America's Goin' Down!

America, "the greatest country in the world," is living on borrowed time, or so says NYT's Tom Friedman. He asks what the Bush administration is doing "nation-building" in Iraq, when there is plenty of work to be done here in this country.

From The New York Times:

[Americans] are not only tired of nation-building in Iraq and in Afghanistan, with so little to show for it. They sense something deeper — that we’re just not that strong anymore. We’re borrowing money to shore up our banks from city-states called Dubai and Singapore. Our generals regularly tell us that Iran is subverting our efforts in Iraq, but they do nothing about it because we have no leverage — as long as our forces are pinned down in Baghdad and our economy is pinned to Middle East oil.

Our president’s latest energy initiative was to go to Saudi Arabia and beg King Abdullah to give us a little relief on gasoline prices. I guess there was some justice in that. When you, the president, after 9/11, tell the country to go shopping instead of buckling down to break our addiction to oil, it ends with you, the president, shopping the world for discount gasoline...

...A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.’s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.

How could this be? We are a great power. How could we be borrowing money from Singapore? Maybe it’s because Singapore is investing billions of dollars, from its own savings, into infrastructure and scientific research to attract the world’s best talent — including Americans.

And us? Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, just told a Senate hearing that cutbacks in government research funds were resulting in “downsized labs, layoffs of post docs, slipping morale and more conservative science that shies away from the big research questions.” Today, she added, “China, India, Singapore ... have adopted biomedical research and the building of biotechnology clusters as national goals. Suddenly, those who train in America have significant options elsewhere.”

Jay Bookman took a stronger stance.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Too many Americans seem to believe that our place in the world has been divinely ordained and thus permanent, when in fact it is the product of past sacrifice and wise choices. It can all be lost if we also lose the capacity to look at ourselves and our problems honestly.

It is no longer true, for example, that we are the richest nation in the world. Quite the contrary, in recent years we have become the world's biggest debtor nation. We are financing our prosperity in the manner of an old but declining aristocratic family, living beyond our means year by year by pawning off the assets earned by earlier generations.

But our leaders don't dare tell us that truth, because they know we wouldn't take it well. Even as they acknowledge some minor current difficulties, most of our political and business leaders reassure us that our economy is still sound as a dollar. They don't happen to point out that compared with the euro, the value of that dollar has declined by a third in just the last five years...

...Instead of flattery, we need honesty. We don't need leaders to tell us how great we are, we need leaders willing to tell us that we've gotten ourselves into a bad mess and it's going to take hard work, sacrifice and cooperation to fix it. The alternative is the decline of a great nation.

I couldn't say any better myself. Maybe istead of raging the so-called War on Terror, maybe we should spend more time on the War on Drugs, but thats just me thinking out loud. Who am I to judge the Bush regime?

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