If you watch the news media, and especially the accounts of things like the Peoples’ March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, you would believe that the most critical problems facing America are deportation of immigrants for entering the country illegally, employer resistance to paying low skilled workers $15/hour, carbon dioxide emissions that cause “climate change,” pipeline threats to sacred Native American burial sites, intolerance toward those whose religion commands jihad, and allowing conservatives to speak on campuses.
Well, people are entitled to march to draw attention to issues important to them. But could we pause just a moment to look at four threats that unarguably have the potential to cripple or even destroy American and global civilization?
First, our national government is $20 trillion in debt, plus owing unfunded liabilities (mainly Social Security and Medicare) totaling at least $80 trillion more, depending on the time period and interest rates used. The $20 trillion is 105 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, a level that indicates a government in serious financial trouble.
The disability insurance fund is projected to run dry in 2023, the Medicare fund in 2028, and the retirement fund in 2030 (earlier, if retirement funds are used to stretch out the failure of the disability fund.)
All that’s keeping us out of the fiscal poorhouse is foreign and domestic investors who see U.S. debt as completely secure, although dollar depreciation is reducing that debt’s real interest rate to near zero percent.
Thousands of knowledgeable and responsible people know how to fix the federal fiscal problem — but there are hundreds of millions who are in denial about an approaching collapse, and oppose any tax and spending austerity program to fend it off.
Second, and less political, is the threat of asteroid impact. None have been recorded since 1908 in Siberia, but on Feb. 15, 2013, a space rock of the same size — 140 feet across — passed within 17,000 miles of Earth. A hit would have destroyed New York or Shanghai. The impact of a 3,000-foot-wide asteroid could well kill off the human race.
We must identify and plot asteroids heading our way years or decades ahead. We can intercept and deflect them with (as yet untested) “laser bees” or “gravity tractors.” But nations with space programs aren’t much interested in dealing with what they tell themselves is a low-frequency threat. Our president is promising a manned base on the moon and, even more absurdly, a manned mission to Mars. Enough already! We should be leading a worldwide effort to protect our planet from destruction.
Third is the threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) event — or attack. A solar superstorm called the Carrington Event blew out telegraph lines in 1859. A small one left Quebec without power for nine hours in 1989. In July 2012 a huge solar storm crossed earth’s orbit, fortunately while our planet was on the other side of the sun.
A rogue nation like North Korea could explode a nuclear device 300 miles above the US. The blast effect would be minimal and the fallout manageable, but the EMP would cripple or destroy every unshielded electronic system in its target cone. Experts debate how long it would take to recover — weeks or years.
The fix is twofold: destroy rogue missiles, and harden power and communication systems. Peter Pry, executive director of the congressionally-created EMP Commission, reports that the Senate has three times refused to advance EMP threat reduction bills passed with bipartisan or unanimous support in the House.
Fourth is the threat of an epidemic like the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed millions of people worldwide. The heavy use of antibiotics threatens to produce mutated “superbugs” that can defeat antibiotics. The FDA is offering incentives to drug companies to find new antibiotics, but this is probably a losing race.
One answer may be ultraviolet blood irradiation. It was an important anti-infection treatment until streptomycin and penicillin appeared in the 1940s. It is still done, reportedly successfully, by a handful of alternative medical practitioners willing to defy the disapproval of the orthodox medical profession.
There are other almost forgotten non-pharmaceutical alternatives like the Rife Raytube that deserve modern re-examination, but “official medicine” shows little interest. The Bush Defense Department rejected a proposal to test ultraviolet blood irradiation on anthrax infected cattle after 9/11.
So there are four really serious threats facing America and the world. We could take steps to overcome them, but there seems to be little enthusiasm. Instead, we see one politically sponsored march after another on issues of at most far less consequence.
Where is the leadership that will get serious about the huge threats that face our country and our planet?
McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).