of everything from our telephone service to our health care is decreased.


We must restore affirmative action to its original intent: full outreach to ensure that all candidates are judged on merit. The notion that whites and Asians still must be discriminated against in college admissions and employment 150 years after slavery, after a half-century of the Civil Rights movement, and after literally trillions(!) of dollars in government, university, and nonprofit money targeted to minorities, is simply not fair to whites and Asians, nor to all of us because of the worse services and products we must endure as a result.

Offshoring of jobs

Corporations have long offshored manufacturing jobs. Now they’re doing it to white-collar jobs. And it’s understandable—getting a qualified Indian or Chinese person to do the work for 20 cents on the dollar—with less threat of the rampant illegitimate wrongful termination race- or gender-discrimination suits, is compelling.

The solution is not protectionism. That will result in US companies having to pay much more for its workers than do companies in other countries. As a result, the US companies will have to charge more for its products. That not only means higher prices for US citizens but that US companies’ products will be priced noncompetitively and so most of these companies will, sooner or later, go out of business—resulting in a far greater loss of jobs than that caused by offshoring.


The best solution is to train more of our students and adults in the art and science of entrepreneurship. The US has long been a nation of innovation, and innovation, not protectionism offers the best chance of saving us from becoming a giant third-world nation. Our high schools should replace non-critical parts of the curriculum—for example, simultaneous equations, the Peloponnesian Wars, and the halide series of chemical elements—with courses in entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, money management, and ethical social capitalism. A nation filled with such entrepreneurs will create ethical yet profitable businesses that will boost our economy more permanently than punishing corporations for providing their products and services cost-effectively.

I believe this is China's century, with America plummeting toward third-world status but I believe that the above recommendations offer the best chance to slow or even stop America's decline and fall.

© 2007, Marty Nemko

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Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in (NPR, San Francisco), and worldwide on . 400+ of his published writings are available free on that website and is a co-editor of Cool Careers for Dummies. and author of The All-in-One College Guide. E-Mail.

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