Jeff Jacoby

Are you glum about the nation's prospects? If so, you've got lots of company.

According to a recent poll for The Hill, a Washington-based daily, 69 percent of American voters say the US is declining, and 83 percent of voters describe themselves as worried (49 percent say very worried) about the country's future. Worldwide, the Pew Research Center finds in a separate poll, "many now see the financially-strapped US as a great power in decline." Among respondents in 18 countries, 47 percent expect China to replace the United States as the world's leading power. Only 36 percent disagree.

"America's best days are yet to come," Ronald Reagan often declared. But in a Rasmussen survey late last month, just 37 percent of likely voters shared that sentiment, while 45 percent thought America's best days were past.

So it's no surprise that when Commentary magazine, for a symposium published in its current issue, asks 41 American thinkers whether they're optimistic or pessimistic about America's future, there is pessimism aplenty among the responses.

Columnist David Brooks, for example, laments the "consumption-oriented" narcissism of American society, and the "fiscal crackup" it's bringing on. Kay Hymowitz, a Manhattan Institute scholar, expresses alarm at the breakdown of family life, including the "sharp rise in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing among the less-educated middle class." Former Undersecretary of State James K. Glassman is distressed that "America's will to lead seems to be slipping away," and that isolationism is rising on both right and left. Dennis Prager, the radio host and ethicist, sees an assault on the "American Trinity" -- the values proclaimed on every US coin: Liberty, E Pluribus Unum, and In God We Trust.

"Obesity already affects a third of our population, and will likely affect 50 percent of us by 2030," writes novelist Kate Christensen, while Dana Gioia, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, bewails "a vast dumbing-down of our public culture that may already be irreversible."


Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for Townhall.com.