Betting On America: The Blowback
[Before I forget: I may do a story on how 80 is the new 40. You know: Precocious geriatrics. Please send any and all thoughts.]
[Here's the transcript of today's Live Online discussion.]
My story, Bet on America, got quite a response, encompassing the full range of emotions from outrage to abomination to revulsion. Some hated it; others abhorred it. For every reader who found it stupid, ill-considered and puerile, there was a reader who found it intellectually slovenly and utterly beneath contempt. But whatever: Lots of eyeballs!
The comments directly appended to the story tended to skew heavily to the Left (as has been the case of the comments on the entire site for a while). The general tenor offered confirmation that a lot of folks have a dim view of the prospects of the United States. Hence I will conclude that my article was timely. [I strongly recommend going through life with the belief that all data points are affirmational.]
Several people echoed the sentiment by a certain "msolem," who wrote, ' What is the point of having to affirm this "We're #1" mentality? Are we in some sort of race? Perhaps a healthier perspective might be "We're all in this together" and, therefore, we should concern ourselves less about national status and instead think about our international citizenship and responsibilities.' I agree, and it's why I wrote that being powerful isn't the same as having a country that we can be proud of.
Kbertocci made the same point in the boodle:
"If this world is going to survive, at some point being number one is going to have to take a back seat to international cooperation and the understanding that we are all in this together."
Dean Baker says I've got China's economy all wrong:
'... it is ridiculous to imagine that a country whose manufacturing output exceeds the U.S. on a wide variety of measures, that produces more scientists and engineers each year than the United States, and has more cell phone and computer users than the United States is one-fifth the size. On a per capita basis China's economy is still less than one-fifth the size of the U.S. economy, but on an aggregate basis, it should pass the U.S. in a few years.'
[By the way, I should note that I was assisted in the China section of my article by John Pomfret, the Outlook editor, who spent years there as a foreign correspondent and has written a book about his experience, called Chinese Lessons.]
From today's chat, here was an exchange that I think was interesting and I didn't exactly knock it out of the park (fouled it off my foot):
Alexandria, Va.: You mentioned that "this doesn't mean that our national problems and deep-seated flaws will magically be cured." Is there one problem in your mind that, were we to persistently ignore it, would assist in an overall decline? My money's on education, though I suppose one could make the case for infrastructure (power grid, roadways, etc.).
Joel Achenbach: Gosh, I don't have a Top Ten list for what our problems are. I mentioned income inequality prominently because that's on my mind lately as I observe my own socioeconomic death spiral. But I guess I worry in general that we're creating a domestic culture that lacks a strong sense of community and common interest and generosity toward others. That's almost a spiritual thing. (At the risk of getting all Kumbaya-my-lord on you.)
Pondering this, I think I might add "greed." I think greed can drive people and corporations and even power-hungry officials to do terrible things. And maybe "megalomania." But I'd like to hear what others have to say on this.
From my email inbox:
L.G. writes: '...I would look at how Washington favors corporations over people, and the long-term consequences of that unstated policy. With the recent change in the bankruptcy law, an economy that is supported by the taking on of more and more debt, while good paying jobs leave this country and illegal immigrants are intentionally allowed in so as to lower wages for jobs that cannot be shipped overseas, we are about to see the return to this country of "the indentured servant." Am I overstating that? Only in the sense that there is no longer any legal status of "indentured servant". But from a practical standpoint, that is what's beginning to happen right now. And no, I'm not singling out Bush nor the Republicans either, as nearly all of Congress is complicit, as is the administration previous to Bush.'
Richard Keppler writes: '...we have trillions upon trillions of dollars of fixed costs like
social security and so on which cannot be met without massive
increases in taxes, defaulting on debt payments, or in some cases
massive currency devaluation. The medicare drug benefit will bankrupt
the country all by itself. Lets see your aircraft carrier battle
groups get us out of that one.
'I've done well for myself lately - when Bush was installed by the
court I moved my savings in to Euro and Asian mutual funds which have
done very well, partly due to the collapsing dollar. I see no reason
to take them back now. Like capital, I am prepared to move wherever I
am treated best, and I promise to do so.'
M.L. writes: "America will crumb [crumble?] from within, just like almost all other super powers did. The moral fabric of the country is gone, it is already slowly but surely going down hill."
Bill Pilot, a 91-year-old veteran, writes: 'There is no doubt that we are very powerful, but we have been kicked out of Viet Nam on our ass and we are not very successful at present in Iraq. The small countries have learned that they don't need to fight our aircraft carriers, our wonderful aircraft, and our nuclear weaponry. They are turning our own people against us by sending our boys back to us in flag draped coffins. They are forcing us to deplete our capital which we rebuild by borrowing from the world at 6% Interest rates. This rate will increase substantially if our bankers withhold their capital from us forcing us to sweeten the pot. God help us if one of them cashes in a half trillion dollars worth of the bonds that they hold.'
September 4, 2007; 9:29 AM ET
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