My guess is most of us would agree that America seems to be in decline, but not for the reasons TIME magazine does. Much of the decline is centered in the politics and policies of the governing party.
But TIME is pretty sure that, given the study that they cite, the reason is … capitalism. Here’s the “it was great, but” reason:
“We looked at very broad measures, and at individual measures, too,” said co-author Hershey H. Friedman, a business professor at Brooklyn College – City University of New York. The most dangerous sign they saw: rising income and wealth inequality, which slow growth and can spark instability, the authors say.
“Capitalism has been amazingly successful,” write Friedman and co-author Sarah Hertz of Empire State College. But it has grown so unfettered, predatory, so exclusionary, it’s become, in effect, crony capitalism. Now places like Qatar and Romania, “countries you wouldn’t expect to be, are doing better than us,” said Friedman.
I wish those who opine about this sort of thing would begin to delink capitalism and “crony capitalism”. Because as soon “crony” is added, “capitalism” is no longer evident. Instead you have powerful corporate/social/political constituents helping write laws that raise bars to entry in a markets to impossible heights. You have the same entities suggesting regulations which have the same effect. Capitalism, in its barest essence, is a voluntary transaction between two free people which ends profitably for both. That’s it. When government begins intruding with regulations and laws designed to limit and protect certain constituencies, from corporations to unions, that’s not capitalism, whether you stick “crony” in front of it or not.
It is certainly cronyism. The government attacks, for instance, on Uber are rampant cronyism. They’re designed by government to protect an existing constituency that doesn’t like the competition (and has had a government granted monopoly for decades). Of course, in the end, it is the consumer – i.e. the citizen – who is hurt by this sort of cronyism.
And it appears that cronyism has gotten worse and worse over the past few years. So while America may be in decline, it isn’t because of capitalism.
It’s because of cronyism, government favoritism, or whatever catch word or phrase you wish to tag the phenomenon with. But leave capitalism out of it.
Mark Halperin has an interesting article in the current TIME. He wonders how Obama got where he is and how he can change that. It is interesting for some of language used. It demonstrates a changing view, even among his supporters, that perhaps – just perhaps – this guy isn’t really up to the job … yet. That last word that sentence is important.
Many of us feel he has never been up to the job. We’ve pretty much been proven to be right. Many have decided after the election that he’s not up to the job. But there is one other category that will sort of, kind of admit he may not seem up to the job, however that’s just a temporary condition. Once he finds his feet again, he’ll do fine. And it that latter category that seems to best fit Halperin.
But his opening two paragraphs are both brutal and true, whether Halperin really believes them totally or not:
Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.
With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.
When you have “pundits” like Halperin (you know, the guy who feels compelled as he’s saying this to throw out the "Fox News pundits" bit out there as if they’re really the only pundits mouthing off) compelled to finally be somewhat honest about the man, then he’s in trouble.
A little further on Halperin engages in a little bit of defense for Obama:
Most of Obama’s private (and sometimes public) rebuttals to the voices slamming him on all sides are justified or spot on. He did inherit a lot of problems from the Bush Administration. He did act quickly in the initial weeks of his Administration to stave off a worldwide depression. His efforts at job creation have been obstructed by Republicans (even the proposals based on policies supported by the GOP in the past). His opponents haven’t put forth specifics of their own, nor offered genuine compromise, while the media have allowed the right’s activists and gabbers to run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.
Of course all of this depends on how you view what he’s supposedly “done”. Unfortunately for him, the majority don’t agree that he’s earned the accolades Halperin and Obama think are due him. And the continued nonsense about “Republican obstruction” when everyone knew he had uncontested Democratic majorities that didn’t require a single GOP vote for quite some time simply isn’t washing with the masses.
Notice too Halperin’s attempt to spin the opposition. They’re “allowed” to “run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.”
Really? What rock has he been hiding under – there have been multitudes of alternative solutions offered. It is just that Halperin and the left don’t want to admit to their legitimacy. And just who are these organizations which have “allowed” these people to go “wild?” The same organizations that routinely allowed that same sort of behavior during the last administration. I guess you just don’t recognize it until it your ox being gored.
But you get a creeping sense as you read the article that Halperin, and most likely other true- believers, really, deep down inside, understand their man doesn’t have what it takes to do the job in such a way that it will be defensible in 2012. It will be very tough to help someone who seems so bound and determined to do the wrong things politically. For instance, look at how he’s reacted to various political problems:
But Obama has exacerbated his political problems not just by failing to enact policies that would have actually turned the economy around, but also by authorizing a series of tactical moves intended to demonize Republicans and distract from the problems at hand. He has wasted time lambasting his foes when he should have been putting forth his agenda in a clear, optimistic fashion, defending the benefits of his key decisions during the past two years (health care and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, for example) and explaining what he would do with a re-elected Democratic majority to spur growth.
Shorter version: he’s on the defensive and has retreated to campaign mode, the only real success he’s ever had in his life – getting elected to some office. He’s in his comfort zone. How are they going to entice him back out of that to “govern”? How does one get someone who is uncomfortable in the job and the role his election has garnered him to do what he’s supposed to do and not worry about what the critics say? Apparently they don’t. He’s abdicated his leadership position before and there’s no indication he’s really all that keen on the role. Halperin and his side are beginning to see and understand what many of us have understood before he took office.
How lost is Obama, the guy once touted as having one of the most finely tuned political antennas in the world?
Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership — or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.
Pretty darn lost. And I, frankly, don’t think much will change in the next few years. The man is not a leader and he’s not going to learn it in time to help himself. In fact, because he’s engaged in this battle with the Chamber of Commerce, I’d say he’s in even worse shape than previously imagined and seems to have some pretty bad advisers if they are enabling or encouraging the sort of behavior described above.
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The year? 1972.
In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972 record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada’s wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting and may well bring a disappointingly small harvest. Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs. A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West, while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone’s recollection.
As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.
Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.
Sunspot Cycle. The changing weather is apparently connected with differences in the amount of energy that the earth’s surface receives from the sun. Changes in the earth’s tilt and distance from the sun could, for instance, significantly increase or decrease the amount of solar radiation falling on either hemisphere—thereby altering the earth’s climate. Some observers have tried to connect the eleven-year sunspot cycle with climate patterns, but have so far been unable to provide a satisfactory explanation of how the cycle might be involved.
Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin’s Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth.
And the doomsday warning:
University of Toronto Climatologist Kenneth Hare, a former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, believes that the continuing drought and the recent failure of the Russian harvest gave the world a grim premonition of what might happen. Warns Hare: “I don’t believe that the world’s present population is sustainable if there are more than three years like 1972 in a row.”
Science and consensus all agreed. And man? Man was throwing up too much “dust and other particles”. And obviously, during this period there was hardly any industry and we had the most fuel efficient transportation possible.
But in ’72 they had at least a historical appreciation for what had happened in the earth’s past:
The earth’s current climate is something of an anomaly; in the past 700,000 years, there have been at least seven major episodes of glaciers spreading over much of the planet. Temperatures have been as high as they are now only about 5% of the time. But there is a peril more immediate than the prospect of another ice age.
It also appears, at least then, that they thought warmer was probably much better. In 1972, Chicken Little wore a parka.