In Brief: Our Ship of State Looks Like the Titanic
So many challenges face our nation, and steady hands are not at the helm.
“The ‘ship of state’ metaphor,” is an old one, says political analyst Bruce Thornton. It “first appears in the works of the late 7th century BC poet Alcaeus,” and it stands for the chaos ships face in the storms of political upheaval. Thornton reimagines the metaphor to look at the modern U.S.
We also are in the midst of political storms — political violence, the “soft despotism” of federal overregulation, the illiberal “wokeism” attacking our unalienable rights, and the serial damage to the Constitutional institutions that have kept us sailing free for over 200 years. But a variation of the metaphor more telling for our predicament is the sinking of the Titanic, the “unsinkable” ocean liner that fatally struck an iceberg in 1912. However, rather than one iceberg likely concealed from the Titanic’s watchmen by a nighttime optical illusion, we are confronted in broad daylight with an archipelago of icebergs that have been visible for decades now.
Take the looming federal debt, deficits, and unfunded liabilities. Our national debt has reached $28.43 trillion, 133% of GDP; annual budget deficits hover around $3 trillion; and there are $162 trillion in unfunded liabilities, including Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security — all relentlessly growing without any serious effort to reform the “big three” entitlement programs that eat up half the annual budget. More ominously, these frightening numbers have occurred during a time of anomalously low interest rates. Just a one percent rise in rates would swell interest payments to $530 billion a year — more than we spend on Medicaid.
Warnings continue to go not only unheeded but virtually scoffed at as our leaders spend ever more. “It’s as though the captain of the Titanic ordered ‘Full speed ahead!’ when warned about the iceberg.”
“Abroad,” he says, “multiple threats to our ship of state are relentlessly drawing near.”
“The disastrous, hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan has damaged our country’s interests and prestige,” he says. Thornton details how “Russia is amassing troops on Ukraine’s eastern border,” as well as how China, “emboldened by the public displays of weakness by our president and diplomats, is threatening Taiwan and our other allies like Japan and the Philippines.” Iran’s nuclear weapons program also looms. These are a direct result of Biden’s posture of weakness.
Most important are the dangers that have arisen from changes in our culture and politics. The transformation of both that started in the Sixties has reached critical mass, with illiberal Leftist and progressive ideas and policies on sex identity, race, the economy, and the American social-political order dominating schools, universities, popular culture, media, corporate boards, sports, and entertainment. Tolerance for diverse views, ideas, and opinions has been eroded, riots and looting are used to intimidate political enemies, “cancel culture” destroys lives and careers, and anti-American Orwellian history infects the schools, popular culture, and media. …
Just like the tyrants who endangered Mytilene, our new technocratic tyrants are driving our ship of state deeper into the perfect storm.
Thornton concludes: “Storms and icebergs are beyond our control. But the dysfunction of our culture and politics are the bitter fruit of bad choices, the passion for power, and selfish interests.”
- Bruce Thornton
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