Submitted by L. Todd Wood of LToddWood.com,
Listening to the media gleefully hype the numerous construction flaws and rumors of corruption at the Sochi Olympics, I couldn't help thinking that Americans in general have no clue about Russia. Since I spend a lot of time in Moscow, I thought I would point out some of the similarities and differences.
So let's talk about corruption. Yes, Russia has systemic governmental corruption from the local to the national level; politicians up and down the line have their hand in the pie. Yes, there were billions stolen in Sochi. This corruption pushes up the cost of everything in Russia and prevents her economy from modernizing. That is why Russia was recently voted 92nd in ease of doing business by the World Bank.
However, these billions don't come close to the $800+ billion that was wasted by the economic stimulus the Obama administration enacted in 2009. Most of the money went to pay back supporters and lined public service union pockets--attempting to head off the rightsizing of state governments that will eventually have to take place. What about the auto bailouts where again billions were paid to unions and bond holders were left holding the bag, preventing the rationalization of labor costs that would have taken place in a normal bankruptcy process? How about the Federal government using the IRS and other government agencies to target the opposition? And come on, does anyone believe the case against Dinesh D'Souza was brought as a result of a normal FBI review? What about the $600+ million that was spent on the website for the Affordable Care Act? There is a strong case to be made that corruption in the United States siphons more money out of our economy than in Russia. Luckily the American economy has been resilient enough to overcome this hurdle.
Yes, Putin and other officials have palatial dachas in the countryside. But I wonder if they were more expensive than all of the global vacations the Obama's have taken? And yes, Putin has stifled the free press in Russia; in America, the corrupt press does the bidding of the Democratic Party. Which is worse?
Moving on to infrastructure, Russia has serious infrastructure deficiencies, especially outside the major cities. However, if you ever want to see a true, massive work of art, ride the Moscow metro. Every station is a gleaming architectural masterpiece with marble, statues, mosaics, and chandeliers. And, it's clean and well maintained and safe. All one has to do is ride the New York subway once to see the difference. Talk about third world! The tiling is falling off, escalators often don't work, riders are accosted by the homeless and panhandlers, the elevators stink of urine, etc. And I have to agree with Joe Biden, LaGuardia is a third world disgrace. JFK and Newark are second world. I wish Americans could see Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, then they would understand. It's a gleaming metropolis of modernity with a very nice Aeroexpress train to the capital city.
Let's take a look at culture. In Russia, most people speak several languages. Education is valued. Kids are loaded down with work every night in mathematics, literature, the sciences, history, etc. The Russian historical appreciation of the arts is well documented. And I'm not talking about a canvas smeared with feces, I'm talking about ballet, classical music, and theater. I heard recently a young girl tell her mother in Moscow, "Mom, there was a girl in my class today who hadn't heard of Vivaldi. Can you imagine not knowing Vivaldi?" I think that question speaks for itself. Just ask your child who Vivaldi was. In contrast, the American education system is collapsing under a union driven agenda of dumbing down our children and the promotion of socialist values. It was recently reported that one fourth of Americans don't know the Earth revolves around the Sun, case closed.
And speaking of airports, one notices another thing getting off the plane in America. We are fat. We are not sturdy, or strong, or plus -sized. We are fat. There is no obesity epidemic in Russia. People spend time cooking with things like fresh vegetables and enjoy the taste of things rather than filling themselves to the gills with processed carbohydrates and sugars.
And last but not least, yes there is organized crime in Russia. It's a problem. Like any country, there are places that are not safe. But what you don't see are gangs of teenagers looking to knock out someone of a different race. Instead of looking for who is committing crime in America, the administration looks to remove the consequences of one's actions by making it illegal for employers to conduct background checks and campaigns for felons to be able to vote (to garner more Democratic votes). I haven't even brought up our refusal to enforce immigration law.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a patriot. I served my country. I'm proud of her history and what she used to represent. But I'm not proud of what's going on today. I don't recognize America. She is sinking into a moral and cultural black hole of corruption. Russia is regaining her rightful, historical place in the world that was sidetracked by the communist revolution. America is spending her days thinking of ways to pick your pocket--we'll cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you.
Russia is rising. Maybe we can give her a high five on our way down. Instead of criticizing others, look in the mirror America.