Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: America on the brink?
Vail, CO Colorado
America has big decisions to make, and soon.
David Walker figures that our choices in the next two to three years will determine whether we will remain the greatest nation on earth or fall into decline. The window is closing fast, thanks to our choices of late, and our good fortune may finally run out if we don’t wise up.
His partners on the Vail Symposium’s economic panel last Sunday at the Four Seasons certainly seemed to listen.
Walker was the U.S. comptroller general from 1998 to 2008, serving Presidents Clinton and Bush. Now he’s leading the Comeback America Initiative, a decidedly nonpartisan tough love movement to try to keep the country great.
His message, boiled down, is that we need to spend less and tax more or forgetaboutit, we’ll be Greece, except at our scale.
The immaturity of our political discussion and reluctance to take on the shared sacrifices involved in getting things right don’t bode well for making the right choices any time soon.
Fellow panelist Andrew Tisch, billionaire co-chairman of Loews Corp., had a slightly more hopeful message. While agreeing with Walker about the strong medicine America needs to take, he suggested that for all our hand-wringing over the world catching up to us, we in fact have the strongest fundamentals in place with infrastructure, natural resources, educational opportunity, stable political system and such that we tend to take for granted.
Yes, we have a lot of hard work to do, but we also have the best clay to work with. Let’s not forget that.
Walker is the more practiced and compelling speaker, with the coolest, scariest charts. But I was drawn a little more to Tisch’s message.
America has been underestimated since the Revolution. Now it’s the Chinese who are going to kick our butts. Yesterday it was the Japanese.
Yes, we’re soft, feckless, tend to make irresponsible, self-centered choices to avoid taking our medicine for as long as possible. We argue too much over trivialities. Deep thinking seems to give us a headache. We crave instant gratification, waste our time on celebrities. Don’t do our math homework.
And yet. … We find a way. We keep our perch, even as some of us lose their nerve. We’re better than we sometimes believe. Oh sure, we’ve been lucky, too. Absurdly so.
But from ancient Greek poet-playwright Agathon, as quoted by Aristotle: “Skill loved fortune, and fortune skill.”
Think about it. I like our chances.