How Progress Has Led to Discord

 

We were reminded by Robert Samuelson in yesterday’s Washington Post that America has made amazing progress in the last half century.
Consider that in 1960:

  • Men and Women held rigid gender roles.
  • African-Americans were restricted by legal segregation in the South and informal segregation almost everywhere else.
  • Homosexuality was virtually under the radar.
  • There was little environmental regulation.
  • Immigration was not an issue.
  • Defense made up 52% of government spending.

    Capture17

Think about all the (mostly) positive changes which have taken place in the meantime:

  • Women have taken paying jobs by the millions.
  • Racial segregation has been outlawed.
  • Gay rights have been established.
  • Environmental regulation has exploded.
  • Immigration, both legal and illegal, has increased.
  • Social spending has soared.
  • Defense is down to 16% of the federal budget in 2015.

Consider how our national politics is now stalemated:

  • The political system favors extremes.
  • Minorities live largely in big cities where they produce Democratic super-majorities.
  • Rural areas produce Republican super-majorities.
  • Incumbents are insulated from general election challenges which might pull them towards the center but are perpetually vulnerable to primary challenges from extremists who pull them towards the fringes.
  • Ideological purity trumps pragmatism. In the internet and cable-news era, politicians are constantly reassuring their constituents that they haven’t sold out.
  • The center sags and paralysis prevails.

Meanwhile serious national problems are getting much worse and not being addressed. Our public debt (on which we pay interest) is 74% of GDP, the highest since WWII.  The U.S. economy is growing only slowly at the rate of 2.1% per year ever since the end of the Great Recession seven years ago.  Neither presidential candidate has a credible plan to deal with these two most aggravating problems.
As a country we are in a huge mess.  How do we break out of it?  I wish I knew!

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