America still the place to be bornAugust 12,2012
WASHINGTON — The country is in a gloom. Congress has left Washington for a five-week recess, but its departure has not lightened the national anxiety.
The proposition which pervasively oppresses our sensitivities is that the best is behind us, that the United States has entered a period when it will be eclipsed by China and maybe India.
Books, articles and endless broadcasts about receding American greatness furrow the brow. You only have to cock an ear to hear the siren song of America’s trajectory toward the garbage can of history.
Get a grip, America!
These are not the worst of times, despite our problems — problems that await resolution when we stick our courage, as Lady Macbeth said, “to its sticking place.” Translation in this case: political will.
The weepy litany of the times includes people under the age of 50 saying there will be no Social Security for them. This negative mantra is heard a lot and is very questionable.
Social Security is the most easily fixed of our problems. The retirement age has to go up or people have to be incentivized to start taking payments later.
Along with Social Security, Medicare has to be fixed; a tougher nut but one that can be cracked.
Doctors have to be less promiscuous with their testing. But the whole medical establishment needs to be disciplined — doctors, drug companies, hospitals and the vampire companies that prey on the system with ambulances, home visits, and convalescent equipment and supplies.
The ugly truth is that we are spending 17 percent of our gross domestic product on health care and it is going up. On average, other industrial countries are spending 9 percent. Find out why the discrepancy is so elephantine, and you will be on the way to getting a grip on Medicare and the rest of health care costs.
To get an idea why optimism is in order, ask yourself where a baby born today has the best chance of a full, happy life. Call the child Baby X.
Now run through the prospects of where Baby X would have the best chance.
All of Africa comes up short because of poverty, bad government and a propensity for civil war.
China? One shudders. No freedoms there, still enormous poverty and dictatorial politics.
India has more freedom, but there is simmering unrest among more than 60 religious sects. And there are hundreds of millions in poverty.
Declining birth rates and an aging population do not auger well for Japan.
Baby X could prosper in parts of Latin America, say Brazil, Chile and Argentina, but stability is not assured and poverty is still huge.
Suddenly, Baby X has fewer choices. Western Europe is one, but it may take 30 years for it to overcome the effects of its credit binge. Then there is language: Baby X would have to become proficient in English as well as the language of the country of birth.
Of more than 200 countries in the world, Baby X would be ill-advised to be born in most of them. Exceptions should be made for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Norway and Switzerland.
If Baby X is to lead a full, happy life, the birth will have to be in the USA. First, of the desirable countries, it is the only one truly able to defend itself.
Here Baby X can choose from an infinite variety of cities, climates and styles of living. And more than most places, it will not matter a damn what color, religion or social class little X comes from.
Here Baby X can grow up and start a business with very little red tape, as opposed to Europe, which tends to suffocate new businesses in the crib with regulation.
On the downside Baby X will pay way too much for a good education.
Throughout its life, Baby X will have to tread carefully with money because the safety net is not what it is in other advanced countries.
America’s place and role in the world may change in the years ahead, but for the life of Baby X, it will still be the place to be.
Welcome to the Land of Possibility, Baby X. Good choice.
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS.
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