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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is America a Declining Power?

That was the tenor of the first two segments of the O'Reilly Factor last night. With rising deficits, unemployment, and the war in Afghanistan going poorly, O'Reilly made the thesis that we, as a nation, are in decline. He had on Lou Dobbs to concur with this opinion and then Ellis Henican to counter.

Unfortunately, the whole thing took on a partisan tone and so the point was lost. Dobbs is no fan of President Obama and so he agreed with O'Reilly's statements. He pointed to many of Obama's policies which are weakening the dollar and causing deficits we can't handle as evidence that we're declining. Meanwhile, Ellis Henican, himself a supporter of the President, sees our president as reestablishing our place in the world and so he sees Obama reestablishing us as a power.

Ultimately, whether we're a declining power is not a partisan issue. It's much bigger than President Obama. In fact, when a fellow blogger, Shanika Chapman, interviewed me, she asked me just this question and here's how I answered it.

I have no fears for the United States of America? This country has overcome so
much. It defeated the tyranny of the Monarchy of Britain. It overcame the evil of slavery and the country eventually gave women the full rights of men. In the long term, this country not only survives but it thrives.

The idea that America is in decline must be set into historical context. For instance, a $12 trillion debt is nothing compared to a country at war with itself. That's exactly what happened in 1861. The country not only survived that but thrived as a result. We spent the entire decade of the 1930's with double digit unemployment. It peaked at 25% and never fell below 13% during FDR's entire first two terms. We not only survived that but thrived through it.

Look at what awaited us in the beginning of the 1980's. We had just lost our first war not a decade earlier. We had double digit unemployment and inflation. Yet, we ended the decade with a thriving economy and having defeated the Soviet Union.

In the 1880's, the economy got so bad that we were facing a state of deflation for the first and only time in our history. In other words, goods and services were getting cheaper. We not only survived that period in our history but it ushered in the industrial revolution.

So, this country has been here before. It's faced challenges just like this before. No doubt there were plenty of pundits that claimed, much like O'Reilly now, that we were in decline then. Each and every time, we faced those challenges and thrived.

We have tough times. There's no doubt about that. There are no easy answers. There were, however, no easy answers in previous times of challenges. We made it through and I am fully confident we'll make it through again.

1 comment:

AG said...

I guess the real question is how do you define a decline? Are we talking about being overtaken as the most powerful country in the world and becomming just another first world country, or falling further? The ability to defeat any enemy or the ability to defend ourselves against any enemy?