The Hard Truth About Going ‘Soft’

There are some people capable of discerning the real world without the distortion of ideology.

The Hard Truth About Going ‘Soft’

The President got flak for pointing out we’re not on top of our game. He’s right

By Fareed Zakaria

Barack Obama has apparently committed blasphemy. In an interview in Florida on Sept. 29, he dared to say that America had gotten “soft.” The denunciations have come in fast and furious from the right. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Eric Cantor and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are all shocked—shocked—that the President could say such a thing.
The evidence on the topic is pretty clear. The U.S. is slipping, by most measures of global competitiveness. It has dipped slightly in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) rankings to No. 5, behind Sweden, Singapore, Finland and Switzerland. But the WEF rankings are based, in good measure, on surveys—polls of CEOs and the like. Other studies, using hard data, show America slipping further behind. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation finds that in category after category—actual venture-capital funding, research and development—the U.S. has dropped well behind countries like Japan, South Korea and Sweden. The foundation measures 44 countries and regions on their efforts to improve their competitiveness over the past decade. The U.S. comes in next to last.
Conservatives used to believe in confronting hard truths, not succumbing to comforting fairy tales. Some still do. In a bracing essay in the National Review, Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a politically active libertarian, describes how America has, well, gone soft. He notes that median wages have been stagnating for decades and argues that the country’s innovation culture has been corroded by a widespread search for “easy progress” and quick fixes. “In our hearts and minds,” Thiel writes, “we know that desperate optimism will not save us.” So when you hear someone like Eric Cantor recite one of these feel-good mantras (“U.S.A., No. 1!”), think of that well- chosen phrase: desperate optimism.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

The President notes an ‘inconvenient’ truth and the automatic reaction on the right is mindless affirmation of what has become the primary tenet of a fanatical ideology –

“U.S.A., No. 1!”

The only field in which the US now leads the world is military power and outreach.


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