I love America. But sometimes I wonder about America. I wonder if we haven't been bathing in hubris for too long.

We are a great nation, of course. We are the richest nation in the world, yes. But as 2011 comes to an end and we begin to look to the future, it's time we take a strong, hard look at the reality we are living in, because it's not that pretty.

Something has to change. Consider only that a government shutdown threat is with us again. Seems we can't have a good old-fashioned budget battle in Washington these days without the threat of government shutdown. As President Barack Obama and Congress battle over an extension of the payroll tax cut which expires at the end of this year, Congress must pass a temporary spending measure before the U.S. government runs out of money at midnight on Friday.

Obama has gone as far as sending out emails to government departments warning of a shutdown.

We do need to be prepared for any contingency, and in case Congress does not act, we are taking the steps necessary to be prepared if a lapse in funding should occur, said a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

If it's not one thing these days, it's another. And on this day, the other is particularly intimidating: a new report that one of two Americans are living in poverty. While it's hard to fathom that 50 percent of the people in the richest country in the world are living in poverty or are just getting by enough to classify them as low income it's the reality we live with.

The latest census data reveals what we already knew, that America's middle class is shrinking, relaying more upon government assistance to remain afloat. And even that isn't having the impact it once did.

Said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public safety professor who specializes in poverty, according to The Associated Press: The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal, he said. If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.

Dismal. Government shutdown. The talk is tough, but the realities are even more harsh.

There is hope, since the U.S. economy is improving, albeit slowly. There is also concern, however, that Europe's debt riddle will ripple overseas eventually, making the problems in America more challenging. Regardless, we must focus on the harsh reality of our own problems.

Washington is a mess. And too many Americans are getting left behind. It's a great country, but it's not good enough.