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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:49 pm | Fair 49º


Randy Alcorn: The Dubious Benefits of Being No. 1

To revive and thrive, the United States should become more like Canada

When crossing the border into Canada, it is hard not to notice that the Canadian border guards are few, friendly and relaxed. After a few quick questions, they wave you through. Conversely, on leaving Canada and entering the United States, the lines of cars are a half-mile long and move excruciatingly slowly. The Homeland Security Department guards, supported by an imposing array of surveillance equipment, are numerous, officious and edgy.

Randy Alcorn
Randy Alcorn

Canadians don’t worry much about terrorists blowing up their cities or hijacking their jetliners. Although Canada sometimes participates in international policing efforts and contributes aid to impoverished nations, it is not the world’s enforcer or its economic leader. Canada keeps a low profile.

Canada is comfortably below first place in the hierarchy of the world’s most powerful nations. And, that seems to be just fine with Canadians who generally enjoy a high standard of living with universal health care, good schools and universities, and stable, effective government. Canadians are not burdened with financing protracted wars, a massive military or an extensive national security apparatus. Nor, by the way, are they plagued with a chronic economic recession.

While the United States endures yet another year of the Great Recession, Canada’s economy remains robust, growing at a 6.1 percent annual rate this year compared to 2.7 percent for the United States. Unemployment is below 8 percent compared, to more than 9.5 percent in the United States. Canadian stocks gained more than 200 percent over the past decade, up 53 percent in 2009 alone — far exceeding the U.S. stock market’s performance.

But perhaps the most telling economic difference between Canada and the United States is that the Canadian government is nearly debt free and has had budget surpluses in 12 of the past 13 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal debt has grown to $13 trillion, up more than $1 trillion so far this year.

After World War II, America picked up the pieces of a shattered world. It restored order and economic health to Europe and Japan while keeping the Russian bear and Chinese dragon at bay. America became the world’s leading economic and military power. Proud achievements, but what does it mean to be the “greatest” nation on earth? What has being No. 1 done for most Americans, and where has it left us today?

With a mind-numbing national debt of $13 trillion and growing, the nation is flirting with financial disaster. Every American man, woman and child would need to fork over $43,000 to pay off that debt — a debt that grows greater every day. About half of that titanic debt has been incurred paying for the insatiable U.S. military behemoth, and for chronic wars of questionable rationale and cloudy conclusions. When veterans’ benefits and debt service are included, military spending is now more than $1.4 trillion per year and consumes more than 50 percent of the total federal budget.

America has military bases in more than 120 countries scattered around the world — and rather than being reimbursed for protecting these countries — from enemies real or perceived — we actually pay rent to them. For some nations, our military presence has become a source of resentment, even festering into terrorist violence against us. For other nations, our military presence has become more a matter of economics than of their national security. Our military bases generate vibrant economies for the locals.

Meanwhile, our financial house of cards teeters precariously on loans from China and on paper dollars furiously churned out by the overheated printing presses of the U.S. Treasury. We are risking the financial health of the nation to remain the biggest dog in the kennel. Why?

North Korea proves that even a small nation without a global military presence can protect itself from enemies. It only needs enough nuclear weapons to deter aggression. America could abandon its foreign bases, slash its military spending to a fraction of what it is now and still protect itself from potential enemies as long as it maintains its capability to deliver nuclear annihilation against any place on earth.

We cannot afford to continue garrisoning the world or engaging in quixotic military adventures to remove tyrants, instill democracy or referee squabbling nations. Nor are our global economic interests necessarily secured by our military. The oil embargo imposed by Arab nations in the 1970s did not end because of our military strength; it ended because those nations wanted to resume trade. They needed to sell that oil.

If the world wants America to continue providing policing services and protection, it needs to pay us for it. Otherwise, let’s come home and stop spending ourselves into bankruptcy to maintain a global military presence that only benefits other nations and inflates our national ego.

— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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