Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Election 2012, Freedom, News the Media Doesn't Want You to Hear | Tags: American Decline, Manufacturing Excellence, Utterly False Claim
Richard Cohen is a liberal. Committed, always been a liberal. But even he is not, shall we say, completely happy with the president’s vision of an America in Decline. In Cohen’s words, the president read a lengthy essay by Robert Kagan about the Myth of American Decline. The president, Cohen says, “took the essay’s theme for part of his State of the Union Message saying ‘ Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about.’”
Among those who have done so is Barack Obama himself.
The president’s telling has been expressed sometimes in words, but more so in actions. He has conducted himself and his foreign policy as if the U.S. has indeed slipped in power, prestige and, more important, commitment. The same Obama who cited Madeleine Albright’s famous formulation — again, in the State of the Union — that America is the “indispensable nation,” dispensed with American power and prestige in failing to take the lead in confronting Moammar Gadhafi in Libya and instead was goaded into the fray by Britain and France.
This was called “leading from behind,” which is indistinguishable from panting to keep up.
Mr. Cohen goes on to elaborate the foreign policy failures of the Obama administration. It’s an odd piece. Obama has been mistakenly following a decline theme, but Republicans talk about an America that no longer exists. So America may be in decline, but Obama should stop acting like it is?
The basic concept of American decline seems to be based on the decline of manufacturing. We don’t manufacture anything any more. All the jobs have gone overseas. We don’t make anything in this country anymore. Everything we buy is made in China. You have read that on the nation’s editorial pages, and heard it daily.
Not true. America remains by far the world’s largest manufacturer. In 1972 the average U.S. factory worker was responsible for about $60,000 worth of annual manufacturing output. Today the average U.S. factory worker is responsible for more than $180,000 of annual output. This country made $2.15 trillion (in 2005 dollars) worth of manufactured goods two years ago, while China made $1.48 trillion in goods.
Our agriculture sector produces far more today with only 2.6% of the workforce involved in farming than we did a hundred years ago when nearly 40% of the labor force was involved in farming. The tractor and the combine pressaged many changes.
The increases in production are a direct result of capital investment in productivity-enhancing technology. And the new technology has meant that fewer workers are producing more goods. Is this a negative or a positive? Technological improvement is one of the drivers of economic growth. The transition is a very difficult one for displaced workers, but economic growth in one sector spurs economic growth in another. The transition, which goes on all the time, is particularly noticeable during a recession when so many are out of work.
Change can be hard, or can be welcomed. We would be in deep trouble if we were still manufacturing typewriters, dial telephones and LP record players. Somehow those transitions were managed, but jobs surely changed, and probably some manufacturing plants went under. Lifetime learners have a real advantage.
Government is a lousy venture capitalist. Common sense should inform you, but Solyndra and its siblings offer extensive evidence. And if that’s not enough, there’s the Volt. Government does not create jobs. (People work for the government, but the government has only taxpayer dollars to pay their salaries—which are excessive because government managers don’t watch the bottom line). Government job-training is usually useless.
If we want economic recovery, we need to get the U.S. government out of the way.
There is more than one reason why the Constitution limits what the government is allowed to do. Progressives may believe that they can do a better job by telling everyone what to do, but the Founders knew human nature.
President Obama claims we are much more loved abroad, but he mistakes the need. We don’t need to be popular, we need to be respected. To be respected, we have to be dependable and inspire confidence. Foreign policy is not a popularity contest.
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