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America's decline is a myth

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Since midway through George W Bush's tenure, there's been a steady hum from the pundit class that America's best days are behind it. An overreaching foreign policy, rising public debt, and a growing wave of outsourced jobs means that America will soon lose its status as the world's preeminent power. America was quickly on its way to becoming Rome.

But the American decline is now over (if it ever really began in the first place).

Compared with other major powers, America's future is looking brighter than before the financial crisis. The U.S. dollar remains remarkably attractive relative to other currencies. This resilience extends to American companies. In a March report, Goldman Sachs found that foreign investors owned a larger percentage of the U.S. equity market than at any time in the 68-year history of the study. The housing market is picking up, and dependence on foreign energy is falling.

Gridlock remains the order of the day in Washington, and Congress still has record-low approval ratings. But there are policy bright spots. Congress and the administration are not standing in the way of America's energy revolution. The Keystone XL pipeline will likely be approved. The pipeline, along with the Obama administration's emphasis on energy independence, helps strengthen the domestic economy.

On trade, the administration has managed to convince Japan to join Trans-Pacific Partnership talks. Should the trade consortium of countries ranging from the United States and Chile to Canada and Mexico to Singapore and Vietnam get off the ground, it will liberalize trade between members that represent nearly 40% of global GDP - and boost American trade and manufacturing. Then there is the nascent transatlantic equivalent that Obama mentioned in this year's State of the Union.

The third major policy positive: the forward movement in Washington on immigration reform. If that effort is successful, it could entice millions of illegal immigrants to pay U.S. taxes for the first time - and it could provide the labor force, skilled and unskilled, that many companies desperately need to ensure growth. A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that immigration reform could inject more than a trillion dollars into the U.S. economy.

So at a time when recession-riddled Europe is muddling through, and major developing economies like China have huge looming question marks, the United States is looking pretty good from the top down.

Now for the bad news: Things don't look as good from the bottom up, because an empowered minority at the top of American society will reap most of the benefits of this resurgence. The number of Americans who have participated in the rebound is smaller than in the past. Corporate profits remain high, but so does unemployment. According to a new study by a pair of economists at Northeastern University, those unemployed for more than six months have an especially tough time returning to the workforce.

It's not easy for a country with such disparities to maintain prosperity and domestic tranquility, but there is no guarantee that the benefits of even an extended rebound will narrow the growing wealth gap.

America's decline is a myth. The United States' relative position in the world is improving, and Washington won't stand in the way. Some of the gains we see will improve the U.S. standard of living at every level: Cheaper energy means less pressure at the pump, and a comprehensive immigration reform bill could empower many yet-to-be Americans who deserve a voice. But for still-jobless and underemployed Americans, it's the recovery that's a fiction.

Welcome to America's relative rise: Wall Street is back. Main Street? Maybe not.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

52 Comments
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I find Mr. Bremmer's flippant disregard for the have-nots to be highly offensive. This piece reads like a press release from the GOP. As long as the fat continue to get fatter while the thin get thinner, America will never become a true Superpower on the only playing field that matters: the one of morality, justice and equality. If this over-consumptive, obese beast doesn't stop bullying the rest of the world, and stop ignoring its own poor, I can confidently predict that we will see the poor rise up in arms and start a drawn-out civil war in the US within the next ten years. Ignore the great divide, Mr. Bremmer, at your own peril.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

I find Mr. Bremmer's flippant disregard for the have-nots to be highly offensive. This piece reads like a press release from the GOP.

More like a press release for Big Government. The Dem's are just as culpable as the GOP. Two sides of the same coin, really.

Here's an interesting rebuttal to the above article:

http://www.thedailybell.com/29013/Anthony-Wile-US-Decline-Ending-or-Just-Beginning

4 ( +6 / -2 )

America was quickly on its way to becoming Rome.

... okay, so the invaders aren't riding elephants, but the net effect is the same. The U.S. is following precisely the same trend as Rome did before its collapse. An entitled elite, large foreign traffic, huge immigration, and an economy incredibly dependant on war.

The problem is not now, but rather when "Pax Americana" is reinstated after the latest series of wars. Then the entire war-based economy will unwind. Of course the U.S.c an't allow this, so it continues to spread it military thinner and thinner across the entire globe until the U.S. itself is virtually undefended. Right now the U.S. national defence force is lower than it was during WW2, and their nearest neighbour, Canada, has more troops and equipment on hand than the entire U.S.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Let me get this straight. A new pipeline, a trade agreement, and a possible changes to immigration laws are going to solve America's debt crisis?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Frungy<< America hasn't declared war on any country since WW2. Pax Americana has been in existence since then. America is on the decline, just look at the fiscal cliff and furlough and the excessive debt. The country may have a history of being resilient, and you may even notice a slight increase in jobs and home ownership, but the fact still remains, America's best days are behind it. Immigration will not boost the economy, it will only widen the gap between rich and poor.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

If America were truly in decline, then the immigrants would stop coming. So why are millions of Koreans, Chinese, Mexicans, Indians, etc. lined up to get in when the country's future is so filled with doom and gloom?

1 ( +7 / -6 )

America hasn't declared war on any country since WW2

Ha ha. Nice one.

Maybe no declarations but plenty of wars and invasions, overt and covert.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Invasions and and occupations. Incursions. Insurgency yes. But, no wars. Iraq did not provoke war with America.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@@<<Jeff Lee, The Four Freedoms of America is the reason why immigrants come to America. Look it up, and thank me for the education later. Immigrants come for these basic freedoms.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

America hasn't declared war on any country since WW2.

What world are you living my friend? Whether they have declared war or not they have certainly done their fair share of butchery in the name of their so called higher ideals.

Immigrants come for these basic freedoms.

Do you seriously believe this? The USA is the only only country in the world with these "freedoms". The same freedoms that they have destroyed weaker countries in the name of.

If America were truly in decline, then the immigrants would stop coming.

There are still plenty of immigrants going to Europe as well but according to this article Europe is a basket case. I think a lot of Americans really need to see their place relative to the rest of the world and stop simply look down upon it. It is rather arrogant to think that the USA cannot decline as a world power, plenty of powers just as powerful as the USA have declined, so why should the USA be immune?

People like Mr. Bremmer are standing on a sinking ship and not noticing that it is sinking because they are looking at someone else's problems on the horizon. The financial system in the world is at breaking point, it is a huge monster that needs to be fed and there is nothing left to feed it with. It isn't anybodies fault (although we love pointing fingers at each other), we have all been deluded into believing the same illusions. All that it is is a product of the human mind and as such it can be changed. Wasn't it Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results? How are the results going to be any different from the crash in 2008 when all they did was pump more money into the system and went back to business as usual? I'm sorry it isn't just the US that is declining but everywhere that is following the same grubby, selfish and petty model. People like Mr. Bremmer just don't want to believe it because they are drugged and brainwashed by an ideology that their entire sense of self worth and ego is invested in. The human mind is capable to aspire to so much more than this petty, selfish system where we are all squabbling around in the dirt picking up a few more crumbs than the next guy. It is a system that is based entirely on fear and makes us do selfish things contrary to our higher self. Whatever happens this entire system is going to come crashing down, just like the Soviet Union did, and there is going to be a painful period of readjustment when we come to realize that it is not in our best interests to rape every resource from the planet and brutalize each other just to feed the beast.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

The American constitution does not require an Official formal declaration war (congress), to enact war.

All conflicts after WW2, has been simply approved by congress.. so in legal terms, it has not declared war.. since ww2.

In any event, if America becomes, once again an energy exporter, then there is hope. With the fleeting image of an energy crisis now fading, (shale oil/gas), it is highly possible for it to recover.. With 20 out of the 60 companies with revenues of more then 100 billion a year been, American owned.. (tax havens?). Migration has long supported the American economy.

The only reason why, there is a perception that China will overcome American economic might in terms of rank, is simply its population. But, demographically it will suffer. With 60% of its population been reduced as second-class citizens, (rural population), Mao`s ideal of a egalitarian state is long dead.

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

adam smith
-1 ( +1 / -2 )

America (or any other country) won't do well if there is an increasing inequality of wealth (and an uneven playing field). It isn't necessary to redistribute wealth, but the increasing rate of wealth moving to the top (generally through big corporations lobbying government) needs to be addressed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't think it is necessarily the distribution of wealth that is the problem but rather the idea that the accumulation of wealth is what makes someone a worthwhile person. It seems that wealth has some kind of moral value in the mindset of many Americans (or other nations for that matter). It is rather unfortunate and a symptom of a soul sickness that is pervading many societies.

@Talexa

Sorry if my last post came across as a bit abrupt, I expressed my point directed to you rather clumsily I think. I meant more to say that it really doesn't matter if war is declared or not when you are having your family killed and your house burned to the ground. That sort of thing anyway.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I just looked up the four freedoms and the 3rd and 4th are laughable in modern America. It is a system based entirely on want and fear. Many people never stop wanting and then they are constantly afraid that they won't get what they want, or even worse someone else will get what they want or they are frightened that when they get what they want someone else will come along and take it from them.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Many people never stop wanting

And where do people ever stop wanting?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes America is in the rise ,not decline.America will be awashed with oil with the new fracking technology . 5-10 years from now he will surpassed the oil production of Saudi Arabia. He is the no. 1 producer of natutal gas today. All kinds of technological inventions,military and civilian are still going on. All millioners and billioners all over the world are investing in real estate and other businesses. People rich and poor still want to live in America. Imagine without America what Iran,North Korea and other countries that supports terrorism will do to the world. People around the world should be thankful to America that he still policing the world even with financial and Human consequences. So guys who said that America is declining, People who wants America to full down are those who hit freedom and democracy. GOD BLESS AMERICA.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Nessie

If you look at my previous posts you will see that I am in no way suggesting that this phenomena is unique to America. My personal feeling, and I may be wrong, is that the natural instinct to want comfort and provide for our loved ones has tipped over into gluttony.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

People around the world should be thankful to America that he still policing the world even with financial and Human consequences. So guys who said that America is declining, People who wants America to full down are those who hit freedom and democracy.

They are so grateful, can't you feel the gratitude?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@PaulJ>>

{"Immigrants come for these basic freedoms.

Do you seriously believe this? The USA is the only country in the world with these "freedoms". The same freedoms that they have destroyed weaker countries in the name of."}

Sure, other countries have similar basic freedoms, however, most immigrants identify with America as the bread basket of the world, E pluribus unum, equality for women and freedom of religion, among other things. They know other Western countries have similar freedoms that are enjoyed by Americans, but there's no denying the latter.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

People became rich because they work hard,Like Bill Gates,Steve Jobs,Buffet,Wynne,Andelson,founder of Walmart,Facebook, and others. So if you just live paycheck to paycheck then ask yourself why?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

talexa05

I think a little humility is in order and like I said rather than looking down at the rest of the world as having some kind of inferior values perhaps you should come down to our level and see your place relative to the rest of the world. America is part of the world and not above it. Do you really think that no immigrants are going to Britain, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Australia, Canada etc etc etc? Immigrants will go where they believe there is opportunity.

there's no denying the latter.

Yes there is

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Iraq did not provoke war with America.

No they did not but the US decided to massacre them anyway.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Dies laughing

Thanks, I needed a good laugh, the day was getting boring. That same belief brought down one empire after another throughout human history, and history has this uncanny way of repeating itself. I hope everyone in the US keeps believing this so that no one looks around to see what other countries are on your tail.

Oh, and even if the US really isn't in decline, that doesn't mean others can't catch up or exceed the US's abilities in terms of economy, military, and...well everything else.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

No wars?

What about the "War on Terror?"

Didn't the U.S.A. win that one:)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

With cities like Stockton California, and soon Detroit Michigan, and many others declaring bankruptcy, I don't see how this translates into growth. This guy is not out of touch with reality, he's just a mouthpiece for the Bernanke printing machine.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"America's best days are behind it"

Not according to Barack and Michelle Obama!

"Whether they have declared war or not they have certainly done their fair share of butchery"

No, but the U.S. has done more than its fair share of spilling its own citizens' blood on behalf of other countries, including Korea, which everyone but older Koreans seems to have forgotten.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The USA has very large insider (Gov) crony corruption. Many of the large corporations pay no taxes and lobby Gov for even more handouts. High financial corruption especially with the low interest rates (Goldman Sachs probably #1) -derivatives, speculation on commodities, private Federal Reserve buying own debt, Federal Reserve QE infinity (85 billion$ a month), openly rigged physical gold/silver and most commodity markets. Insider trading legalized for Congress. Huge spending for military and especially homeland security. Forced medical care.

The shale oil could actually save it, but with the financial derivatives nothing could (these banks must fail and glass-steagall reintroduced). Obama will not allow this so the people will suffer.

Sadly, I see Japan moving the same way. Money printing and the Gov turning its' back on the people (Fukushima, trade agreements like US Beef etc). Financial speculation and derivatives. Japan Post bank going private (a very successful bank of the people).

The smart people are trading in their depreciating private Federal Reserve dollars (and Yen) for physical gold/silver and farming (organic/hydroponics/aquaponics). They are pulling the purse strings and cutting costs where they can while these Governments continually go out of control to indebt themselves.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No, but the U.S. has done more than its fair share of spilling its own citizens' blood on behalf of other countries

Yes, in the same way as the Japanese freed the Asian countries from their colonial aggressors.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Decline from what ? Clemeanceau said it all decades ago :"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without knowing civilization".

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Decline from what ?

Decline from personal freedom and independence to a TSA grope in the pants. Most of these "gropes" are financial however. Once they got away from the gold/silver standard the fiat criminals could take control. Private Federal Reserve was a thorn that should have never been inserted.

But look how long it took Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus to fail once they joined Euro (gave up sovereign currency). In some ways USA is the financial hero.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Things don’t look as good from the bottom up, because an empowered minority at the top of American society will reap most of the benefits of this resurgence. The number of Americans who have participated in the rebound is smaller than in the past. Corporate profits remain high, but so does unemployment.

An "empowered" minority? Empowered by whom? Themselves? (I believe America's decline as a secular, representative democracy centers around the above quote.) That empowered minority can buy Congress and get laws passed that increase their power. (No wonder the "bottom" holds government in such low esteem.)

The great potential wealth that is represented in human capital goes untapped and wasted as corporations hoard their "profits." If this is not decline, I am not sure what is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Decline from personal freedom and independence

Both have always been exaggerated claims. Personal freedom ? When there were slaves ? categories of people with no civil rights ? conscription for colonial wars like Vietnam ? And independence when all your economy and military depends on foreign cooperation and foreign markets ? Seriously, tell me a year when that was better. I don't mean for your little person, but for most Americans. They've lost on some points, gained on others. That's like most countries, hopefully. And interdependence is what allowed us the incredible progresses over the last 250 years, even if there are crisis, failures on the way. North-Korea could tell about decline.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The great potential wealth that is represented in human capital goes untapped and wasted as corporations hoard their "profits." If this is not decline, I am not sure what is.

It's a program for the future, what people have to fight about from now. But they can also just sit on them bum and cry : "Mamma, that's decline...".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

America! A smoke and mirrors show! Illusionary! Hyped!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There are still plenty of immigrants going to Europe

Europe isn't just one country. And if you think of the immigration patterns more immigrants are going to America than Europe as a whole.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Seriously, tell me a year when that was better.

1893 for sure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_Columbian_Exposition

The cities at that time had wealth and people worked hard. People dressed up and were way more literate than now. Innovation is really the key at keeping the established money (control) and criminals at bay. Most people were independent and land owners. US Army was basically nothing until WW1. No Federal Income tax on wages since tariffs paid for that (tax for businesses).

The one thing that kept America going is the innovation. Look at Argentina (at one time the richest country in South America by far ) ==> lost it all to the bankers/political corruption and now many citizens must look to BitCoin since they cannot buy gold/silver and trading outside of Argentina is limited.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

1893 for sure

Trying your hand at myth-making, Badsey?

In the US, 1893 was the year a very serious bank-panic occurred. (Since the Civil War, bank panics and economic downturns were regular occurrences. Or were those myths?

http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/wicker.banking.panics.us

The cities at that time had wealth and people worked hard.

Unfortunately, most still lived in rural areas, where life was not that pleasant. Those who migrated to cities often lived in crowded tenements until they could find work that would enable them to move upwards. A great many did not, and the frequent bank panics didn't help them any.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm pretty sure Canada does not have more troops on hand than the US.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I agree with the author that America is not in decline, but not for the same reasons. America's success has always been in its ability to reinvent itself, innovate, take risks and revolutionize. In a word, it moults and evolves. While it goes through this moulting process, as it is now, it is in a weakened state. But it usually emerges stronger and shortly afterward blazes a new trail for the rest of the world, most of which is hidebound by tradition and entrenched privilege. Americans are not as stupid or lazy as much as the rest of the world would like to believe or cynically hope.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I agree with the author that America is not in decline, but not for the same reasons. America's success has always been in its ability to reinvent itself, innovate, take risks and revolutionize.

You bring up a very good point, but it might apply to a past when America could look to other nations as being ahead of it. Certainly many of our founding fathers held France in high esteem. But we have to take a very serious look at the factors that enabled America to "reinvent" itself, and whether or not they exist in our current situation.

It might make for a very interesting discussion going forward.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks, I needed a good laugh, the day was getting boring. That same belief brought down one empire after another throughout human history, and history has this uncanny way of repeating itself. I hope everyone in the US keeps believing this so that no one looks around to see what other countries are on your tail.

First of all, the US is NOT an empire, never has been, never will be. Every country has their high points and low points and the US is no exception, the US has always been strong, confident and resilient to strive to be the best and to achieve the highest success. The US doesn't have to believe, it knows, holding the most patents, always big on innovation. Sure other countries can catch up, that is not the issue, they can do as they please, but surpassing the US will take a very long time.

Oh, and even if the US really isn't in decline, that doesn't mean others can't catch up or exceed the US's abilities in terms of economy, military, and...well everything else.

The US will rebound and I believe and know the best days are ahead of us, it matters not what others think, if they want to be pessimistic or if they want they want to wish for Americas downfall, it ain't gonna happen. Military-wise would be the same. For any country to match the firepower and the might of the US military is unmatched and even China on most scales will never match the heart and soul and perseverance of the US military.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

For any country to match the firepower and the might of the US military is unmatched and even China on most scales will never match the heart and soul and perseverance of the US military.

It's kind of sad that a country's greatness is measured by the power and strength of it's military.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"The new global phenomenon of state capitalism"

China has taken this to new heights.

"So if you just live paycheck to paycheck then ask yourself why?"

Heh, because the vast majority of people in virtually every country in the world basically live paycheck to paycheck, heck, we all can't be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Europe isn't just one country.

I am aware of that

And if you think of the immigration patterns more immigrants are going to America than Europe as a whole.

Says you. Why can't Americans take your heads out of the sand and see that some of things that you that you think are unique to your country are happening elsewhere? I bet you are the same people who are accusing Japan of being insular.

Both have always been exaggerated claims.

Don't burst their bubbles, they would much rather believe in their myths. Land of freedom and opportunity, anyone can make it here, no class system yadda yadda yadda

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It's kind of sad that a country's greatness is measured by the power and strength of it's military

It isn't by the rest of us, just by Americans.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"The Keystone XL pipeline will likely be approved"

With Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I like my military strong and not nuetered "The Keystone XL pipeline will likely be approved"

lol, Not while this President is in Charge. Because it would make him look bad approving it. For everything Obama stands for (green energy) that he has been working on to change America and its dependency on oil would make him look stupid, even though he knows that it would benefit the entire USA to get that pipeline. but he puts politics before the people.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In the US, 1893 was the year a very serious bank-panic occurred. (Since the Civil War, bank panics and economic downturns were regular occurrences. Or were those myths?

Andrew Jackson ended the private Second Bank of the United States 1836 (Rothschild et al). Rothschild et al continually attacked the American banking system since then (same with other independent financial countries like Iran, Libya now). 1893 JP Morgan (Rothschild minion) stabilized the system after pulling out the carpet by borrowing physical gold to the US Gov.

All that doesn't matter since Americans held physical gold and silver (very big topic then even more than now). Most of these banks runs/collapse only affected business operations. =People didn't trust banks or debt.

http://www.acus.org/files/u3/USA-GDP-1810-2010.png (1893 barely a blip on GDP)

==> You need to cause volatility or financial corruption for these bankers to make big money. Worst case scenario for them is Turkey in that almost everyone has physical gold and silver and the banks must beg for deposits. US populace is going back to the silver (historically had wild silver deposits) and gold standard (that's the trend) and you see it with Japanese populace now also.

Great, interesting stuff and I will look more into it. Expect more when I get time. 1893 -A great year and change for the US.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

sweet and very objective 'cough' opinion. I read however only the top slice of america is recovering (that means the richest groups and families) while the rest keeps lagging in the pit of the crisis. It's probably 'normal' albeit not quite as heartwarming as the author here would have it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Declining compared to what? In relative terms, it is from it's position after WWII. America was riding high on public opinion especially from Europe. As for the US debt, it is nothing compare to Japan's. From a viewpoint of freedom and safety, maybe the whole world is declining in terms of civilizations. Some even make an economic argument that the world is declining into another dark ages. Don't know, just happy that I was able to see the pinnacle of civilization with the US moon landing in 1969. Haven't seem much advancement since.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So America's economy has taken a hit in recent years. This does not mean a 'decline', especially not in the face of its main rival China.

China might be making cash hand over fist but that's setting a low bar for measuring the quality of a civilization or society. The economy - money - is only one factor and the only one China is doing well. Nobody talks of a 'Chinese dream'. People do not aspire to be more like the Chinese - corrupt, autocratic and totalitarian. Nobody wants to live under the Chinese government or one like it (except perhaps those few like the North Koreans who have it demonstrably worse). Hell, even the rich Chinese use their wealth to move to America, and other free countries abroad.

China will remain an economic and military power, but it's cultural footprint will not grow much and the world will never look to it for leadership the way it does America.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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