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					America’s Decline: Is it an inevitable reality or only a possibility?
What do people mean, anyway, when they say that the U.S. is “in
decline”? If we are in decline, can we turn things around? How?
By providing you with a paper I wrote arguing that America is in decline, I may have created the
impression that no one thinks this is NOT true. This is not the case. So let’s begin with some
arguments to the contrary.

Three arguments that America is not in economic or political decline:
Roemer, Tim. “The U.S., a Beacon of Success.” (Jan 20, 2012)

Nye, Joseph S. “The Misleading Metaphor of Decline.” (Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2011)

Knapp, Bill. “A Case for Optimism.” (Jan 16, 2012)

There are also those who see any problems the U.S. is currently experiencing as opportunities
to develop radical new attitudes and technologies. For example, several recent Post editorials
have expressed alarm about our failure to take steps to deal with global climate change. After
all, there’s almost universal agreement among scientists that it’s happening and that our
lifestyles are the cause. However, there’s also a more positive way to view the situation. If we
have indeed waited too long to avoid a less predictable climate and a less predictable world,
then we can adapt both our mindset and our tools toward the goal of managing the earth’s
climate rather than simply avoiding change. The tension between these two attitudes can be
seen in the following two sources, the first an editorial and the second an article about more
innovative responses to the problem.

Robinson, Eugene. “Warming to the Obvious.” (October 25, 2011)

Achenbach, Joel. “At the Helm of Spaceship Earth: A New Brand of Environmentalism Calls for
Man to Take Charge.” (January 3, 2012)

That said, there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there about America’s immediate future. So it’s
important to remember that gloom is relative, and it also doesn’t have to be counter-
productive. We only feel that our standard of living, future prospects, and national prestige
and power are in decline when we compare today’s America with the America of decades past.
But that America enjoyed unparalleled economic, political, and technological success.
Secondly, any decline the U.S. is experiencing now is also happening elsewhere in the
developed world, and America’s economic problems are less serious than those of many other
developed countries.

Sources on global (or at least American & European) economic decline:
Samuelson, Robert J. “Crisis of the Old Order.” (July 25, 2011)

Cody, Edward. “Benefits a Birthright No More in Europe.” (April 25, 2011)

Finally, America still has the resources needed to turn things around—if we can find the
national unity and the political will to deal with our problems. Perhaps the first problem we
must confront is our dysfunctional political system, especially at the national level. (And just
complaining about this problem won’t be enough.)

Sources on our dysfunctional political system:
Ignatius, David. “A Political Crisis of Faith.” (August 10, 2011)

Petri, Alexandra. “Hungry for Substance, but Getting Only Style.” (October 1, 2011)

Samuelson, Robert J. “Budget Fantasies.” (April 18, 2011)

Dionne, E.J., Jr. “Courting Delay on Health Care.” (May 12, 2011)

Dionne, E.J., Jr. “The Reverse Houdinis. (October 13, 2011)

Dionne, E.J., Jr. “Duel Over a Declaration: The real Pea Party Didn’t Hate Government and
Taxes.” (July 4, 2011)

Marcus, Ruth. “It’s the Super Pac Era.” (January 4, 2012)

Cohen, Richard. “A Turn from Reason.” (January 31, 2012)

Dionne, E.J., Jr. “Elites Behaving Badly.” (April 18, 2011)

The last editorial also belongs among the next group. The next group of sources tells the story
of a growing political and economic division between the rich and the poor—and a dwindling of
the middle class between them.

Sources on our weakening economy:
Dionne, E.J., Jr. “Elites Behaving Badly.” (April 18, 2011)
Greenberg, David. “America Gambled on Greed—and Lost.” (July 31, 2011) This is a review of
a book by Jeff Madrick, The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present.

Fletcher, Michael A. “Census Shows Impact of Recession.” (September 14, 2011)

Samuelson, Robert J. “Unhappy Birthday: How the Debt Crisis Is Shaking Our Shared Political
Creed.” (July 4, 2011)

Samuelson, Robert J. “An Economy Stuck in Neutral.” June 27, 2011)

Cohen, Richard. “Sad Men: The American Dream is Now Tauntingly Out of Reach.”
(September 20, 2011)

Meyerson, Harold. “No Longer a Land of Opportunity.” (Jan 4, 2012)

Ignatius, David. “A Middle Class Imperiled.” (January 5, 2012)

If America is in decline, though, a growing economic inequality among individuals is neither the
only measure of that decline nor the only consequence. For example, if you browse through
some of the sources on higher education, you’ll read about steep cuts made to prestigious
American public universities—cuts that must sooner or later affect the quality of the education
they provide. From the list below, the first two editorials lament the U.S.’s decision to
abandon manned space flight, mostly for financial reasons. The others speculate that a
continuing decline in the American economy will result in a decline of American power and
influence in the world. This may be bad not just for us, but for the world, too.

Declining American leadership on the global stage:
Krauthammer, Charles. “Closing the New Frontier.” (February 12, 2010)

Petri, Alexandra. “Space, a Place We Used to Go.” (July 9, 2011)

Hiatt, Fred. “Choosing Decline.” (June 27, 2011)

Ignatius, David. “A Bleak Look at America’s Future.” (December 11, 2011)

Serwer, Daniel. “Slashing Budgets—and Our Global Influence.” (July 31, 2011)

Ignatius, David. “The Debate over U.S. ‘Strength’.” (Jan 26, 2012)

In closing, don’t forget that the “Works Cited” list at the end of my sample paper also
contains sources you might want to look at.

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