October 16, 2014


America's revival defies Washington's sclerosis (Roger Altman, 10/16/14, Financial Times)

 Stunningly positive social and economic changes, unthinkable even a decade ago, are taking place, driven by traditional American strengths of local leadership, private enterprise and individualism, which always dwarf Washington's impact.

Look at crime. Twenty-five years ago, this was the top public concern. But better local policing and lower hard drug usage have halved America's crime rate. Violent crime fell 32 per cent during the past 25 years, and a remarkable 64 per cent in big cities. Property crimes have fallen 75 per cent in New York City.

Second, years of grassroots efforts at school reform are paying off. High- school graduation rates have reached a record 80 per cent level and could hit 90 per cent by 2020. This progress is all local - including improved teacher recruitment and training, stronger curriculum materials and better use of data in evaluating students. Parental groups, non-profits, businesses and educators have led the way.

Third, we are seeing healthier practices regarding sex education and contraception. As a result, teenage pregnancy and abortion rates have fallen to the lowest recorded levels, down 51 and 70 per cent respectively over 25 years.

Fourth, private enterprise has produced a momentous turnround in energy production. Only six years ago, oil output was half its 1970 peak, but technology breakthroughs reversed that. Now, the US is again the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas, and we have decades of low-cost supply. This surge is boosting output and manufacturing competitiveness, creating millions of jobs and reducing our reliance on the Gulf.

Yet a huge swath of American society is not participating in this progress. These are families that own no financial assets, and so have not benefited from the Federal Reserve's monetary largesse. Indeed, almost 40 per cent of Americans face falling annual incomes of $40,000 or less. The great challenge is to improve their economic security as a matter of fairness and improved purchasing power. Fortunately, the same combination of enterprise and local initiative can make progress.

One of the great political disasters of recent times occurred when factions of the right turned on GHWB and needlessly handed Democrats the major portion of credit for the effects of the Cold War peace dividend.  

This midterm means the GOP will at least get substantial credit for the post-WoT boom.  But we meed to elect a president two years from now to finally achieve the transition back to Republican dominance.

Posted by at October 16, 2014 7:11 PM

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