Recently, I happened to read three articles on different websites about three completely different topics. Later I realized how these unrelated pieces, together, weaved a dark tapestry of seemingly insurmountable challenges for a nation about to celebrate its 238th birthday.
Here are the three headlines:
1. More Than Two-Thirds of American Youth Wouldn't Qualify for Service, Pentagon Says (Wall Street Journal)
2. In Fairfax County kindergarten classes, school system’s future comes into focus (Washington Post)
3. The Pitchforks Are Coming…. For Us Plutocrats (Politico)
First, let’s begin with the WSJ’s report on the Pentagon’s estimate that 71% of our nation’s 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds would fail to qualify for military service if they tried to enlist.
The three major factors cited for the 71 percent disqualification rate are “overlapping reasons” at 31 percent, medical issues including weight and mental health at 28 percent and drug use at 8 percent.
Quoted in the WSJ is General Allen Batschelet, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command who said, "The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly.”
General Batschelet also stated that only about 1 percent of youths are both "eligible and inclined to have a conversation with us" about military service.
But there is a deeper problem with societal consequences stretching well beyond large percentages of recruits being rejected by the military.
Consider this fact from retired Major General Allen Youngman as reported by the WSJ:
About a quarter of high-school graduates also can't pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures math and reading skills, Gen. Youngman said. "They aren't educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs," he said.
For the record, in order to pass the Armed Forces Qualification test one must score a minimum of 33 out of 99.
General Youngman is also quoted as saying, "We're trying to make decision makers see this is a national-security matter—and they need to prioritize it."
Certainly, for a nation that has grown accustomed to all-volunteer defense forces a 71 percent rate of disqualification is not only a national security matter but a red flag for our future signaling that something has gone terribly wrong with America’s youth aged 17 – 24. If the military won’t hire them who will?
Just as my brain was processing the depressing state of military recruiting, I stumbled upon a Washington Post piece on the demographics of Fairfax County, Virginia’s recent kindergarten graduates, the future high school class of 2026.
For those unfamiliar with Fairfax County, Virginia, it is the fifth wealthiest county in the United States with a median household income of $106,690 according to Forbes. With just over 1.1 million residents, Fairfax is Virginia’s most populated county and a popular bedroom community for Washington D.C. workers. But now, times they are a changin’ as reported in the Washington Post:
More than one-third of the 13,424 kindergartners in the county this year qualified for free or reduced-price meals, a federal measure of poverty, and close to 40 percent of the Class of 2026 requires additional English instruction, among the most ever for a Fairfax kindergarten class.
These statistics are creating serious budget problems as the growing numbers and needs of lower-income, non-English speaking students are outpacing the tax base of this “wealthy” county once known for its superb public school system.
The Washington Post also reports:
"According to county budget documents, the surging enrollment is attributed to higher birthrates among Asian and Hispanic families, who account for one of every four births in Fairfax. The percentage of white students in the schools is steadily declining. In 2002, more than half of the student population was white; today, white students account for 41.4 percent of enrollment."
And then there’s backlash as the report continues:
Louise Epstein, a longtime Fairfax education activist, said some parents have watched with concern as the county has shifted resources away from affluent neighborhoods to schools with rising populations of poor and immigrant students. As a result, class sizes have grown in certain areas of the county, frustrating parents, Epstein said. Such families “are getting fed up and sending their children to private schools,” she said.
But there is no need for concern if you are a Fairfax County resident with children in public school because the liberals who run the county are putting a positive spin on the demographic changes.
For example, School Board member Ted Velkoff (At Large), chairman of its Budget Committee said to the Washington Post:
"We view these demographic shifts and our growing diversity as a strength that we will continue to celebrate.”
OK, I too am a big fan of “celebrating diversity” because diversity is what made our nation great, but what about the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the celebration? What about the increasing number of Fairfax County parents who are paying higher than ever property taxes and spending $30,000 a year to send one kid to private school?
And that brings us to the continually growing divide between the rich and poor in our nation -- a topic addressed in the third article that caught my eye.
But this Politico piece was not your typical income inequality rant characterized by regurgitated Democratic Party taking points. No, this article was written by a billionaire named Nick Hanauer, a Seattle-based entrepreneur who struck it rich by investing in his friend Jeff Bezos’ little book selling start-up called Amazon.
Hanauer’s unique piece was written in the form of a letter addressed to fellow billionaires. It issued a stark warning about a violent future on America’s horizon, when and not if, the inequality tipping point is finally reached. This tipping point is when millions of poor, unemployed or under-employed Americans rise up en masse against the wealthy, bringing revolution to the streets of our cities. Thus, the title of the piece The Pitchforks Are Coming…. For Us Plutocrats.
Here is a taste:
Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter.
But, you don’t even need to be among the “1 percenters” to see the wisdom in and understand the history behind, Hanauer’s warning. You could be any hard working American who perhaps owns a business, a home and has a few assets. The point is you are “a have” in a nation that is fast becoming populated by “have-nots.”
Here is another warning excerpt from Hanauer’s letter:
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
So, on July 4th as we celebrate our independence from a once great power it is time that independent Americans rise up, create and demand solutions to the problems discussed in these three articles that are turning our nation into a once great power.
Or, do I dare say, a "third world nation" as Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert is now warning? You know, those kinds of nations where angry crowds riot in the streets and sometimes even topple governments.