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Old September 24, 2011, 07:32 PM
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shaad shaad is offline
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Join Date: February 5, 2004
Location: Bethesda, MD, USA
Posts: 3,639

Personally, I am not optimistic about the future of the US, or to be more accurate, about the future of the middle class in the US. I think there is a concerted effort being made by the ultra-wealthy to roll back the gains from FDR's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society programs and take the country back to the Gilded Age, when wealth and power was concentrated in the hand of the ultra-wealthy, and the middle class was effectively nonexistent. And sadly, far too many Americans are naive enough to be conned easily into voting for candidates and platforms that are designed to hurt them.

Let's be frank here. Until pretty much these last two decades, every generation in the US had done better than its predecessor -- in terms of purchasing power, quality of life, etc. Now, I'm seeing kids graduating from college, not finding jobs, and going back to stay with their parents; once middle-class families losing their homes, etc. Two decades ago, you could still be a blue-collar worker and be part of the middle class. Now, that's a risky proposition. And even many white collar jobs are being made redundant by cheaper, hungrier, overseas competition.

FA talked about the US "lead[ing] the world in d├ętente, technology, finance, research and entertainment" even if it lost military or economic dominance. I am not even too certain about that. Let's take technology and research, for instance. When I came here as an undergrad, back in the 80s, if you ended up doing a PhD in the sciences, you had basically two options -- you either went into academia in the US, or into industry, again in the US. Because the facilities for doing research did not then exist outside the US. That has changed; a significant fraction of the PhDs and postdocs now go back to their home countries to do research there. At pretty much every science conference that I go to, there's generally a formal or informal seminar by scientists concerned about how the US can still maintain its lead.

As for finance, banks that need to bailed out by the taxpayers and but fail to change their bad habits do not generally inspire much confidence in me. And with several of the BRIC nations and Gulf States making noises about using a basket as a reserve currency instead of the dollar, it will be interesting to see how the US edge in finances pans out.

Frankly, the US has no manufacturing base, having outsourced almost everything. There are hungrier workers out there in the rest of the world who will do the same work for less. There has not been much of an attempt to focus on say, newer alternative green industries/tech that could open up employment opportunities; in fact, China has been doing better work in this regard. There has not even been a concerted effort to improve the decaying American infrastructure -- something that could have reduced the current high unemployment rate. Yes, there will be many many millionaires and billionaires here, and they will flaunt their opulence for all the world to see; but the American middle class, which was once the envy of the rest of the world -- I see that in danger of becoming extinct.

Now, the decline of the USA as an economic or military superpower does not bother me on an abstract level. First, it will likely be gradual, and second, I always felt more comfortable in a more multipolar world rather than one in which the sole superpower felt that it did not have to follow or respect the norms of other nations. What concerns me though is how Americans, with their fragile egos, will deal with no longer being "number one." The British, when their empire dwindled, were able to console themselves by thinking that they were simply passing it on to their natural heirs, the Americans. But I really cannot see the Americans feeling the same way about the Chinese. My concerns is that we will see an upsurge in belligerence, paranoia and xenophobia, symptoms of which we have already seen directed against Mexicans and Muslims.
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