For Sale: Very Large, Slightly Damaged Country

(Originally posted on the Huffington Post. You can read more of Tom Gerdy’s work for the Huffington Post here.)

As a small businessman struggling in this challenging economy, I spent much time in 2012 trying to figure out what would help start America on a path back to economic stability, international prominence, and worldwide respect. After many months of agonizing internal debate, all data and market research pointed to only one way to deal with this situation — we need to cut our losses and sell.

I started to think that we should put an ad on eBay. eBay’s electronic marketing system seems to have proved undoubtedly that there is a market for anything, including virginity. However, as I rethought my strategy for fixing America, I realized that not even eBay could find a buyer for a country with so many problems, so much damage, and a frightening amount of unrest among the citizens. It would take a marketing superstar to find someone interested in buying the United States, and P. T. Barnum is dead. At this point in our history, I am certain the country would be listed in realtor’s terms as a “fixer-upper” or a “handyman special.”

Just in case we decided to list the country for sale, I did some research so it would be easy to fill in the blanks for the realtor we picked to list it. The U.S. is composed of roughly 3.79 million square miles. The total population as 2012 ended was just more than 315 million people, which means there are only about 84 people per square mile. We have nearly 400 national parks that help preserve our land and our heritage. We have almost 12,500 miles of coastlines with beautiful beaches. There are tens of thousands of lakes and thousands of miles of rivers. Great reserves of natural resources are found from one end of the country to the other. The geography is extremely diverse and beautiful. At this point, I thought maybe we could get a fair dollar for the country. It sounds nice.

Unfortunately, in interest of full disclosure and protection from a future lawsuit, I thought it necessary to list also some slightly damaged and/or broken parts of America. I need to point out the following is only a partial list, and I recommend that any potential buyers do their research to find any other problem areas of the United States.

1. The current political system is a representative democracy. It is not completely broken, but some adjustments are needed. Many elected officials spend so much time trying to keep their jobs that they fail to do their jobs. Partisan politics continues to be used for power instead of for the good of the citizens and the country. Too many elected officials ride that career politician train. Any new owner might want to consider limiting how long people can stay in positions of power.

2. The current tax system is unbalanced in favor of those with money. Deductions and tax shelters favoring the wealthy have allowed billions of dollars to be earned without a dime of taxes paid on those dollars. This out-of-balance system is causing the middle class to shrink and might eventually cause it to disappear. The divide between the top and the bottom of the income spectrum gets wider every day. If we continue on this path, the class separation created will soon make the Grand Canyon look like a minor erosion problem. The result of such a trend could take America back to the conditions that caused a revolution and birth of this country. I recommend any new owner look hard at how the citizens share in the expense of running the joint.

3. The balance sheet for the country is anything but balanced. We are choking on the debt we have created over many decades. We have had open checkbook policies for much too long. If interested in buying, your accountant will have a huge challenge trying to figure out how many expenses were justified. Advise them to take a good look at the small print on the bills passed. Earmarks and pork-barrel legislation still play a large role in the country’s problems, and they should receive much attention.

4. To a degree, we have removed the incentive to achieve from people in need. If you buy, you will need to adjust the system that helps those in need. Much must be done to eliminate a mentality we have created that says the government needs to solve our problems. The government needs to offer a hand up and not a handout. You must again teach people that you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.

5. In light of recent tragedies, I would be remiss if I did not point out that, per capita, America has a disproportionate number of the world’s firearms. The statistics vary, but there is little doubt that there is a gun for almost every citizen this country. Gun control laws are a piece of the puzzle that must be addressed. Public access to assault weapons, automatic/semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity clips, and armor-piercing ammunition must be addressed. Developing a greater focus on mental health problems must play a role in reducing gun violence as well.

6. The president, vice president, 100 members of the Senate, 435 members of the House, and 15 members of the Cabinet often play childish games of power. Those 552 people are supposed to represent the 315 million citizens. Whoever buys the country will need to find a way to inspire those 315 million to speak out and demand better of those 552. The new owner has to find a way to end the games and manipulation.

As I created these lists of selling points and negatives, the number of negatives I could quickly point out bothered me. However, even though I know many more challenges must be addressed, when it was all said and done, I kept returning to one thought. This country might not have a long history compared with others around the world, but it has a strong one.

Americans have accomplished some wonderful things at home and overseas. Throughout history, when crazy people have threatened the world, Americans have been there to help. We have made advances in the worlds of health and science that have changed the world in wonderful ways. Every time there is a natural disaster or tragedy here or abroad, Americans are there to help ease the pain, and they always have been. We witnessed it again in Connecticut.

When the pressure is on, Americans are ready to reach out and make a difference. When you get down to it, that is where the value is, which is why America is still a good investment. In fact, the people make America priceless. We have some problems, but we will continue to work on them. We have changed our mind. We are not selling.

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