Monday, July 30, 2007

Out of Touch

Michael Barone: Our National Funk
Most strikingly, only 25 percent of Americans are positive about the direction of the nation, down from 41 percent in 2002. In only a handful of the 47 nations are there declines of similar magnitude -- Uganda, the Czech Republic, France, Canada and Italy. Obviously, one factor here is the decline in the job rating of George W. Bush and of Congress (and the response in other countries to squabbling politicians in Prague, Paris, Ottawa and Rome).

......That's my reaction as well to the finding that by a two-to-one margin Americans say their children will be worse off than we are. There's a similar response in Canada, Britain and Brazil. The even more negative verdicts in Western Europe and Japan can be explained as a cool assessment of the combination of low birthrates and overgenerous welfare states.

But what basis do Americans have to suppose that, for the first time in history, a younger generation will be worse off than their parents? Perhaps it's just a feeling that things cannot possibly get any better. In any case, we seem to be in a pronounced national funk.

We might take some comfort in some of the trends of opinion in the rest of the world. In China and India, large majorities think the next generation will be better off -- a vote of confidence in their surging economies, which are providing cheaper products for us and are growing as markets for American goods and services. In Latin America, most believe that people are better off with free markets. (The highest percentage was in Hugo Chavez's socialist Venezuela!) In Africa, most express great optimism in the future -- a sign that the world's most troubled continent may be at last turning around.

Barone seems to be blissfully unaware of who the winners and the losers are in globalization. The Chinese and Indians who are "pollable" are by and large the winners, people in the prosperous urban elite who see their prospects and their nation ascendant. American workers, are by and large the losers. Average wages are flat after inflation. The nation is bogged down in Iraq, which only adds to the looming national debt disaster. The news about trade is by and large negative (4,000 workers laid off, engineers training their replacements from Mombai while executives complain that our education system is not turning out enough qualified engineers. Mr. Barone needs to get out more, perhaps he should go back to Detroit and talk to some ordinary people about what they see and how they see the world.

No comments: