DON'T PANIC. (AGAIN.)
August 22, 2012 6:49 AM   Subscribe

"America may well be in a fateful decline. But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?" Frank Rich, columnist for New York Magazine, explores the recurring phenomenon of declinist panic and our national tendency to burnish the past in "Mayberry R.I.P."
posted by shiu mai baby (89 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it was the philosopher William Joel who said "We didn't start the fire."
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:52 AM on August 22, 2012 [24 favorites]


Our social contract is breaking. We no longer really believe in the Constitution, or the rule of law. We don't really believe in anything, and sort of sit around with our thumbs up our butts while our leaders abandon all principle, and do whatever's convenient in the present moment.

We have a bunch of religionists on one side that want to rip down anything that keeps them from imposing a theocracy, and a bunch of progressives on the other that want to spend oodles of money we don't have, on a standard of living we can't afford. Both are equally destructive; either approach would wreck us as a world power, very likely permanently. We may end up with both.

The Age of American Empire is entering its twilight. It may be a long, bloody, horrible twilight, but I see just about zero chance that we will ever again reach the dominant levels of economic muscle and prosperity that we once enjoyed.
posted by Malor at 7:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


given that the country has survived 9/11

Define "survived".
posted by nathancaswell at 7:02 AM on August 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Wait - America has progressives? I thought those were just Canadians.
posted by The River Ivel at 7:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and: electing Obama, when the alternative was McCain and freaking Sarah Palin, immediately after the fucking trainwreck of the Bush Presidency, is not some major advance for this country. With Sarah Palin on the other side, we just barely elected the black guy.

If that's the best we can do for triumphs, we are so, so done.
posted by Malor at 7:04 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


That's OK. Other countries can run the world.
posted by pracowity at 7:05 AM on August 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


And to expand on that, how well did we "survive" the Civil War? We have people publicly stating--in the year 2012--that voter ID laws are made to keep blacks from voting, and several Southern states (all of which are doing it) that are in the process of challenging the Voting Rights Act. And that's just one small sliver of it.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:06 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mayberry was a fantasy shaped in large part by Andy Griffith's membership in the Moravian Church and an expression of the church's idea of the ideal Christian, not a chronicle of the 1950's.
posted by ocschwar at 7:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


"two world wars" what? the USA was barely involved in WWI and although troops were sent to WWII its not like the USA itself was under any direct threat (beyond Pearl Harbour - which is barely part of the USA anyway).
posted by mary8nne at 7:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is this "all kinds of money we don't have"? Some folks have all kinds of money, and they are members of the "we". So we do have "all kinds of money". It's just that some of those folks whats got it think they are privileged and should keep it. Never mind that some others whats got it think we all should take more from them for such appropriate public works. And then those other folks that think they should keep it all, get silly ideas that folks what haven't got any money should pay for the public works themselves. Blood from stones kind of thinking. But that only proves that many of them whats got the money have no more sense than a dark ages priest.
posted by Goofyy at 7:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Oschwar, did you, per chance, spare a moment to read the article?
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]



I was talking with someone who asserted that things have never been so divisive in this country.

I stood agog. What about Aaron Burr ?

This country has survived far weirder and stranger political times than the one we are currently experiencing.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:10 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oschwar, did you, per chance, spare a moment to read the article?


Guilty as charged and throw myself at the mercy of the court, noting that it's business hours in EDT land.
posted by ocschwar at 7:11 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have a bunch of religionists on one side that want to rip down anything that keeps them from imposing a theocracy, and a bunch of progressives on the other that want to spend oodles of money we don't have, on a standard of living we can't afford. Both are equally destructive; either approach would wreck us as a world power, very likely permanently. We may end up with both.
HAHAHAHA Okay, dude. That's not what happened. The thread on Libertarian false equivalency bullshit is a couple doors down.
posted by samofidelis at 7:15 AM on August 22, 2012 [40 favorites]


"two world wars" what? the USA was barely involved in WWI and although troops were sent to WWII its not like the USA itself was under any direct threat (beyond Pearl Harbour - which is barely part of the USA anyway).

That seems like a pretty offensive thing to say.
posted by gjc at 7:16 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


This country has survived far weirder and stranger political times than the one we are currently experiencing.

Rich's NYT credentials led me to suspect he wouldn't mention climate change or oil / water scarcity as potential factors, and he didn't. He can't be taken seriously.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:17 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Malor, why are you engaging in false equivalencies? Both parties are bad so we need to throw the bums out just seems like defeatism. Sure the policies alternatives that they offer might not be ideal but they do offer starkly different visions of the world and how to approach the future. Further it's not like the parties are completely monolithic (although ruthless attempts at maintaining party discipline often make the Republican party seem that way). It seems like it's possible to support a party for having a plurality of the policies you'd would like to see rather than just give up.

Yeah change can come from external sources but increasingly change is driven largely by factors internal to the parties. The Republican party being hijacked by conservative Christian theology and free-market laissez faire policies is taking place from inside the party not because Independent voters are saying you know we really need to put more God in government. Democrats are still trying to triangulate in every election but I think more and more there is a push for change (either to the progressive or more conservative direction) to be pushed form people inside of the tent.
posted by vuron at 7:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think the Progressives are driving the Democratic agenda, you need to consult your doctor and change your medications.
posted by delfin at 7:25 AM on August 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


"All right, all right, all right! Of course you smell gas. What do you think this car runs on, coal?"

-Barney Fife
posted by clavdivs at 7:31 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you think the Progressives are driving the Democratic agenda, you need to consult your doctor and change your medications.
posted by delfin

not cool.
I for one look forward to China running thier side of the world and Germany can run europe.

personally, I'm tired of these countries paying us to defend them, time to defend yourself.
posted by clavdivs at 7:35 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Malor: We have a bunch of religionists on one side that want to rip down anything that keeps them from imposing a theocracy, and a bunch of progressives on the other that want to spend oodles of money we don't have, on a standard of living we can't afford.
I don't read this as "Both parties are bad so we need to throw the bums out", Vuron (but can't speak for what Malor meant, of course).

I read this as:
OT1H, the religious right are ruining our democracy;
OTOH, social spending is inherently dangerous during a recession.
I agree with that.

OT3H, I firmly believe deficit spending on infrastructure and other jobs programs will help us out. Spending without the income to back it up is risky, but this particular use is a risk with high, likely paybacks. We're greatly underspending in this regard (thank you, obstructionist Republicans and cowardly Democrats in Congress).
posted by IAmBroom at 7:35 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This has probably always been true.

But what does feel slightly different (and perhaps it IS just a pendulum swinging) is the ease with which people proclaim their crackpot beliefs and their seeming belief that letting the Other Side win a election means the end of the world. I mean, if Obama so much as makes a dyspeptic grimace, that's just more evidence that he is Destroying America®.

This is fed, in my opinion, by the biggest difference between "then" and "now", which is 24 hour news channels devoted to partisan politics.

Further, it is fed by what seems like a shift in the practice of journalism, striving for "balance" in coverage versus truth and fact. Opinion is rarely distinguished from fact, especially if there is a competing opinion to balance it out.
posted by gjc at 7:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Age of American Empire is entering its twilight.

Entering its twilight? Huh? Doesn't anyone remember life under Jimmy Carter?

Obama has been a C- President, but Economically he's no Jimmy Carter. 15.7% inflation under James Earl. We had stagflation the Misery Index and the Malaise Speech.

That was entering the twilight, but 32 years on darkness still hasn't fallen so I'm gonna keep an open mind on the matter.
posted by three blind mice at 7:38 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


This history has been either forgotten—or willfully blocked out—to such an extent that a period marked by rising civil-rights conflict is now routinely trotted out by some 2012 declinists as a Platonic baseline of American unity, centrism, and fairness against which today’s America can be found so sorely wanting. That nostalgia for what never was tells us more about the roots of the current declinist panic than any of the pie charts and graphs used to track America’s present statistical erosion.

That is spot on. In general, Rich's emphasis on the racial (or racist) subtext of so much current political discourse strikes me as right.
posted by spitbull at 7:45 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The "malaise speech" in which he never used that word was actually well received by the public, initially. The speech polled well. There's plenty of info and research out there about this. It was Carters firing of staff around the same time and punditry talk that led to a sharp shift in opinion. In any case, in that speech Carter was talking about facing up to our energy problems, squarely, and looking at alternatives and conservation. The speech is still relevant!
posted by raysmj at 7:45 AM on August 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


and a bunch of progressives on the other that want to spend oodles of money we don't have, on a standard of living we can't afford.

Except, of course, that isn't true. The "progressives" just want to maintain the progress that was already made, and we could afford it just fine if the "conservatives" weren't raiding the piggybank for their boondoggles.
posted by gjc at 7:46 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


“Only in America is my story even possible,” Obama is understandably fond of saying, knowing full well that as recently as the year of his birth, 1961, he would not have been welcome in Mayberry, let alone the White House."

What a crock. Mr. Rich, your not very bright are you. So Mr. Obama would not be welcomed in the white house in 1961. Great analogy, remind of TR and Mr. Booker Washington again...

OMG he uses Sorkin as a benchmark on page one... WTF is so great?, well one thing we did not do is take over the world when we had the bomb post V-J day.
posted by clavdivs at 7:47 AM on August 22, 2012


Everyone likes to think they're living in the worst times ever. Remember when the 2008 financial crisis was going to bring the whole house of cards crashing down?
posted by rocket88 at 7:49 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just read the text of Carter's "Malaise Speech" and everything he said was dead-on! Telling it like it is, not pandering to the public: "Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns."

We'd be in a much better position to deal with current energy/environment issues if people had listened to some uncomfortable truths 33 years ago. Instead, when Carter lost to Reagan, the "lesson learned" by political candidates is that IF YOU WANNA WIN THE ELECTION, YOU CANNOT ASK AMERICANS TO CONSERVE ENERGY. And that's been the prevailing "wisdom" for 3 decades.
posted by crazy_yeti at 7:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


Remember when the 2008 financial crisis was going to bring the whole house of cards crashing down?
It's still tumbling down! Ask Greece!
posted by crazy_yeti at 7:55 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is spot on. In general, Rich's emphasis on the racial (or racist) subtext of so much current political discourse strikes me as right.

The thing is, he's describing the race panic of the right. On the left, the worry is that we're heading back to the days of when it really was. There's essentially a 50/50 chance that 2016 will see a country significantly closer to 1960 in terms of rights for minorities, gays, and women (as well as the lack of a social safety net).

Just read the text of Carter's "Malaise Speech" and everything he said was dead-on!

IIRC, Carter was ahead in the polls until the last week. What killed him was the hardline shift of the Iranian hostage crisis.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:57 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


the quagmires of Iraq...
Remember when the 2008 financial crisis was going to bring the whole house of cards crashing down...

Have we survived both of these? We have yet to actually pay for the former (both in terms of borrowed money and opportunity costs), and the latter is still unfolding.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 7:58 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of countries that are not a "world power" and they do just fine.
posted by Legomancer at 7:58 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


IIRC, Carter was ahead in the polls until the last week. What killed him was the hardline shift of the Iranian hostage crisis.

I believe that's correct. But the "takeaway lesson" seems to have been: Don't be seen on TV wearing a sweater, don't ask people to turn down their thermostats, etc. It's UNAMERICAN."

Side note: Carter had solar panels installed on the White House roof. Reagan had them taken down. I believe that's the precise moment when the USA headed down the wrong path.
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:02 AM on August 22, 2012 [19 favorites]


Andy Griffith stated in an interview that his vision of Mayberry was based on his memories of growing up during the 30s. The setting may have been the 60s, but the people and their concerns were straight out of the depression era.

Thus, interestingly, Mayberry was a literal impossibility, an anachronism even in the 60s. There never was a "real" Mayberry.

Nostalgia never goes out of style, and has rose-colored glasses.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:05 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


We have a bunch of religionists on one side that want to rip down anything that keeps them from imposing a theocracy, and a bunch of progressives on the other that want to spend oodles of money we don't have, on a standard of living we can't afford.

Likewise, we have a bunch of extremist Creationists on one side claiming that the universe was created 6,000 years ago, and a bunch of equally extremist Evolutionists on the other side asserting that it's billions of years old and life evolved out a primordial goo, and a large number of undecided moderates not content with either extreme. Of course, as everybody knows, the truth must be somewhere in the middle.
posted by acb at 8:05 AM on August 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Sorry, but the idea that America can't afford proper schools, non-crumbling infrastructure and a non-precarious baseline of living standards and health care for each citizen is a fallacy, especially since countries like Germany and Canada have these things and haven't crumbled into nightmarish socialism because of it.
posted by acb at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [24 favorites]


I for one look forward to China running thier side of the world

Not if India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Russia, and Australia can help it. Do you seriously think that having China run the entire Asia-Pacific Region uncontested would be a good idea? I mean, hell, the whole Senkaku/Diaoyutai thing is in the news again for the umpteenth time. And that's just one out of like 3 or 4 islands China has disputes over.
posted by FJT at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


America being a dominant superpower was a weird historic anomaly. We can mourn it's passing but there is no compelling reason to think that a nation of 300 million should be dominant in perpetuity. America is in relative not absolute decline, we are growing more slowly than we used to and more slowly than other, less developed countries, but we are getting better and better at meeting our needs and wants. As we get better at meeting our needs our definition of need becomes more inclusive. We are very, very good at providing for our basic needs. Food clothing and to a lesser extent shelter (since we are not just pursuing shelter itself but shelter in particular places where than can be enormous competition for the nicest places) are cheap. Most manufactured goods are cheap. Entertainment is cheap or free. Information is cheap or free.

Maybe in the future we will not all get to live in big houses with big back yards that are exactly the temperature we prefer while we ride in steel boxes at 70 miles an hour to the places we like to go. Maybe we won't all get to eat meat for 2/3rds of our meals and have fruits and vegetables from wherever it's warmest. Maybe we won't be able to offer the cutting edge of medical care to everyone all the time. We've only been able to do any of this stuff and not really for a very short time.
posted by I Foody at 8:10 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Likewise, we have a bunch of extremist Creationists on one side claiming that the universe was created 6,000 years ago, and a bunch of equally extremist Evolutionists on the other side asserting that it's billions of years old and life evolved out a primordial goo, and a large number of undecided moderates not content with either extreme. Of course, as everybody knows, the truth must be somewhere in the middle.

Not to send the thread down a creationist vs. evolutionist derail, but you surely have got to be kidding. Only one of those two "extreme" sides has literally tens of thousands (if not more) people's lifetimes having been spent studying the science of where life came from. The other side has the backing of some churches (even the Catholic church gave up on creationism).

The anti-intellectualism in the US scares me more than anything.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Evolutionists on the other side asserting that it's billions of years old and life evolved out a primordial goo, and a large number of undecided moderates not content with either extreme. Of course, as everybody knows, the truth must be somewhere in the middle.

That's a poor analogy. In the case of creation vs. evolution, there is overwhelming objective scientific evidence (fossils, etc) in favor of evolution, and nothing much on the other side. There is no "middle ground" between rational scientific discourse and faith-based "belief". (Similarly, there is no reason to try to find a compromise with climate-change deniers).

In politics, on the other hand, it is not as clear-cut.
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


acb: Of course, as everybody knows, the truth must be somewhere in the middle.
Nonsense. A billion idiots insisting that the world is flat does nothing to change its curvature.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sarcasm, people. The "OF COURSE the truth is in the middle" bit was sarcasm.
posted by jsturgill at 8:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


See Poe's Law, jsturgill.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:24 AM on August 22, 2012


In the case of creation vs. evolution, there is overwhelming objective scientific evidence (fossils, etc) in favor of evolution, and nothing much on the other side.

Well, it seems a little "evolutionist bias" by saying the other side has nothing. Creatonists can point to a 2,000+ years of biblical history that includes a resurrected messiah and many other miracles. Let's also not forget having the most widely distributed book in the world, numerous global artifacts and landmarks, 2.2 billion followers, and inspiring a good chunk of human culture and development.
posted by FJT at 8:29 AM on August 22, 2012


America can afford proper schools, non-crumbling infrastructure and a non-precarious baseline of living standards and health care for each citizen.

The question is whether a plurality of Americans WANT that.

Let alone a plurality of Americans who both want that and are willing to pay for it, in sufficiently disparate areas as to get majority support for that in local, state and federal government levels, and with sufficient support from wealthy corporate and citizen interests to get these candidates elected under our current system.

The percentages of Americans who are registered Fuck You Got Mine, I'd Rather Do Without Benefit X Than See THOSE People Get It Too, The Bill Of Rights Is Only For Christians or Elect Me Because I'm 26% Less Conservative Than My Republican Opponent voters are more than sufficient to make the concept laughable.
posted by delfin at 8:29 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Holy crow, I thought acb's post was pretty obvious satire, and I'm goddamn oblivious.
posted by notsnot at 8:30 AM on August 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


The question is whether a plurality of Americans WANT that.

I mostly agree, but sadly, simple head-count is not enough. It's a matter of POWER.

The political process has been corrupted by money and advertising, so it's no longer really "one man one vote". Now it's "billions of dollars, hundreds of political ads". And the powers that be (the capital/media/military/information/entertainment complex) don't benefit from flattening the distribution of wealth ... they've got the reins firmly in their hands, and they are not letting go.
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?
9/11 was not in any sense an existential threat to the nation and it has no business being on the same list as the freaking Civil War.

Maybe that's the problem and the answer to the question itself in one tidy nutshell. We have lost perspective, and we've done it so deeply and so thoroughly that even those who ask the question take our position of lost perspective for granted, as a starting point.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:42 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


No one is making fun of Andy Griffith. I can't emphasize that enough.
(sorry, it always gives me a chuckle)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Seriously, it bothers me when I read recent polls where virtually everybody has made up their minds. What happened to the Undecideds/Don't Know? I think they were a sign of healthiness.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2012


The speech is still relevant!

Malaise, it's back in fashion.
posted by chavenet at 8:51 AM on August 22, 2012


What happened to the Undecideds/Don't Know? I think they were a sign of healthiness.

Really? Why? I they were a sign of apathy, ignorance, and/or indistinguishable candidates.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, it bothers me when I read recent polls where virtually everybody has made up their minds. What happened to the Undecideds/Don't Know? I think they were a sign of healthiness.

Current America trumpets Red vs. Blue so loudly and so constantly that half the people don't even remember that Purple exists.
posted by delfin at 8:55 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK I read that all the way to the end. I found this amazing bit near the bottom of page five:

Nonetheless, David Brooks has pushed this patronizing concept of immaculate, above-the-fray leadership to another level lately by arguing in the Times that Americans need to be schooled in the manners of “followership.” Whom they’re supposed to follow isn’t named, but presumably it’s a clubbable, middle-aged stalwart of either the Aspen Ideas Festival or Davos. “Today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist, and anti-­Semitic old boys’ network did possess,” Brooks wrote, arguing that America could benefit from the “stewardship mentality” of “the best of the Wasp elites.”

God I hope he context-raped old Brooks there because that is pretty damn Father Coughlinish. Surely the New York Times wouldn't put something that extreme on their op-ed page?

I have not been reading Frank Rich since he left the New York Times. His schtick of linking up pop culture and social / political issues seems to me like it worked much better in the short form of an op-ed than it does in a longer piece like this. It seemed repetitious. Maybe he is having some growing pains to the new format.
posted by bukvich at 9:11 AM on August 22, 2012


What I wanted to convey was this: People don't know more, they only believe they do. This occurs because specializing news sources reinforce prejudices rather than inform.

It's like Johnny Cochran once said of the OJ case. Cochran had no problems with people who were well-studied in the case and believed OJ was guilty. He just had a problem that those who couldn't list any sensible list of arguments for guilt versus innocence and decided OJ was guilty. (OJ may not be the best example of this phenomenon - way too many people followed the case intensely).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2012


NPR had an interesting piece on the rise of the "Independent" voter with the assertion that despite independents saying that they are focused on policies and values they tend to be deeply attached to one party instead of the other tending to vote for the same parties again and again. Further despite saying they are focused on issues and policies most of these voters will show a distinct preference for the stated policies of a given party even if the researchers swap who says what, i.e. the Republican position is stated as being a Democratic policy and vice versa.

This seems to indicate that the human tendency to approach political decisions is still really informed by a primitive sense of tribalism where voters want to attach themselves to a certain brand formulated by a party instead of being conscientious voters that come of an informed decision by evaluating the overall strength of a candidate's position or a party's platform.

They didn't indicate the actual percentage of independent voters that are truly open to either party but they seemed to suggest that it's roughly one third of the "independent" voter. Granted in a democracy the size of the US that's still an significant number of individuals but I think it explains why both parties are so focused on establishing a coherent branding message because the political consumer seems to be one that establishes and maintains a long term loyalty to a certain brand particular if that brand association is established in their formative years.
posted by vuron at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Second comment in this thread proves the entire point. People think 'it's never been worse than this!!!!'. Makes me question their age. I'm 42 and it has ALWAYS been this bad. Did y'all not read any primary sources during your school days? Some of the pamphlets Andrew Jackson put out during his campaign? Any of the yellow journalism from back in the day? National Guard troops firing on Americans?? THERE IS NO GOLDEN AGE THERE NEVER HAS BEEN. This is life.
posted by spicynuts at 9:16 AM on August 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


Brooks has been preaching that sort of elitist father know best and you should just start following our lead for ages now. Furthermore he doesn't seem to realize that he comes off as insufferably smug to the point of alienating anyone who isn't exactly like him and even a good percentage of people that are. The sooner NPR quits using him to counterpoint EJ Dione during that horrible Friday talking points section the better.
posted by vuron at 9:19 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


America can afford proper schools, non-crumbling infrastructure and a non-precarious baseline of living standards and health care for each citizen.

The question is whether a plurality of Americans WANT that.

Let alone a plurality of Americans who both want that and are willing to pay for it, in sufficiently disparate areas as to get majority support for that in local, state and federal government levels, and with sufficient support from wealthy corporate and citizen interests to get these candidates elected under our current system.


On at last two of those points, I think the evidence suggests that we do pay enough for it now. On education spending, the US spends 5.1% of GDP on public education expenditure, slightly above-average for the OECD (5.0%) and the EU21 (4.8%). Source: OECD, p. 231. Likewise, on health care, US public expenditure is far from out of line. Public expenditure, as of the last WHO report, 7.3% of GDP, again slightly above the rich-country average of 6.9%. Source: WHO, tab 7 in the Excel file, multiplying the first and second columns (total health expenditure times government share). When you factor in private expenditures, and the fact that the US is substantially wealthier than even other "rich" countries, the US looks even better. Now, a strong criticism can be made of the US for what we get for our expenditure (personally I think it's shameful to spend as much on health care for the elderly as we do and as little for the working poor), but the idea that we aren't willing to pay what other countries are is just not grounded in fact.
posted by dsfan at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


NPR had an interesting piece on the rise of the "Independent" voter with the assertion that despite independents saying that they are focused on policies and values they tend to be deeply attached to one party instead of the other tending to vote for the same parties again and again. Further despite saying they are focused on issues and policies most of these voters will show a distinct preference for the stated policies of a given party even if the researchers swap who says what, i.e. the Republican position is stated as being a Democratic policy and vice versa...

That's interesting. Is this the story you're referring to?
posted by triggerfinger at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2012


"two world wars" what? the USA was barely involved in WWI and although troops were sent to WWII its not like the USA itself was under any direct threat (beyond Pearl Harbour - which is barely part of the USA anyway).

"Barely involved" in the First World War. Nearly 117,000 military deaths and over 117,000 wounded. "Barely involved" indeed. Nearly 300,000 deaths in the Second World War. But you say merely that "troops were sent." Astounding.
posted by blucevalo at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


God I hope he context-raped old Brooks there

It's a little thing, but I feel like any other possible way of phrasing that would be an improvement.
posted by cortex at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Criticism: "In 2011, The New Republic named [Rich] one of the "Most Over-Rated Thinkers" of the year,"
posted by benito.strauss at 10:18 AM on August 22, 2012


@Malor

believing in anything is lame and for easily-taken chumps, so if circumstances necessitate that you do, be sure to pick things that are scarily authoritarian and/or moralist so that people can't make fun of you
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:27 AM on August 22, 2012


blucevalo, not to completely run away with this derail, but, um yeah, go look up the numbers for Russia and China on the number dead. America lost .32 percent of it's population due to WW2, and that includes civilian casualties. Russia lost 13+ percent. China lost nearly 4 percent of it's population. For raw numbers, Russia lost 23 million people. China lost between 10 and 20 million (yeah, no good sources, bad records, etc, etc). And you think 400,000 even compares to that? I think you might want to get some perspective.
posted by daq at 10:32 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Andy Griffith stated in an interview that his vision of Mayberry was based on his memories of growing up during the 30s. The setting may have been the 60s, but the people and their concerns were straight out of the depression era.

Thus, interestingly, Mayberry was a literal impossibility, an anachronism even in the 60s. There never was a "real" Mayberry.

Nostalgia never goes out of style, and has rose-colored glasses.


"Nostalgia is denial - denial of the painful present... the name for this denial is golden age thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in - its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present." -- Paul in Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have a bunch of religionists on one side that want to rip down anything that keeps them from imposing a theocracy, and a bunch of progressives on the other that want to spend oodles of money we don't have, on a standard of living we can't afford. Both are equally destructive; either approach would wreck us as a world power, very likely permanently.
Malor

For fuck's sake, not this libertarian "they're both the same" nonsense again.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mayberry was a fantasy shaped in large part by Andy Griffith's membership in the Moravian Church and an expression of the church's idea of the ideal Christian, not a chronicle of the 1950's.

true dat. for a chronicle of the 50's, one needs to look toward Happy Days.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:54 AM on August 22, 2012


blucevalo, not to completely run away with this derail, but, um yeah, go look up the numbers for Russia and China on the number dead. America lost .32 percent of it's population due to WW2, and that includes civilian casualties. Russia lost 13+ percent. China lost nearly 4 percent of it's population. For raw numbers, Russia lost 23 million people. China lost between 10 and 20 million (yeah, no good sources, bad records, etc, etc). And you think 400,000 even compares to that? I think you might want to get some perspective.

Gee, I don't know we were playing Who Had the Most Dead. Sounds like a fun game. But, "um, yeah," these kinds of pissing matches are relatively pointless. And to imply that the US had no skin in the game, so to speak, in WWI and/or WW II, let alone the implication that the wars had little to no impact on the US, betrays a lack of awareness about history that defies comprehension.
posted by blucevalo at 11:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Huh. Kids always think that the present time is the worst ever. I lived through the 70s and 80s- now THOSE were bad eras of inevitable decline.
posted by happyroach at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have Obamalaise. I did slog all the way through this article and he makes some relevant points, but mostly what I took away from it is that Republicans are racists. Not sure if that's what he meant to hone in, but that's the jist I got from it. And I'm not disagreeing.

(I was enjoying this article until he quoted that dumbass TV show. It's like using the word "amazeballs" in a serious article.)
posted by Kokopuff at 11:22 AM on August 22, 2012


I think it was the philosopher William Joel who said "We didn't start the fire."

You know, I've rarely been this pleased by a comment. I actually got tingly.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:58 AM on August 22, 2012


The past always looks better because we know what happened next.

posted by mmrtnt at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having just moved from the UK to America I have to say that Americans have no idea at all what decline is. It's as if you all have gotten confused and have mistaken no longer easily lapping the rest of the world while still being first for coming in last. Things you take for granted like resealable hotdog packaging aren't even crazy unfeasible ideas in the rest of the world. It's an extreme and silly example of American superiority but the fact is that there are thousands and thousands of these little things in your daily life that even most of the developed world simply doesn't have.
posted by srboisvert at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Anything that doesn't resemble the "American dream," which is mostly material concocted from whole cloth by business ad executives, Hollywood movie moguls, labor leaders, and heads of religious, civic, and civil rights organizations in the late 1940s to "remind Americans of their shared heritage and values" (read Wendy Wall's Inventing the "American Way") represents decline to Americans. The meaning of the "American Way" has changed over time, but if you look carefully or even not-so-carefully at most TV advertising today, you can see elements of at least one version of it: owning a huge multi-bedroom house with a very green lawn and a sparkling golden retriever parked quietly and panting happily next to the porch, having 3.5 very blond and precocious white kids, preferably mostly boys, owning a giant gleaming sports utility vehicle or a Mercedes or Bentley Continental or else a Ford Fusion or F-450 if you're slumming it, having very white teeth and perfect health and no body odors, and being married or pursuing the path to getting married (to a member of the opposite sex, it goes without saying).
posted by blucevalo at 1:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And to imply that the US had no skin in the game, so to speak, in WWI and/or WW II, let alone the implication that the wars had little to no impact on the US, betrays a lack of awareness about history that defies comprehension.

The truth is, World War II did impact certain nations more than others. How did you think the US post WWII economic growth or the Marshall Plan came about? To ignore the fact that the US had mostly none of its industrial infrastructure and economic institutions destroyed because it was never occupied or bombed much less, is to display a lack of awareness of history too. I mean, I'm not saying that the US wasn't impacted by World War II. Lost lives are of great devastation to families, period. But to see casualty numbers in World War II only through the lens of a "pissing match" is to miss the point that each casualty is going to slow down recovery. And also, unlike most American casualties, a lot of casualties in Europe and Asia were suffered on the home front. I mean, there's still unexploded ordnance from bombs and mines found from World War II in some of those countries.
posted by FJT at 2:19 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Remembering the Good Old Days.
posted by squalor at 3:12 PM on August 22, 2012


I graduated from college during the "Bad Old Days" of Jimmy Carter, I took his "malaise" speech as sensible, intelligent and forward-thinking. I think the biggest problem was that he was being so serious, he never flashed his signature smile and political cartoonists immediately threw away his "big teeth" caricature in favor of a "big lips" one. Reagan's "Morning for America" essentially sent us hurtling toward an abyss that was mostly changed by the fact that Communism and the Soviet Union fell into the abyss first (not a great metaphor - otherwise too long to explain). We are now paying the price of 30 years of NOT Progressive policy that has created a lot of growth that only ever existed on paper and distributes most of the real assets to those at the top. "Social spending", at best, has been a way to keep the natives from getting restless and prevent a mass uprising and not much of a drain on America's economy. The current Democratic side is mostly protecting the Status Quo while the Republican is all about making the Capital Class even more powerful.

Or to put it another way (here comes a slightly better metaphor), we're on an Ocean Liner, heading for an iceberg. Most Economists deny that the big iceberg exists, Obama and the Democrats are making minor adjustments in course that won't make much difference while Romney and Republicans are shouting "RAMMING SPEED!" Oh, and since it takes a long time to turn an Ocean Liner around, it may already be too late. In that case, I'd rather see the Republicans in charge when we crash because then there will be no doubt who sent us on this doomed course.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:19 PM on August 22, 2012


Things are seldom as good or as bad as we think.
posted by Mister_A at 4:39 PM on August 22, 2012


IIRC, Carter was ahead in the polls until the last week. What killed him was the hardline shift of the Iranian hostage crisis.

I'm just sayin'...
posted by gjc at 5:39 PM on August 22, 2012


I'm just sayin'...

I followed the link... and... look at all of the fruit salad on Oliver North's Wikipedia page...
posted by ovvl at 8:41 PM on August 22, 2012


Nonetheless, David Brooks has pushed this patronizing concept of immaculate, above-the-fray leadership to another level lately by arguing in the Times that Americans need to be schooled in the manners of “followership.” Whom they’re supposed to follow isn’t named,

Men of Stahlhartes Gehäuse: Or, The Dark Knight Rises on Followership
posted by homunculus at 11:59 PM on August 22, 2012


Mr. Rich, your not very bright are you

Best sentence is this thread.
posted by spaltavian at 6:15 AM on August 23, 2012


Boy the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made…
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 PM on August 23, 2012


In the case of creation vs. evolution, there is overwhelming objective scientific evidence (fossils, etc) in favor of evolution, and nothing much on the other side.

Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children
posted by homunculus at 11:50 AM on August 24, 2012


srboisvert:

Things you take for granted like resealable hotdog packaging aren't even crazy unfeasible ideas in the rest of the world.

I come from a family of proud Canadians. My brother took his family on a camping trip to Maine this summer and came home with a stockpile of Oscar Meyer hotdogs. We do weekends together at the cottage and every lunchtime he brings them out and breaks into song about the superiority of his "American hotdogs!!!"

Your example is extreme and silly, and perfect.
posted by raider at 11:40 AM on August 25, 2012


The number of people confusing Lance Armstrong and Neil Armstrong right now is a testament to how Michele Bachmann is a congresswoman.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:20 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you seriously think that having China run the entire Asia-Pacific Region uncontested would be a good idea?

Yes, I do.
posted by clavdivs at 11:32 AM on August 26, 2012


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