America’s insularity knows no bounds. This is a paradoxical statement, of course, but it’s an apt way to describe America’s current debate about “our future,” and not a bad way to view Washington’s strained efforts to grapple with an economy wounded by two decades of economic Puritanism. As grand as the rhetoric may be, politicians in the United States remain incapable of looking beyond the next election—this goes for the haughty Democrat in the White House and goes double for the Republican opposition. The fact is, airy-fairy optimism still sells on the campaign trail, particularly when the day-to-day reality of the average American is so difficult. Christian, agnostic, Jew, Muslim, or otherwise, we’re a country of people constantly seeking redemption, and we’re suckers for a smooth-talking messiah. Not this time. At the risk of breaking the hearts that throb for Rick Perry, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, they cannot deliver us from the future. Thanks to a catastrophic series of decisions by presidents of both parties that radically deregulated our financial system and arrogantly dismissed the “lessons of Vietnam” as dusty, irrelevant history, the United States has shortened the period during which it will remain the dominant power in the 21st century. I know, I know, all the presidential candidates say we’re still the best! And so we are, in almost every economic and military measure. But measurements of power are like the altimeter of an aircraft: It’s not the altitude that matters, it’s the trajectory, and by now most Americans finally understand that Captain America is trending downward.
more from Michael Moran at Slate here.