My favorite part of the new documentary Waiting for Superman comes just after the audience learns that American students rank far below other advanced countries in math and science. Then, with footage of Jackass-style daredevils trying and failing to perform various ambitious stunts, we see that American teens do rate No. 1 in one area—self-confidence. Even when they’re 12th or 18th or 21st in some academic category, they still think they’re No. 1.
The sequence was simultaneously funny and pathetic, and it reminded me of a story President Obama told me when I was writing a book about his first year in office. In a meeting in Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak confided to Obama that his biggest problem in education was that South Korean parents were pressuring him to import more English teachers so their kids could learn English in first grade instead of having to wait until second grade. This is what we’re up against in global competition, the president said. “And then I sit down with U.S. reporters, and the question they have for me, in Asia, is ‘Have you read Sarah Palin’s book?’” At that point Obama shook his head and said, “True story. True story.”Got that? Waiting for Superman is about the attempt to upgrade the educations for the poor of Washington DC while Obama's example is about the shameless idiocy of the Washington "elite" with their fancy educations. And Alter confuses the two. (sigh)
So Robert Parry weighs in on the foolishness of the confused right wing. OK, that's a better example.
America's Decoupling from Reality
As Election Day 2010 approaches – as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation – the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.
Yet, despite the danger, the nation can’t seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck – to waist deep, then neck deep.
Trapped in the mud, millions of Americans are complaining about their loss of economic status, their sense of powerlessness, their nation’s decline. But instead of examining how the country stumbled into this morass, many still choose not to face reality.
Instead of seeking paths to the firmer ground of a reality-based world, people from different parts of the political spectrum have decided to embrace unreality even more, either cynically as a way to delegitimize a political opponent or because they’ve simply become addicted to the crazy.
The latest manifestation of the wackiness can be found in the rise of the Tea Party, a movement of supposedly grassroots, mad-as-hell regular Americans that is subsidized by wealthy corporate donors (such as the billionaire Koch brothers) seeking to ensure deregulation of their industries and to consolidate their elite control over the political process. moreOf course, the biggest problem is that we have a "profession" the economists, who insist folks become mindless zombies in order to gain admission to their club. The results are truly depressing.
Our Best Minds Are Failing Us
With America in deep trouble, our economists are AWOL, and our scientists are still off ‘financial engineering.’
The most terrifying moment in modern economic history occurred two years ago this month. For several long days after the fall of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008, the financial system was in danger of total collapse, and the United States seemed on the precipice of another Great Depression in that “Black September.” Just as bad, our economists and senior policymakers had barely any idea why this was happening. The assumptions of an entire era had been proved wrong. The “Great Moderation”—the period of post–Cold War prosperity in which capitalism was said to have been tamed and risk mastered—was revealed to be an illusion. Alan Greenspan professed his “shocked disbelief” that the Wall Street institutions he had trusted in were so reckless as to blow themselves up. “The whole intellectual edifice has collapsed,” the former Fed chairman told Congress that fall. Economists said they would have to come up with new theories for how markets worked, in particular how the financial system functioned and interacted with the “real” economy. “Large swaths of economics are going to have to be rethought on the basis of what happened,” Larry Summers, the presidential adviser who doubles as a world-renowned economist, told me in an interview shortly after Barack Obama took office.
Two years on, that rethinking has barely begun, and only with the most painful reluctance by economists. Meanwhile, policy and political debates still driven by outdated economic theory have been racing out of control, bitterly dividing the nation. Whether the arguments are about stimulus, financial reform, health care, or jobs, the discussions in Washington tend to be dominated by simplistic black-and-white views that are little different from the conceptual framework that prevailed before the collapse: markets always work better than governments. Advocates of government spending are socialists. Champions of markets are laissez-faire ideologues or slaves of Wall Street. And never the twain shall meet. A vast new regulatory framework has been set in motion, but many experts say it has done little to change the way Wall Street or the real economy functions, and there is no new economic theory underlying it. more