Over the Fourth of July weekend, many Americans take some time out to think about their country. This year, those thoughts might not be as festive as in the past because the United States is in decline.
A new Associated Press poll says that 80 percent of Americans believe the economy is in bad shape, and they are correct. With each passing hour, America's $14.4 trillion debt rises with no end in sight. Tight money has crippled the housing industry, and Wall Street's lack of confidence in the Obama administration is retarding business expansion. Thus, fewer jobs are being created in the private marketplace.
Washington has not been able to stem the grim economic tide because of ideology. The president and most Democrats believe more government control of the economy and higher taxes on the affluent will improve the situation. Republicans are demanding smaller government, no tax increases and less federal regulation. The stalemate is hurting the folks, no question about it.
A poor economic outlook erodes power, both personal and governmental. One of the reasons President Obama cited for ''drawing down'' troops in Afghanistan was economic. He wants to spend more money at home in lieu of nation building in Afghanistan. That may be a good thing, but it is not a strong thing. A cash-strapped America spells weakness to the rest of the world.
On the cultural front, things are also going downhill. Millions of Americans are now addicted to the Internet, spending countless hours playing games and twittering their lives away. What was first envisioned as technological recreation has now become a lifestyle for many, especially younger people. The machines are dominating lives, leaving little time to explore the real world and develop offline relationships.
On the entertainment front, cheap reality TV programs showcase the worst of human nature. Crude displays, greed, narcissism and sadistic impulses are all celebrated nightly on the tube. Where once the country appreciated great writers like Hemingway and Twain, now people like Snooki are being paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak on college campuses. ''The Situation'' is right. There is a situation. And it's appalling.
Obama often laments the growing gap between the rich and the rest of America. And it's true. A fortunate few are able to ride capitalism to the extreme, living lives of incredible luxury. But there is also a growing cultural divide. The masses are being fed electronic garbage 24/7 in the form of hostile music, gross-out movies and the aforementioned reality TV atrocities. Meanwhile, a select few are being intensely educated at amazingly expensive high-end universities. They will be the future Masters of the Universe. Most other Americans will just get by.
This depressing scenario is not how a nation expands its power. America became the most powerful country on earth because its people pulled together economically and fought worldwide to create freedom and dignity for those less fortunate.
Now, we are running out of money to fight the good fights, and we are fracturing along class lines. This is not what the United States should be. E pluribus unum? Not this Fourth of July.
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show ''The O'Reilly Factor.'' Visit his website at www.billoreilly.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/billoreilly.