Will America Survive the Great Recession?

September 24th, 2011 at 12:00 am David Frum | 83 Comments |

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The following is the text of a lecture I gave at the University of Western Ontario on September 20th, on America’s faltering economic progress.

A friend told me this story:

Years ago, he was living in a dangerous place. During one flare-up of trouble, my friend received a message from the Canadian embassy. The embassy would issue all Canadians a pager. When signaled, Canadians and their families should gather on the embassy grounds. They would be met by a helicopter and airlifted to a nearby carrier, which would take them to safety.

The pager never sounded, and my friend never had to discover how the plan would work in practice. But he did have this thought. Canada does not own many helicopters, and it certainly does not own any aircraft carriers. His safety and that of his family would depend on the protection of the United States of America.

So it has been for Canadians for generations.

National security is really the least of it. Cross-border trade has enriched both countries, but of course the smaller partner benefits proportionally more.And when I refer to economic benefits, I don’t just mean direct buying and selling, or the ability to tap American capital to develop difficult resources like the Alberta oil sands.

Like the Scots in the old British empire, Canadians have hugely profited economically from the global system organized by their more powerful southern neighbor. Anglophone Canadians are nearly as useless at learning foreign languages as Americans – and thanks to the Americans, Canadians can get away with that uselessness in a way that Italians or Bengalis cannot.

The history of small countries alongside big ones is not a happy one. The Irish facing the English, the Poles facing the Russians and Germans, the Taiwanese facing the Chinese – all have terrible stories to tell. Nor are even the Americans always benign neighbors. Not for nothing do the Mexicans joke, “So far from God, so close to the United States.”

The Canadian equivalent of that joke has a very different flavor. “The Americans are our best friends, whether we like it or not.” Almost all of the time, Canadians do like it.

And even when Canadians don’t like it, they can’t imagine it otherwise. From a Canadian point of view, American wealth and power loom so colossal that they seem almost a geologic fact: unchanging and unchangeable.

But of course geology does change. Nations rise and fade. Wealth surges and ebbs.

The United States confronts just such an ebb today. Americans are suffering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, worse even than the stagflation of the 1970s.

Even before the crisis struck, the US economy was performing badly. In 2007, the last good year, the typical American worker earned less after inflation than the typical worker had earned seven years before. The expansion of 2001-2007 was driven by a bubble in consumer credit that left Americans crushed by debt that they must now struggle to pay off in a world of double-digit unemployment.

Even before the crisis struck, Americans worried that they were losing ground to other competitors. Now, one recent Gallup poll finds that more Americans expect the 21st century to be a “Chinese century” than an “American century.”

Even before the crisis struck, the American political system seemed to be failing, producing worse and worse results for more and more people. 9/11 was a failure of governance: it could so easily have been prevented. The housing bubble was a failure of governance. Ditto the frustrating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tip O’Neill, the former speaker of the House, was asked at his retirement in 1987 how Washington had changed since he arrived in 1953. He answered, “The people are better. The results are worse.”

What he meant: There are many fewer drunks in government than there used to be. Fewer crooks. Fewer ignoramuses. Fewer cheaters and sexual harassers. Yet back when Congress contained many more drunks and crooks and cheaters, nobody doubted that it would vote to pay the American national debt. This summer, a better educated, more sober, more honest, and probably less adulterous Congress pushed the United States to the verge of national default.

In assessing a country’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s dangerously easy to be distracted by the business cycle.

China’s economy is growing strongly at the moment, and so it’s unfashionable to analyze China’s fundamental weaknesses. The US is in recession, so it’s all bad news, all the time.

One of the greatest of all American strengths is the willingness to examine national challenges remorselessly, in the confidence that only what is examined can be repaired.

For today, I’d like to discuss four of those challenges: human capital, natural resources (especially energy resources), the long-term debt, and the dysfunction of the US political system. All are implicated in today’s economic troubles. All impede recovery from the crisis. All overshadow hopes for American strength and prosperity in the years after recovery.


HUMAN CAPITAL

The skill and productivity of a nation’s people is most fundamental of all sources of national strength. Let a skilled people inhabit a barren rock like Singapore or Hong Kong – a thin strip of desert like Israel – and they will still thrive. Nationals with low skill levels can sink into poverty in what ought to be lush paradises.

When the United States rose to greatness in the 19th century, Americans were probably the most literate large nation on Earth. In the 20th century, Americans pioneered universal secondary education, then triumphantly made higher education to one-third of the student population.

Over the past two decades, however, this once unique American advantage has corroded, and continues to corrode.

The upper echelons of American society continue to produce – and to welcome as immigrants – the world’s leading technological innovators, the world’s greatest scholars, and the world’s most creative designers. But the typical American increasingly lags behind his European and Pacific Rim counterpart in education, physical and mental health, and family and financial stability.

One arresting example:

According to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, three- quarters of Americans aged 17 to 24 would be ineligible to enlist in the US armed forces either because they have failed to graduate from high school, or because they have a criminal record, or because they are physically unfit.

International standardized tests of math proficiency show Americans dropping further and further behind students in East Asia and the smaller countries of Europe. (Canada does not fare so well either.) Although many well-founded criticisms have been made of these tests – in particular, there’s a lot of reason to think that some countries cheat – we see similar patterns of decline in US-only tests like the SAT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

American life expectancy ranks about 30th in the world, depending on who is counting. The average American lives 2 years shorter than the average Canadian. While alive, that average American is more prone to obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and accidental death or dismemberment than people in other advanced countries. (An American is 25% more likely to die in an auto accident than a Canadian, for example.)

How to explain these depressing standings?

A lot of them interlock. Drug and alcohol abuse is obviously a factor in accidental death. Poor prenatal nutrition diminishes adolescent academic achievement. Obesity is a factor in depression – and vice versa.

But back of all of them, one sees more fundamental causes – which in turn interlock.

Fewer than half of American young people will reach the age of 18 in a home with both their biological parents. While obviously many who grew up in single-parent homes have succeeded in life, the statistics warn: children raised in such a way face radically higher odds of failing in school, taking drugs, going to prison, and becoming single parents themselves.

Why the rise in single-parent families? Here’s one clue. Among the best-educated and most affluent Americans, single parenthood barely exists: only about 5% of college- educated women give birth outside marriage. The odds of divorce for college educated women have declined by over 60% over the past generation.

Meanwhile the families of the less educated have crumbled as job opportunities for less-educated men have constricted. The average middle-aged man with a high-school degree earns 10% less than his counterpart did in 1980. He’s less attractive as a partner – and maybe he feels less able to be a partner.

White women today are more likely to give birth out of wedlock than black women were at the time that Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous report on the crisis of the black family for the Lyndon Johnson administration. For all the talk of Hispanic Catholic values, almost half of all Hispanic children are born outside marriage.

Even within marriage, the families of those without university degrees are becoming dangerously destabilized. Perhaps you’ve heard the statistic that in one-third of American families the wife earns more than the husband. This may conjure up some image out of “Sex and the City”: the high- powered execu-wife married to the struggling artist. But the statistic tells us as much about the deterioration in men’s wages as about improvement in opportunities for women.

A more accurate image would be a blue-collar one: the laid- off truck driver married to a nurse at the local hospital. That marriage is headed toward trouble –and the children face a darkening future.

In the past, America enriched its human capital through immigration. Even now, immigrant entrepreneurs are starting firms big and small, are filing patents for new inventions, are advancing science. More than one-third of US Nobel laureates in the sciences since 1990 have been foreign- born.

Yet the average skill level of America’s immigrants is plunging relative to that of the native-born population. Of the 40 million migrants to the US since 1970, about 3/4 came from Latin America, and they typically arrive without a high school diploma – and surprisingly often without even completing primary school.

While their children typically rapidly rise in skill level, there is accumulating evidence that the improvement ceases in the third and fourth generations. Test-measured Latino educational levels so alarmed the ETS, the administrators of the SAT, that they issued a detailed report, America’s Perfect Storm, in 2007 warning that the workforce of the 2030s would be less skilled – even less literate than the workforce of the 1990s. This is not a prediction about the future. It is a description of what is happening now as the baby boomers (the best educated generation in American history) retire and are replaced by cohorts that have had more trouble in school.


NATURAL RESOURCES.

Alexis de Tocqueville brilliantly described the North American continent on the eve of European settlement as prepared by God to be the abode of a great nation as yet unborn.

America was born in abundance. Seemingly limitless land to grow food sufficient not only to feed itself, but much of the rest of the world. Forests, mines, and rivers. Even in these hard times, the average American family enjoys a larger dwelling space than families in any other country, including Canada.

In the 20th century, the most decisive American resource advantage was its advantage in energy. The US land mass was the first portion of the world to be explored for oil, and in the 1930s and 1940s the US ranked as the world’s largest oil producer: a major reason that the good guys prevailed in the Second World War.

But in fact the US was not comparatively oil rich, and its oil production has been declining since the 1970s. Oil from Alaska and the continental shelf has slowed the rate of decline without altering the fact of decline.

The US has in many ways adapted well to the decline in oil production. Did you know that through the 1980s and half the 1990s, the US used less oil per year than it did in 1978? Or that even now, it uses only about 10% more oil per year than in 1978?

The US has converted home furnaces from oil to natural gas. It mothballed oil-fired electricity generators. It shifted from reliance on trucking to rail to move freight. America all told burns only half as much oil today to produce an additional increment of output as it did in 1980.

In this recession, we are seeing hopeful signs of the renewal of progress toward energy efficiency. Seven of the top 10 vehicles of 2010 were fuel-efficient models, including the Toyota Camry, the Honda Civic, and the Ford Fusion.

Car ownership is declining. In 2009, 14 million more people sold cars than bought them — the first decline in car ownership on record. U.S. passenger miles driven appear to have peaked in 2007.

The average size of a new American house has dropped by almost 170 square feet since 2006, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. The trend toward downtown living is being remarked by brokers not only in older cities, but in places like Tampa, Florida; Davenport, Iowa; and Louisville, Kentucky.

All these trends started before the recession. Some — like the trend to downtown living — even predate the rise in energy prices of the 2000s. One factor may be explained by the emerging field of happiness research: Setting aside shocks like divorce and bereavement, the single most powerful predictor of unhappiness in American lives is length of commute. Yet even so: the US remains an energy-intense economy in an era when energy costs have risen to what looks like a new and higher plateau – and when the environmental costs of fossil fuels are revealed to include not only air and water pollution, but potentially destabilizing alterations in the planet’s climate.

The struggle for access to energy resources shapes the geopolitics of our era. Why did France and Britain intervene in Libya and not, say, Congo? Why does China veto international action against genocide in Darfur? Why is a US fleet based in Bahrain? Why is China contesting Vietnamese and Filipino sovereignty over uninhabited islands in the South China Sea?

People speak casually of an American empire. This term is an insulting misnomer – insulting as much to the American allies who have found peace and security under American protection as it is to the Americans themselves. Maybe Woodrow Wilson was speaking over-piously when he declared that the US went to war in 1917 to keep the world safe for democracy.

But what was true through the 20th century was that the US almost always used its power in ways seen as broadly legitimate to other important international stakeholders. Americans acted to uphold international order, not to scramble for power and wealth in the manner of say the European empires of the 18th and 19th century. But in a world of tightening energy supplies, America’s role may command less assent from other nations and from the American people themselves. In this respect, the Iraq war may be a harbinger of unwelcome things to come.


INDEBTEDNESS.

The US public debt now approaches levels not seen since the end of World War II. Back then, the debt was owed domestically. Now foreign creditors own about one-third of the US public debt – more than is owned by US private investors.

American investors own comparatively little of their public debt because America’s potential investors are themselves so burdened by private debt.

Household debt reached a peak of almost 100% of GDP in 2007, a level not seen since 1929 – and almost double the level of 1980.

Since 2007, household debt has sharply declined, partly because Americans are saving more, but even more because so much of that debt was defaulted on by over- extended mortgagees.

The double debt problem, public and private, has some common origins.

Remember I mentioned that most Americans have seen their incomes stagnate since the late 1990s? Yet over that same period, the perquisites of middle-class life steeply rose in cost: single-family housing, university education, health insurance – each cost at least twice as much in 2007 as in the middle 1990s. Families borrowed to cover the gap.

The huge expansion in private debt set the stage for the financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing harsh and long recession. That recession and the measures to relieve it have slashed federal revenues to the lowest level since the Truman administration – about 14% of GDP, down from 18% before the crash and 20% before the 2001 tax cuts. The recession has also pushed federal spending up, not only on President Obama’s famous stimulus, but for unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of social insurance.

Yet even at such time as the recession ends and things return more or less to normal, the US public debt will grown unsustainably in the absence of major policy change.

The debt is driven above all by the same surging costs that weighs so heavily on middle income families: healthcare. Healthcare costs in the US have been doubling almost every decade. Healthcare now consumes 17% of US national income, more than in any other advanced country. Runner- up Switzerland spends about 13%. Canada about 11%.

Why does the US get for all that money? Really surprisingly little. It can show better cancer survival rates. It pioneers drug research and advanced surgical techniques. But as mentioned – Americans just are not healthier than people in other countries, much less so in fact. And of course almost 50 million are uninsured at any given moment.

So where does the money go? Americans don’t use more healthcare than people in other countries. Americans visit doctors less often than people in other advanced countries. They spend about the same amount of time in hospital. But when they are treated, everything they use costs much more than it does in France or Germany or Canada. On average, in fact, an American hospital stay costs 50% more than a Canadian stay of equivalent length.

Market failure? Not exactly.

Canadians tend not to understand the US health system very well. It is not a “free market” system. It is not a “private sector” system. Half of all the dollars spent on healthcare in the United States are government dollars, via the Medicare program for the elderly, Medicaid for the poor, veterans benefits, coverage for military and civilian federal employees, and health coverage for native Americans.

Even the private half of US healthcare spending is shaped by government policy. The US tax code excludes fringe benefits from taxable income. That exclusion creates a subsidy of about $200 billion a year for private health plans – that’s more than the total cost of the Canadian healthcare system – while simultaneously blunting everyone’s sensitivity to the cost of those plans, since the government is absorbing about a third of the cost.

Almost all economists agree that the tax exclusion badly distorts healthcare pricing. But nobody can do anything about it, for reasons I’ll address under my fourth header.


POLITICAL DYSFUNCTION.

In the fall of 2009, the US economy seemed to have begun a recovery from recession. In the spring of 2010, the recovery stalled. At this sensitive moment, the most important economic policy-making institution in Washington – the Federal Reserve – had two vacancies on its board of governors.

President Obama had nominated replacements. The Senate banking committee had approved them. But a Republican senator objected – and he placed a “hold” on the nominations preventing them from coming to a vote before the full Senate.

The power of an individual senator to pocket a nomination like this is not found in the Constitution. It’s not found in the laws of the United States or the written rules of the Senate. It’s a courtesy and convention that has evolved over time. In time past, this senatorial prerogative was used sparingly. But over past dozen years, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, it has come to be used more and more often.

These senatorial holds are just one of the many grains of sand that have slowed the gears of the US government sometimes almost to paralysis.

Each new administration takes longer to staff than the previous. As late as the summer of 2001, there were only two Senate-confirmed officials in the entire Pentagon: Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The Obama administration was staffed even slower.

How often do you hear it said that a measure falls short of the 60 votes needed to surmount a Senate filibuster? A generation ago, a filibuster was a rare event, most often deployed in opposition to civil rights measures. Now the filibuster has evolved into a routine Senate super-majority requirement for all legislation.

Old Washington codgers are often heard to lament: the system is more rancorous and more partisan than ever before. Nostalgia is usually misplaced, but on this on, the codgers have a point. It is worse than ever before. And back when the codgers were saying the same thing during the Bush years? They were right then too. It was worse then than ever before. And it was worse during the Clinton years. The US political system is like a man falling down the stairs, bump, bump, bump, each step lower than the last.

The consequences of this deterioration are very real. The US is not a parliamentary system, in which the government governs and the opposition yells its head off until the two sides rotate chairs and reverse roles. Not in America. Who is the “government” in the US? President Obama? Or the man who leads the largest party in House of Representatives? – who’d be prime minister in Britain or Canada.

The US government is a complex system of vetoes and choke points. If everybody uses all the powers at their disposal, nothing can ever happen. The system depends upon unwritten norms, long-standing conventions, that encourage cooperation. And over the past two decades, those norms and conventions have been corroding.

Back during the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986, Democrats opted not to push for the impeachment of Ronald Reagan because they feared destabilizing the country. Twelve years later, those inhibitions had relaxed and Bill Clinton was impeached. And if Barack Obama is re-elected and the Republicans hold Congress? Well, he’d best retain some good legal advice.

Under these circumstances, tasks like balancing the budget become ever more difficult. The work cannot be completed without major compromises, yet compromise is the one thing that the US political system finds it ever more impossible to produce.

The two political parties have pulled away from each other ideologically in large part because their voters have pulled away from each other physically and demographically.

In his supremely important book, The Big Sort, the political journalist Bill Bishop compares two close presidential elections: 1976 and 2004. In 1976, when Gerald Ford narrowly lost to Jimmy Carter, 80% of Americans lived in a county where the vote was also close. In 2004, however, half of all Americans lived in a county that went for Democrat John Kerry or Republican George W. Bush by a margin of 20 points or more.

As Americans live apart from each other, they become more suspicious of each other. Especially since the single largest ethno-economic bloc in the country, the white working class, has simultaneously become the most pessimistic, alienated, and suspicious group in the electorate.

63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Only about 40% of college-educated whites agree – and barely one-third of non-college whites. An equal number of non-college-whites say they expect their children to do worse. No other group is nearly that negative.

Non-college whites make up almost half the American population. They are also the bedrock of the Republican party, casting almost 2/3 of their votes for the GOP in a typical year, and perhaps as much as 70% in 2012.

The alienation and pessimism of these voters thrusts the GOP into an agonizing dilemma. Ideologically, the GOP is the party of less government – ever more extremely so since the election of Barack Obama. The GOP’s most reliable voters however include some of the very people most generously supported by government – and many of those most committed to the preservation in exactly their present form of of social programs like Social Security and Medicare. Hence the bewildering whipsaws into which Republicans are so often pulled these days: one day attacking Obamacare for cutting future spending out of Medicare, the next day voting in favor of the Ryan plan which withdraws the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55; one day denouncing Social Security as a “monstrous lie,” a “Ponzi scheme” – the next ferociously denying any intent ever to deny a dime of benefit from any Social Security beneficiary.

Divided in this way, the Republicans are left paralyzed, unable to act – even as their more populist talkers on radio and TV attempt to bridge the gap by subtly distinguishing between the earned and deserved benefits paid to their white, elderly audience and the disgraceful waste and extravagance of the “welfare” paid to the non-white and non- elderly.


And for Canada?

For the most part, Canadians are left to hope that America finds its way again and to adapt to an altered US role in the world economy and world power system.

Yet there are two ways in which Canada can contribute to a better future for the US-led world order that has so enriched Canada.

One is as an energy supplier. Canada’s oil sands represent a potentially epoch-making bridge between the petroleum era and the emerging energy technologies not yet market- ready. The more the US and Canada can rely on each other as energy partners, the less global rivalry we may see to secure and control Middle Eastern oil resources.

The second use is as a laboratory and example for policy change. The Canadian political system has its flaws, as you all well know. But parliamentary systems generally speaking find change easier to introduce than does the often paralytic US congressional system.

A country next door, so similar to the US in so many ways, has demonstrated that it is possible to shift from corporate taxes to a value-added tax; that it’s possible to operate an adequate health system at lower cost; that it’s possible to sustain a less paranoid, more civil political culture.

My daughter, who went to school and university in Canada and now works here, calls Canada “America’s polite hat.” Perhaps Canada can also play a role as “America’s polite test kitchen.” It’s a small thank you – but it could have more value than Canadians, in their characteristic self-denigration, will comfortably admit.

Recent Posts by David Frum



83 Comments so far ↓

  • TAZ

    Our issues are man made and can be solved with some basic common sense, cooperation, shared sacrifice, a little elbow grease, and a willingness to do it for the benefit of our kids and grandkids.

    Our problem is, nobody gives a shit about ANY of those things any more……..

    • rockstar

      Yes, America will survive because we’re too shiftless do do anything but stay the course and muddle through. Its a crappy marriage, but its the best we’ll ever have.

    • gocart mozart

      Our problem is, Republicans don’t give a shit about ANY of those things any more…

      fixed that for you TAZ. You’re welcome.

      • rockstar

        Our problem is, Democrats don’t give a shit about American citizens any more…

        fixed that for you gocart mozart. You’re welcome.

        • jollyroger

          Our problem is, Americans don’t give a shit about democracy or citizenship anymore. Fixed that for you, Rockstar. You are welcome.

  • rockstar

    David, Canada is Uruguay to the USA’s Brazil.

    Just to kick it up a notch, I once read a book called “The Nine Nations of North America.” It discussed how North America breaks out into distinct cultural bits. Alberta joins Texas, Colorado, et al in a minerals-based bloc. Ontario and Quebec join the upper midwest in an industrial heartland. The Maritimes join New England. South Florida and the Rio Grande valley go latino and the West coast (with BC) officially becomes the land of the fruits, nuts and tall trees. It’s all good, buddy.

    • Watusie

      Those aren’t “cultural bits”. Multi-national corporations may take oil and gas out of the ground in Alberta just like they do in Texas, but that doesn’t mean that Albertans and Texans share a culture. Can you really imagine your average Albertan wanting to join a political unit wherein they would be a tiny, remote voting block which they know, inevitably, would be governed by men in the mold of GWB and Rick Perry? And knowing that they’ll loose their guaranteed access to health care in the process…in other words, they have to be willing to take the chance of dying as a consequence of this realignment?

      Ridiculous.

      • nuser

        “Can you really imagine the average Albertans….”
        Yes! Absolutely!Kudos to Frum for this astute observation.

  • hisgirlfriday

    (An American is 25% more likely to die in an auto accident than a Canadian, for example.)

    OK this throwaway detail totally took me out of your piece. Why wouldn’t an American be much more likely to die in an auto accident than a Canadian when we have so many more cars here and so much more traffic?

    • gocart mozart

      Canada leads the world in moose caused traffic fatalities. Just saying.

    • jollyroger

      I think you are confusing probability (likelihood) with absolute numbers. We have more cars and traffic cause we have more people, which should adjust the statistical outcomes to show who drives shitty. Guess who.

      • Balsack

        American teens love to lie down in the middle of the road at night with Hummers whizzing by.

  • jollyroger

    Well it’s a good thing Frum won’t be running for office anytime soon…he is clearly not a believer in the centrally important tenet of American Exceptionalism (How did a linguistic formulation meant as a slap upside the head morph into a pillar of civic faith, such that even so level headed (?) a campaigner as Prez, who eschewed the flag lapel pin as long as he did, eventually was forced to pronounce his fealty to this idiocy?)

    But I digress. To answer the question posed,

    No, America (the Hegemon) cannot survive, and the world will be a better place. Bill Gross (he knows more than you do…) is betting on China, Canada, Brazil and Mexico (!)

    http://dagblog.com/reader-blogs/dollar-daze-bill-gross-pimco-wolfie-miguelitogotta-spare-room-homies-11140

    Maybe the Indians will prove less chauvinist. Meh, probably not, but at least they have those cool movies. with the wet saris and all. Also, Brazil has samba.

    Meanwhile, David, can you get me onto the Canadian migration list? I got points.

  • hisgirlfriday

    [blockquote]Even within marriage, the families of those without university degrees are becoming dangerously destabilized. Perhaps you’ve heard the statistic that in one-third of American families the wife earns more than the husband. This may conjure up some image out of “Sex and the City”: the high- powered execu-wife married to the struggling artist. But the statistic tells us as much about the deterioration in men’s wages as about improvement in opportunities for women.

    A more accurate image would be a blue-collar one: the laid- off truck driver married to a nurse at the local hospital. That marriage is headed toward trouble –and the children face a darkening future.[/blockquote]

    David, your hypothetical here is seriously flawed.

    In many many cases, even an EMPLOYED truck driver is going to make less than his nurse wife. And why shouldn’t he? The nurse is in a field that is in higher demand and requires more years of training and study as well as being a position of greater responsibility.

    I’m also picking up a vibe here that I’m hoping/guessing was not intended as far as it being a bad thing that women are making more because it makes men feel bad and creates marriage instability. I hope that’s not what you’re saying because I think it’s a great thing women’s wages are finally getting closer to their worth. Women attend, graduate from and receive advanced degrees from colleges quite a bit more than men do right now and they also get better grades. Maybe they deserve more pay than men?

    I do agree that the collapse in men’s wages in this country is a problem though. I wonder if there is any correlation between the collapse of the private union membership and the weakening of the labor movement to this decrease in men’s wages?

    • willard landreth

      You think??????????????????

      Unionization is despised b/c employers are held accountable. This hypothetical for example: Let’s suppose ENRON was unionized – do you really think the ponzi scheme they developed would have succeeded? The union would have wanted a share of those *profits* and the books would have been opened. End of story. So a few people are in jail or thankfully died from the personal angst over screwing people and states; but the real death toll was on the employees who lost everything. IMHO the ENRON scandal is the tip of the iceberg.

      This has nothing to do with union power etc as they claim but strictly w/ profits. The corporate leaders have no intention of sharing w/ their employees. It’s been said that the most ravenous of us can not eat a whole cluster of grapes at the same time, but can consume that same cluster one grape at a time. We’re seeing that philosophy employed now from state government to the feds. It’s the penny wise pound foolish philosophy we see heralded by Perry reference to the fires.

      I’m retired now, but the younger workers are getting screwed and happily helping their employers do it to them. Sort of like going to the proctologist. The writer’s HUMAN CAPITAL hits the nail on the head we have lots of ignorant people and they’re paying (and so are we) the price of their disdain for education. This is the SINGLE most important thing we need to correct to get out of this mess. The second most important thing is to get religion out of politics. Probably wont happen and the theocrats will get their wish.

    • Primrose

      To some extent, this is exactly what is being said. The response to gains by feminists is to make it socially OK for men to withdraw from adult life. IKEA recently put in a male play area so women can shop, complete with buzzer.

      Because why, men can’t spend half an hour making decisions about the furniture that is going in their own home? Old-fashioned pro-patriarchy types and myself (an unshakable feminist) rarely agree on much, but I think we are equally distressed by the infantilizing of all men who are not super-achievers. TV show after movie after TV after …. show portray men as unable to successfully engage their home life, their community, or basic responsibilities. Essentially, this media pitch says if you aren’t the head honcho, the unquestioned dictator of all, then you are worthless and simply a child. One that must be indulged not challenged.

      Since the media is dominated by male studio heads who live a very patriarchal life, with useless, often brain-dead, trophy wives (plus others) all stamped with exactly the same look until they are traded in, we can’t blame feminists (no matter how many times Mr. Limbaugh tries). This vision is neither a feminist utopia, nor much appreciated by the average women.

      I wonder if this is actually a form of class warfare, a way for those with much to further dominate and control men who have less.

      It is disguised as something pleasant, of course. Look, you can play all you want, be an ineffective partner, and still get and maintain women above your grade in looks, and often younger. But at its heart, it’s a power grab and does not mean good things for the men who are taught this lesson. It leaves them without either the skills, the attention, or the confidence to fight for their rights and a fair share of society’s power.

      And of course, since women are so busy taking care of everyone, (because after all this is just how men are, we can’t expect more, women’s work. Etc.) they are far too distracted and exhausted to enter the political fray.

  • hisgirlfriday

    [blockquote]The US public debt now approaches levels not seen since the end of World War II. Back then, the debt was owed domestically. Now foreign creditors own about one-third of the US public debt – more than is owned by US private investors.

    American investors own comparatively little of their public debt because America’s potential investors are themselves so burdened by private debt.[/blockquote]

    American investors didn’t buy so many more U.S. bonds in World War II than they do now because they were so much less burdened by private debt back then. They bought government bonds because they were more patriotic people who had a much greater belief in the goodness of government and their government had fostered and appealed to their sense of patriotism by asking them to contribute to the government’s efforts by buying bonds (remember the Bugs Bunny cartoons?).

    I always thought it was a huge mistake of the George W. Bush administration that if he wasn’t going to actually raise taxes to pay for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, he could have at least played on the goodwill and patriotism of Americans post-9/11 to ask them to buy war bonds.

    And if Obama can’t get the Republicans to agree to funding an American Jobs Act via taxes on millionaires and billionaires, why not stump for issue-specific American Jobs bonds or Infrastructure Bank bonds?

    • rockstar

      Relax. You got yours.

      • valkayec

        It’s not a matter of “you got yours.” It’s a matter of finding solutions that benefit all Americans and get the county moving again. Surprisingly enough, not everyone is motivated by an attitude of “greed and me first.”

    • Primrose

      Good idea his girl friday. The reason Mr. Bush did not do that is that when they first sold the war they were claiming it was only a small amount of money and scoffed at those who intimated that it might get expensive. War bonds would have led to questions. Questions would have led to disapproval.

  • jollyroger

    “picking up a vibe here that I’m hoping/guessing was not intended as far as it being a bad thing that women are making more because it makes men feel bad and creates marriage instability.”

    I do not understand why it makes a man’s dick go all soft to think that the woman he is with just might be there out of her free choice, and not because he is her best prospect for a meal ticket.

    Granted, being in the sex industry, I might have a warped perspective on women of independent means, but it does strike me as a compliment and not a threat when a woman has her own money and still wants to use it to tip me.

  • mannie

    America will survive, but it wont be the same. As David’s talk illustrated, there is a cohort of the population for which all the metrics are looking just fine. America’s upper classes will continue to prosper because they have global reach, and access to the tools that allow one to make money in any market. This tranch will America’s contibution to the new global elite class. They will enjoy a very pampered life.
    If you are not fortunate enough to be in that group, your way of life will start to resemble one typically associated with the Third World, as all you are catching from globalization are the headwinds. Downward pressure on your wages, but unfortunately upward pressure on prices, as the developing country prosperity creates more competition for goods.
    My solutions are twofold. The United States has to slap some emergency taxes on the haves., and plow that money into a crash course in pumping some education into as many heads as possible, even if you have to pay people incentives to get great grades. I know the agument is the wealthy create the jobs, but lets be honest. At this moment what they are doing is investing abroad, taking short positions on America, and looking for any “risk-off” place for their money that they can find. So better the people take that money and try, try, try to get the nation’s skill set improving. My second solution would be encouraging Mr. Bernanke in his efforts to beat down the Greenback, to improve national competitveness through an aggregate pay cut.

  • jollyroger

    “even if you have to pay people incentives to get great grades.”

    not “even” but “since”

    How come those who sing the glories of the market denigrate market based reward systems to motivate desired behavior?

    Pay the little bastards and they’ll learn.

    • rockstar

      Pay the little bastards and they’ll game the system twice as much as they do already.

      You’re drunk, jollyroger. Just go home.

      • jollyroger

        I’m a stoner, not a juicer….that should be evident.

        • mannie

          I dont see anything wrong with using money to foster desired behaviour. I think money is usually the best motivator. And I think paying out a significant bonus for good grades acheived would get people taking their studies more seriously. Also, I respect your choice of intoxicants, Roger.

      • Primrose

        How are students in failing schools gaming the system? It seems more likely the system is gaming them.

        • jollyroger

          Primrose (I hope that is your given name, as it means your parents were hippies…) you talk as if “Rockster” were a serious interlocutor, instead of the post-and-run wannabe wit we are afflicted with.

    • willard landreth

      You exemplify the pennywise pound-foolish philosophy.
      We are all experiencing the *wise ness* of your shortsighted philosophy.

  • NRA Liberal

    Is Frum working on another book? This screed reads like a first draft of a proposal.

    If so, I hope he’ll integrate some of his new found appreciation for the difference between the actual Republican Party (currently helmed by Obama) and the Galtian Occupation/Neo-Con(federacy) Party going by the name.

  • armstp

    “The history of small countries alongside big ones is not a happy one. The Irish facing the English, the Poles facing the Russians and Germans, the Taiwanese facing the Chinese – all have terrible stories to tell. Nor are even the Americans always benign neighbors. Not for nothing do the Mexicans joke, “So far from God, so close to the United States.” “

    This is not really a fair statement. What about the Dutch next to Germany, which is more comparable to Canada/U.S. The Dutch have benefited handsomely over the decades from their close proximity to their largest trading partner. Or how about Mexico and the U.S.? Mexico has also benefited incredibly from being close to America. Just ask say a less developed country like Bolivia. Or how about Hong Kong and China? Economically speaking, which is the topic of this post, smaller economies almost always benefit from being next to larger economies.

    • Steve D

      “The Dutch have benefited handsomely over the decades from their close proximity to their largest trading partner.”

      Not counting a minor glitch 1940-1945.

      • humanoid.panda

        Also, Germany was not really a country until the 1871… That being said, it could be argued that the reason that the British, not the Dutch, became a world straddling behemoth of an empire is because they did not have to fend off the French for a century and a half.

    • Watusie

      Please tell me: what is “unhappy” about Taiwan? Nothing bad has ever happened to them as a consequence of being close to China.

      • JohnMcC

        Well, Mr Watusie, the way Taiwan illustrates Mr Frum’s point is the arrival on that island of the Kuomintang army, the Chiang Kai-Shek side of the Chinese civil war. After being soundly defeated by Mao Tse-Tung in ’49, the ostensibly pro-American “KMT” took refuge on the off-lying islands including Taiwan. The result was a sad chapter of massacres and political/cultural domination of an indigenous people that was much worse but reminiscent of the recent Chinese military/cultural offensive against Tibet. We didn’t hear too much about it because Chiang was ‘our guy’ and most of the State Dep’t and Pentagon people who knew about were hoping they could survive Joe McCarthy et al.

        • jollyroger

          JohnMcC(SF) Deconstructs so we don’t have to…When the “China hands” are rehabilitated by a Republican chaired Senate committee we will know that the corner has been turned. Don’t hold your breath.

      • willard landreth

        Do you think it has anything to do w/ our military presence? Do you really believe that Tiawan would have survived without it?

  • armstp

    “So where does the money go? Americans don’t use more healthcare than people in other countries. Americans visit doctors less often than people in other advanced countries. They spend about the same amount of time in hospital. But when they are treated, everything they use costs much more than it does in France or Germany or Canada. On average, in fact, an American hospital stay costs 50% more than a Canadian stay of equivalent length.’

    Where do a lot of those U.S. healthcare dollars go? It is a for-profit system. Everyone involved in healthcare in the U.S. has their hand in the till. If you have any experience whatsoever with the U.S. healthcare system you know that it is a complete rip-off. Everyone from the Doctor charging $200 for just stick his head in the door to the endless and meaningless tests. The big difference between the U.S. for-profit healthcare system and the rest of the world is there are not healthcare cost/spending budgets. No mechanism to control costs and spending. You only get an endlessly costly for-profit system with no competition where everyone tries to squeeze as many dollars out of healthcare consumers as possible.

    • willard landreth

      So many genuflect at the at the *marketplace* god. So many haven’t any idea that it’s main purpose is to make as MUCH profit as the *marketplace* will endure. The government offers the only firewall against the exploitation of business. There is no counterbalance to those bastards.

  • zaybu

    Thank you for this insightful article. If I can sum it up: education, healthcare and US leadership in the world are all suffering due to the political system which is mired in an unprecedented gridlock.

    Will the US survive? It will, but very diminished. I think it would be a very good idea to have your children learn mandarin.

  • Traveler

    Zaybu, good summary. I think David was on the money about all of these issues. Poor education leads to lousy jobs, of which too much income goes to healthcare costs, so we end up with southern poor white cretins voting against their own interests. Add in a sauce of Citizens United funded by shorting American jobs and capital, and the shitstorm brews further. Then toss in a little gerrymandering, and we grind inexorably to mediocrity.

    But I wouldn’t learn Mandarin just yet. For starters, it’s really hard to learn, let alone pronounce. But the real reason is that China has a lot of issues that American capabilities can solve. They need us every bit as much as we need them. They have no institution of electoral responsibility, which translates into abdication of environmental regulations. A good percentage of China’s water unfit for ANY use, but so far China has managed to get away with the little water they have left by outsourcing virtual water. They have hit that wall already. As wages rise in the well watered Pearl River delta, they move factories into the interior where even less water is available. Meanwhile, significant cancer clusters are emerging along the most polluted rivers that will lead to some hits in the health care side. Add to that the demographics that hit the fan over the next few decades, and there are a lot of unpriced externalities that are coming home to roost.

    All of these factors will increase costs of production. Meanwhile the outlook is for the yuan to fall more, so China’s outlook ain’t all that rosy either. More of them might want to learn a little English.

    • Kevin B

      But I wouldn’t learn Mandarin just yet. For starters, it’s really hard to learn,

      If you can say yee haw, you should be able to say ni hao.

  • Oldskool

    I hope the Misses warmed up the audience with some jokes ahead of all that.

  • Oldskool

    We’ll survive somehow and probably slide a few more notches down the list of best places to live.

    I’m curious to find out how we’ll look if Republicans rise to power. They’d have to try to govern again so how would they handle the fringe when they go stand in the corner with their arms folded and their lips curled out?

  • beowulf

    “Each new administration takes longer to staff than the previous. As late as the summer of 2001, there were only two Senate-confirmed officials in the entire Pentagon: Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The Obama administration was staffed even slower.”

    Good point David. Its a mystery to me why there are sooo many positions requiring Senate confirmation. Voting on a lifetime federal judgeship is one thing does the Senate really need to vote on the merits of, say, an assistant secretary of education? Once the FBI background check comes back clean, why second-guess who the President hires to carry out his policies?
    Either Congress (as is their right) should legislatively authorize the President to appoint “inferior officers” (i.e. they’ll have a boss who’s himself an appointee) without confirmation or the President could take the bull by the horns and announce, going forward all executive branch positions below cabinet rank will be recess appointed (Fed governors’ 14 year terms are undemocratic, so appointing them to 2 year recess terms is a good idea under any circumstance).

  • SteveT

    2/3rds of non-college educated whites vote Republican!!! Good Lord, what’s their rational for that?

    • Jamie McFadden

      That, my friend, is the $64 question.

      • Primrose

        Because the powers that be have long tied poor white self-worth to “whiteness” and set themselves up as against a diverse nation. It’s an old, old game. Hopefully, the large of amount of racial mixing that is happening at that level will make that game undoable. It’s one thing to blame the other when you have not contact, another if your grandchild is part other.

  • Steve D

    BAM!

    Human capital is the resource problem we’re in denial over, even worse than peak oil. The erosion took place on many fronts. Start with people looking at abundant natural resources as a right rather than a gift. Then there are government-built highways and schools as a right, and then even viewing taxes to support them as an imposition. Then move on to viewing jobs and infrastructure created by others as a right rather than a gift. Ever-climbing stocks and real estate? That’s not a gift, man, I earned those. We stopped calling social programs “public charity” ages ago, and that was a mistake, because calling it “charity” reminds the recipients that they’re getting aid not because they deserve it but because the givers feel a moral impulse, and it reminds the givers of their moral obligation. For the middle class, it’s easy grades for their little snowflakes, forgiveness for little disciplinary infractions like sexual harassment or drunk driving, and a retirement on Easy Street. It was getting more pay for no more work and being shielded from consequences on the job by the union, then wondering why unions fell out of favor. For the upper class, it’s absurd bonuses for pushing paper, and “taking risk” when in fact the risk is passed on to the workers every time the Dow twitches.

    Obama got some flak (the fact that so many people write “flack” speaks volumes to the rising level of ignorance in America. “Flak” is anti-aircraft fire, a “flack” is a publicist) for calling something a “Sputnik moment.” It wasn’t. We actually cared enough to do something when Sputnik was launched. But conservatives got angry when reforming science education meant putting evolution in the biology curriculum, and liberals lusted over the money being spent on Apollo. (Can anyone, after 40 years, tell me what we did with the money that was diverted from the final Apollo missions that never flew?) In the summer of 2008, while we were seeing Presidential candidates who seriously believed the Earth is only 10,000 years old, the Chinese rolled out an LED screen in Beijing as big as a stadium. They are going to mop the floor with us, and we won’t even have to learn Chinese. They will do it in perfect English, because the Chinese aren’t too lazy or stuck up to learn foreign languages.

  • valkayec

    Mr. Frum, thank you for a very good speech that succinctly lays out the problems and challenges. However, you offer no solutions to your party, the GOP, or the Democrats or the nation. Sadly enough, perhaps no solutions can be found until a major event shakes Americans and political leaders into awakening.

    • willard landreth

      I disagree. His answers were in the observations. I don’t believe the purpose of the article/lecture was to also supply the answers, but they are there in plain sight.

  • sinz54

    David:

    To answer your original question:

    The Great Recession ended 2 years ago. We are NOT in recession anymore.
    And we survived.

    A recession is defined as 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth.
    We haven’t had that in 2 years.

    We’ve had growth. It’s just that the GDP growth rate is less than the population growth rate, so that per capita GDP continues on a long-time decline.
    But that’s not how “recessions” are measured.

    • JohnMcC

      My friend Mr Sinz, by your standard the Great Depression ended in 1934 when the unemployment rate went from 25% to ‘only’ 22% and the GDP began rising. The so-called Great Recession is greater than the strict definition of “recession” used by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Your unhelpful remark seems to ignore or deny the entire panoply of challenges that is the whole point of the O.P. And anyway, pedantry is my beat .

      • SpartacusIsNotDead

        You’re exactly right, but didn’t you feel a little sadistic for annihilating Mr. Sinz’s post so thoroughly and easily?

  • baw1064

    I really liked this column.

    I would observe, though, that any political system is only as good as the people involved are willing to make it. Having a parlimentary system by itself isn’t a panacea, as you can end up with a revolving door of governments, or small ideological minority parties whom the government needs to keep a parlimentary majority having the leverage to force through all kinds of nutty policies. Canada’s stable governance is not only a function of structure, but also the tacit acceptance by all involved that debate, political compromise, regular elections, and orderly transfers of power are part of the necessary ground rules. The U.S., like Canada, inherited these underlying assumptions from Britain. Part of the problem in the U.S., I would say, is that they have been eroded in the last few decades.

    A comment on one small line:

    Fewer ignoramuses.

    Maybe a more precise statement by a hypothetical member of Congress would be “I’m not a real ignoramus, but I play one on Capitol Hill”

  • Frumplestiltskin

    a couple small points: the Taiwanese facing the Chinese
    huh? Taiwan was never an independent country. If China became a Democracy I am sure most Taiwanese would be happy to be re-absorbed into the Mainland. Maybe you mean Tibet facing the Chinese (though they have been conquered by the Chinese they are still Tibetan)

    And this was silly: A more accurate image would be a blue-collar one: the laid- off truck driver married to a nurse at the local hospital. That marriage is headed toward trouble –and the children face a darkening future.

    Um…a nurse at a local hospital makes around $35 an hour with great benefits. A $72,000 dollar wage is one that most Americans can get by on. My wife is a nurse, if I didn’t work we can get by fine and I would not feel the least bit threatened. (except that I don’t like to leave my fate in another persons hands, but this has nothing to do with her)

    • valkayec

      Frumple, regarding the blue collar bit, lots of non-college educated men still feel threatened by the fact their wives earn more than they. They think it somehow reflects on their manhood, and as a result of that attitude, the family’s stability is threatened. I suspect it’s mostly a cultural and generational thing that will die out in time.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        I appreciate that, I have a lot of blue collar relatives who lose their jobs at some point (and therefore had wives supporting them for a time), but none divorced because of it. If the man is unemployed a very long time than that tends to sap a persons self respect if he is actively looking for a job. I think it is that which can lead to a divorce. I think this notion that men are threatened by successful wives is more hollywood fiction than fact. For the past 30 years it has been pretty damn evident a college graduate will earn more than just a High School graduate so it sure as hell shouldn’t be a surprise when the woman does earn more money. Anyway, just how many women with college degrees marry men with just a High school diploma? Now a guy owning his own dry wall business marrying a school teacher I can see, but he is not really blue collar anymore. If he loses his business he loses his self respect, which as I said is the real issue.

    • willard landreth

      For me, I see this quite a bit in the rural area in which I live. The frustration is the reaction to the situation that pervades their lives. They ignore the obvious and vote against their interests. Anti education, anti union anti just about everything and they wonder why they’re in the predicament they’re in. The answer is in Frum’s observation -our denigration of education.

  • nuser

    Mr. Frum
    “Or the ability to tap American capital”…..
    America wants and needs that oil. Do you realize what it entails to develop those tar sands?
    The potential ecological damage is massive. Your statement is outrageous dishonest and
    above all arrogant. Nothing has changed much,Mr. Frum , it is still all about oil is it not?
    Having said all that , the article you wrote is pretty damned good and informative. Could you not have mentioned(for history) the fact it was a Republican Congress , that blocked the passage of the debt ceiling?

  • Jamie McFadden

    What is the deal with the Republican psychosis over Universal Health Care?
    As DF mentioned in the article, Canadians as a whole spend a fraction of what we do on health care, yet are able to treat everyone! But when he wrote an article that fell short of condemning Pres. Obama for ATTEMPTING to move this country in that general direction, he was ostracized from the Republican Party.
    And rockstar – whoever you are – makes the disingenous accusation that it is Democrats who do not care about American citizens.
    This country is in grave danger, but not because of our unemployment rate, or even the wars we can’t seem to get out of. We are in trouble because a shockingly large number of our citizens raise the shrill cry of impending dictatorship – all because the President did something in an attempt to help ALL the people, and not just the majority, if you get my drift. Welcome to the American Civil War, Vol. II.

    “History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” – Mark Twain

    • jollyroger

      Re: “Rockstar” Don’t fret over one who merely posts & runs.

      Re: The remarkable rehabilitation of our genial host, albeit sparked by Repug rejection, delight that he abandons error, even as he clings to tar sands sin.

  • Houndentenor

    Just like my grandparents’ generation survived the Great Depression, we will survive the Great Recession.

  • Primrose

    “Back during the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986, Democrats opted not to push for the impeachment of Ronald Reagan because they feared destabilizing the country. Twelve years later, those inhibitions had relaxed and Bill Clinton was impeached. And if Barack Obama is re-elected and the Republicans hold Congress? Well, he’d best retain some good legal advice.”

    So how can we say that both parties are responsible for the discord? If you believe the Republicans will impeach Mr. Obama (for what?) simply because they can, you can not believe they are a responsible party, not even a little. I’m struggling to find a term that doesn’t sound inflamed and irrational—and I can’t. This is pure destruction.

    • anniemargret

      Sick isn’t it, Primrose? They have a nihilist philosphy which is borne solely because they, alone, feel that only Republicans should be running this country. Some kind of weird entitlement.

      When they lost in ’08, they galvanized not to spend the next four years working together to solve problems, but to exacerbate them so that Obama would look ineffective, weak, incompetent. That was their purpose, their goal and it was irrationally proclaimed so by their ipso facto leaders like Rush Limbaugh, etc…

      And why I would never even remotely vote for a Republican again for high office. They don’t have the country’s best interests at heart, nor its people, but want power for power sake. A pox on them!

      • Smargalicious

        Disagree.

        We’re in this recession for 2 reasons, which are not the GOP’s doing: massive greed that caused the housing bubble, and 45+ years of a super-duper welfare spendathon by the Democrats.

        Now, we’re broke. And the Dems want to spend even more.

        November 2012 will give us our GOP White House and Senate, so we can repeal the reparations-based agenda and erase the madness.

        • nuser

          When Bush left office , the debt was 10.6 trillions . You just do not get it , do you?

        • Primrose

          If Smargalicious can blame it on Dems, or people of darker skin than him/herself, he will. Facts are irrelevent.

        • Smargalicious

          Sorry, but playing the race card won’t work.

          Although the Dems will try try try during the election, it won’t work. They will humiliate themselves each time they claim that if you’re against BHO for any reason, then you must be a racist.

          Obama is just too bad a President to make any excuse.

        • Primrose

          I accuse you of racism Smargalicious not because you are a critic of Mr. Obama (well first I need to see a reasoned argument) but because of your long, and well documented, history of racial insults, both specific and general. One is not “playing a card” if one is making an accurate statement. Might you have other non-racially based objections to Mr. Obama? Perhaps. But once you have so firmly established a reputation as racist, your credibility on any other matter is destroyed.

          There are other critics of Mr. Obama I will take on their argument and not assume racist motivation. You are not one of them.

          If you wanted to be taken seriously, you should have taken more care with your words—and before the new TOS caught you out.

        • leigh666

          Are you so blind to your racist comments you can’t see them when people point it out? how can you say that Obama has a “reparations based agenda” and not know that is a racist comment? If this is true then I really feel for you, and if you are just repeating something that you’ve heard but don’t know what it means, well then you just ignorant!

        • jollyroger

          Do not banter with the troll–you will give it delusions of relevance. It won’t come and play in MY yard, cause we will stomp it into jelly. (It was invited, but continues to skulk about here…where it is not wanted.)

  • Oldskool

    While alive, that average American is more prone to obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and accidental death or dismemberment than people in other advanced countries.

    That was kind of funny. One time at the range, I was admiring another shooter’s custom gun when I said, “So that was done by so-and-so when he was alive. How about that.” The oldtimer said, “Yeah, he didnt do much work after he died.”

    What could explain our rate of dismemberment? That’s just bizarre.

    • jjack

      Our rate of dismemberment is caused by two things: 1) onerous over-regulation, 2) uncertainty caused by onerous over-regulation. Workers are so distracted trying to comply with onerous safety regulations that it causes uncertainty and confusion, which directly leads to dismemberment while operating dangerous machinery.

      To sum up, if we just eliminated all regulation and then cut taxes, our rates of dismemberment would be the envy of the world.

      • Oldskool

        Hehe. I woulda guessed war injuries but ideology is good to keep in mind if I ever have to play Republican Jeopardy.

  • Balsack

    “63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Only about 40% of college-educated whites agree”

    Some are positive. Some are negative. Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4qY22rR9tQ

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  • WestQuake

    The recent GOP debates highlight a barrier to America’s continued existence – the rejection of fact and public acceptance of bald-faced lies. Whether it’s an earlier “Deficits don’t matter” or today’s “Obamacare’s death panels would have prevented me from getting cancer treatment” and “Lower taxes will create growth”, the US cannot get on a 12-step program because it refuses to face facts. The social experiments that Mr. Frum refers to become “Canadians travel to the US in droves because they can’t get health care at home” and “VAT is bad because that’s what socialists do” (don’t get me started on “9/11 terrorists entered the US from Canada” or “all Canadians are hookers or hockey players”).

    The Canadian social experiments are ending in any event as Harper’s Conservatives adopt the worst aspects of American policy – more incarcerations, more pot penalties, negative poltical campaign ads, more deregulation, fewer facts, more hyper-partisanship, lower immigration, more domestic spying, and more government secrecy and lies.

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