We have the leading companies and the leading sectors in the advanced industrial world, we have an incredibly dynamic society, and we have high levels of entrepreneurship. And we have the best universities in the world. ... We also have impeccable credit. What we don't have is a political system that can take the simple measures to deal with our short-term deficit.
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America washes its dirty linen in public. When scandals such as this one hit, they do sully America's image in the world. But what usually also gets broadcast around the world is the vivid reality that the United States forces accountability and punishes wrongdoing, even at the highest levels.
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We all accuse Vladimir Putin of Cold War nostalgia, but Washington's elites - politicians and intellectuals - miss the old days as well. They wish for the world in which the United States was utterly dominant over its friends, its foes were to be shunned entirely, and the challenges were stark, moral, and vital. Today's world is messy and complicated. China is one of our biggest trading partners and our looming geopolitical rival. Russia is a surly spoiler, but it has a globalized middle class and has created ties in Europe.
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Foreign policy commands attention when it's crisis management. A street revolt breaks out in Egypt or Libya or Kiev and everyone asks, how should the president respond? Now these are important parts of America's role in the world, but they are essentially reactive and tactical. The broader challenge is to lay down a longer-term strategy that endures after the crisis of the moment.
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The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expense of it, " [John] Adams wrote. "There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." Jefferson's fear was that without such a system of public education, the country would end up being ruled by a privileged elite that would recycle itself through a network of private institutions that entrenched their advantage.
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I should have paid greater attention to my mentor in graduate school, Samuel Huntington, who once explained that Americans never recognize that, in the developing world, the key is not the kind of government - communist, capitalist, democratic, dictatorial - but the degree of government. That absence of government is what we are watching these days, from Libya to Iraq to Syria. ('Why they still hate us, 13 years later, ' Washington Post, 09/05/2014)
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We have not noticed how fast the rest has risen. Most of the industrialized world-and a good part of the nonindustrialized world as well-has better cell phone service than the United States. Broadband is faster and cheaper across the industrial world, from Canada to France to Japan, and the United States now stands sixteenth in the world in broadband penetration per capita. Americans are constantly told by their politicians that the only thing we have to learn from other countries' health care systems is to be thankful for ours. Most Americans ignore the fact that a third of the country's public schools are totally dysfunctional (because their children go to the other two-thirds). The American litigation system is now routinely referred to as a huge cost to doing business, but no one dares propose any reform of it. Our mortgage deduction for housing costs a staggering $80 billion a year, and we are told it is crucial to support home ownership, except that Margaret Thatcher eliminated it in Britain, and yet that country has the same rate of home ownership as the United States. We rarely look around and notice other options and alternatives, convinced that "we're number one.
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France placed the state above society , democracy above constitutionalism, and equality above liberty. As a result, for much of the nineteenth century it was democratic, with broad suffrage and elections, but hardly liberal. it was certainly a less secure home for individual freedom than was England or America.
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Generations from now, when historians write about these times, they might note that, in the early decades of the twenty-first century, the United States succeeded in its great and historic mission--it globalized the world. But along the way, they might write, it forgot to globalize itself.
As the United States continues its slow but steady recovery from the depths of the financial crisis, nobody actually wants a massive austerity package to shock the economy back into recession, and so the odds have always been high that the game of budgetary chicken will stop short of disaster. Looming past the cliff, however, is a deep chasm that poses a much greater challenge -- the retooling of the country's economy, society, and government necessary for the United States to perform effectively in the twenty-first century.
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It is likely that human beings will find fulfillment and will be rewarded for the same qualities that they have been rewarded for for 5,000 years. And that is intelligence, hard work, honesty, a sense of character, loyalty to family and friends, and above all, love and faith. If you are trying to decide what you should do, those are the things you should do. And you know it.
Intriguingly, in poll after poll, when Americans are asked what public institutions they most respect, three bodies are always at the top of their list: the Supreme Court, the armed forces, and the Federal Reserve System. All three have one thing in common: they are insulated from the public pressures and operate undemocratically. It would seem that Americans admire these institutions, precisely because they lead rather than follow.
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One of the things that has been very difficult in Libya is the sense of uncertainty - the sense that they haven't actually finished the revolution, that there was still a great deal of uncertainty. That uncertainty has made Libya harder for business in terms of oil and other things as well.
In a very weak economy, when you say 'cut government spending,' what you mean is you're laying off school teachers and you're de-funding various programs that put money into the economy. This means you have more unemployed people that then draw unemployment benefits and don't pay taxes.
Germany is a fascinating role model. The Germans have maintained their manufacturing edge despite being a high-tax, high-regulation economy. Why? Because the government really set about ensuring that it maintained funding for technical training, technical advancements and programs. It made a concerted effort to retain high-end, complex manufacturing -- the kind of BMW model, if you will. And they've done that so successfully that Germany, which has a quarter of America's population, exports more than America does.
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Politically Incorrect was the name of the show Bill Maher hosted in the 1990s. It's also an apt description of the man himself. Now host of - HBO's hit show Real Time, I find Maher to be one of the sharpest observers of American politics and life in general out there. It doesn't mean I always agree with him. I always find him funny, though.
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If you listen to the political discourse in America today, you would think that all our problems have been caused by the Mexicans of the Chinese or the Muslims. The reality is that we have caused our own problems. Whatever has happened has been caused by isolating ourselves or blaming others.
ISIS is a formidable foe, but the counter forces to it have only just begun and if these forces, the Iraqi army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, American air power, the Syrian Free Army, work in a coordinated fashion, it will start losing ground. Also, please keep in mind that ISIS does not actually hold as much ground as the many maps flashed on television keep showing. Large parts of those territories that ISIS supposedly controls are vacant desert.
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Religions are vague, of course. This means that they are easy to follow -you can interpret their prescriptions as you like. but it also means that it is easy to slip up -there is always some injunction you are violating. But Islam has no religious establishment - no popes, no bishops - that can declare by fiat which is the correct interpretation. As a result, the decision to oppose the state on the grounds that is insufficiently Islamic belongs to anyone who wishes to exercise it.
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California has often led the country, indeed the world, in the technology, consumption, trends, lifestyles, and of course, mass entertainment. It is where the car found its earliest and fullest expression, where suburbs blossomed, where going to gym replaced going to church, where forces that lead so many to assume that direct democracy is the wave of the future - declining political parties, telecommuting, new technology, the internet generation 0 are all most well developed in this vast land.
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The United States needs serious change in its fiscal, entitlement, infrastructure, immigration, and education policies, among others. And yet a polarized and often paralyzed Washington has pushed dealing with these problems off into the future, which will only make them more difficult and expensive to solve.
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