If it’s going to take time for the United States to dig itself out of debt and doldrums in the economy, it’s more than past time to talk about what’s going right in this country.
Thank Michael O’Hanlon, of The Brookings Institution, think tank for a healthy corrective to too much gloom and doom about America’s prospects.
Still the greatest country, he writes of America in The Los Angeles Times, but also “the country with the most promising future.”
O’Hanlon does not dispute the nation’s problems, but he laid out the big reasons why we can look more positively toward the future.
“The United States remains the land where people around the world dream of living, and they still arrive in substantial numbers, enriching our melting-pot society and energizing the economy,” he said.
Many industrial nations are in demographic free-fall from low birth rates and aging populations.
That’s not entirely good news, of course, for the United States. Those nations are our friends, allies and trading partners. We need them to be more robust economically and socially.
Some of the growing countries, including Turkey and Brazil, are not in a position to be world leaders in the way that the United States is today.
What about the emerging giants, China and India? Both have substantial problems in this sphere, O’Hanlon noted.
The former’s one-child policy is holding down its population, but could within a decade or so “result in huge numbers of retirees relative to the size of its working-age population, a far greater challenge than we will face here,” O’Hanlon predicted. “India’s problem is the opposite but just as serious. Unable to get any handle on its population growth, India’s demographics verge on unsustainable.”
Again, not entirely good news for the United States, but also contrary to “the notion that their futures are all bright and rosy while ours is declining,” O’Hanlon said.
Nor is the United States friendless: “We have some 70 formal and informal allies around the world,” O’Hanlon said. “We are not universally loved, to be sure, and even many of our allies are critical of American foreign policy. But they tend not to fear us, worrying about their own neighbors (or the prospect of anarchy) more than us.”
Nor can the United States be considered a laggard economically, despite China’s rise.
From software to pharmaceuticals to specialty chemicals - the latter a major employer in Baton Rouge and Louisiana -several industry sectors are world leaders. And the ideas that will fuel future products come from the world’s great universities, most of which are in the United States.
That is not, for sure, a fixed advantage: The United States still is the leader in research and development spending, and has to maintain that status.
O’Hanlon added a note about the vaunted increase in the number of engineers in the Middle Kingdom: “Sure, China educates 600,000 engineers a year to our 60,000, but more than half that larger Chinese figure is made up of technicians trained in two-year colleges. Comparing apples to apples, the ratio is more like 200,000 to 60,000, and our students have far better universities to attend.”
We would add many things to this list, and while the passionate debates in this country about the deficit and other problems get the attention, O’Hanlon delivers some good advice: “So yes, let’s fix America’s problems, but in the meantime let’s not lose sight of what’s right.”