America Cowed: Are We Too Frightened to Forge Our Future?
Robert L. BorosagePresident of the Institute for America’s FuturePosted: June 23, 2010 10:26 AM
Americans have grown fearful. Most believe, not surprisingly, that the country is headed in the wrong direction. For the first time ever, most Americans believe their children may not fare as well as they have. We spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on our military, chasing phantoms across the world. Conservatives in both parties rail about debt and deficits. They line up to support adding another $33 billion in emergency spending for the misbegotten war in Afghanistan, while blocking the $23 billion needed to forestall the layoff of a staggering 275,000 teachers across the country.
Washington is crazed about debt and deficits, but the real deficit is in fortitude, not finances. Consider the contrast between this country emerging from the Great Depression and World War II and now.
Then our debt was a far greater burden than now -- over 120% of GDP. The country had suffered a decade long Great Depression and a global war. The troops were coming home, but the entire economy was mobilized for war. Europe and Japan were devastated. And America was led by Harry S. Truman, a former haberdasher, product of the corrupt Pendergast machine in Kansas City.
But, having won the War, America had the confidence to face its future. Despite the massive debt, Congress passed the GI Bill, educating a generation of veterans. We financed the transformation of military factories to civilian production, investing in the industries -- from aerospace to automobiles -- that would transform the country. Congress passed subsidies to aid the purchase of homes, stimulating the growth of the suburbs. We passed the Marshall Plan to spur the rebuilding of Europe. A Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, a hero of the war, put a lid on military spending, while building the interstate highway system. more