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Red, white and goo: Has America gone soft?
(c) Ronald Reagan in 1980
All set? The correct answer is: (d) Jimmy Carter. Mr. Malaise himself. In 1976. Which just goes to show that the republic has always been going soft - or at least fretting about the possibility.
Scene: the first Thanksgiving, Plymouth, 1621
Pilgrim No. 1: Yum. This corn tastes good. So much better than starving.
Pilgrim No. 2: Oh, great. Now we’re dependent on foreign sources of starch, becoming wards of the Wampanoag welfare state. This does not bode well for our future economic growth.
“Asking if we’ve seen our best days is as American as apple pie,” Mr. Dowd said. “Go back in history, and it’s very common for presidents to stand before Congress and say things aren’t very good. But that sense of decline is often more about feeling than fact.”
Our softness, it turns out, is relative. If America has a paunch, we also still possess formidable biceps. Fact: We account for more of the world’s GDP than any other country. Fact: In 2006, a U.N. report named our workers the planet’s most productive. Fact: According to Foreign Affairs, we lead all nations in exporting goods and services, and are the globe’s second-largest manufacturer behind China.
Time reports that two-thirds of 40-year-old Americans live in households with larger inflation-adjusted incomes than their parents had at the same age. Of Fortune magazine’s Global 500 largest corporations, 133 are American - more than double that of any other country.
Contrary to conservative canards about entrepreneur-shackling overregulation, the World Bank ranks the United States in the top five of nations with the most business-friendly regulatory environments; counter to liberal teeth-gnashing about a parasitic elite grifting off the nation’s wealth, the top 1 percent of earners contribute 37 percent of collected income tax.
Losing manufacturing jobs to robots and developing nations hurts, but it doesn’t make America soft; it makes us ingenious, and a nation with child labor laws that we — cough,China, cough — actually enforce.
On the world stage, the United States still spends more on its military than all other nations combined, controlling the planet’s oceans and airspace. SEAL Team 6 did not throw a Snuggie around Osama bin Laden, read him his Miranda rights and turn him over to lawyers at The Hague; they shot the world’s most-wanted terrorist in the face. Under Mr. Obama, the nation is killing more bad guys with drone strikes than it did under President Bush.
As for the much-derided Obama administration strategy of “leading from behind” in Libya? Mr. Gadhafi, he dead. And on the cheap, in terms of both American blood and treasure. Soft? Or smart?
We are tougher on crime - with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and violent offenses occurring at their lowest rate in almost four decades - and absolutely brutal on our reality-show contestants.
Our higher-education system remains unmatched: Of the world’s top 25 universities, 15 are in the United States. (Not by accident has the elite-college admissions process become an Olympic-shaming competition.)
Oh, and our supposed laziness? When we tell pollsters that we don’t want to work as hard, it’s probably because we’re already exhausted: The average American works more hours per year than anyone else in the industrialized world, including the French (duh), the Germans (no kidding!) and the Japanese (to quote Keanu Reeves: Whoa!).
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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