June 2011

Cowards at the Capitol

by Pitt Griffin on June 30, 2011 · 4 comments

in Economics, Politics

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” JFK ’62

Are we still that America? Or is the American dream now the Asian dream?

History always romanticizes the past. For the vast majority of Americans in the 1960s life was a hard and unnoticed struggle to earn a living and raise children. Soaring rhetoric didn’t pay the bills or cure poverty, but it did give the nation pride and direction. That generation felt everything was possible.

And on July 20th 1969, an American man landed on the moon.

FDR gave the nation a rallying point to overcome the Depression; then the ‘Greatest Generation’ won WW II.

Where is today’s rallying call?

We dominated the industrial and technological advances of the 20th century. We made things and when others made them cheaper, we won with information technology. We didn’t make as much, but we knew how to sell what other people made cheaper.

But the 21st century is bringing challenges that our political classes are unwilling to address.

Preeminent is energy generation intertwined with climate change. We must stop the job-crushing dollar outflows to Middle-Eastern potentates and the seething ‘Arab street’.

In a time of straightened government finance, at a time when our social contract demands more money, we are forced to spend billions on Homeland security and pointless and unwinnable wars in flyspeck countries.

And what is our politicians’ reaction. Inanities like ‘drill, baby, drill’ – a cheap slogan that is a flaccid substitute for an actual policy.

It takes an idiot to see that a permanent solution to our energy problem is burning a dwindling stock of fossil fuels. ‘More of the same’ is hardly the hallmark of an entrepreneurial and technologically advanced economy. Green tech is where the jobs are and whether they will be American jobs and American profits  is up to the politicians.

But they would rather debate over a heavy handed government mandate for a certain type of light bulb. They would rather argue the science of climate change. But the science (while settled) doesn’t matter; the rest of the world has made up its mind.

Donald Rumsfeld smeared France, Germany, Spain etc. as ‘old Europe’ because they weren’t as eager to dive into the Arab morass, but our failure to embrace new technologies will leave us as ‘old America’; which, in an unpleasant irony, is being overtaken by ‘old Europe’ in energy technology.

While our politicians waffle China is devoting considerable economic resources to alternate energy. These aren’t tree-hugging, nature lovers. They are economic pragmatists. They do it, not because it is morally right, but because it is economically smart.

A justification for doing nothing is that our economy is too fragile, that we can’t afford change right now, that the biggest problem is the deficit and it is an unfair burden for our children to bear. But we didn’t finally shed the bonds of the Depression by cutting government spending. We didn’t fight WWII while trying to balance the budget. We didn’t defeat the Axis powers by cutting the taxes of the wealthy. And the children of the WWII generation enjoyed an unprecedented increase in the standard of living as the prosperity of the post war years created the great American middle-class.

If I had one wish it would be that our politicians would find the courage to think big. I don’t see a single one I would name a bridge after.

 

 

 

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Murder in America – how the gun debate doesn’t address the problem.

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