The good news, aside from the fact that Americans have never had it so good, is that millions in China are no longer starving. Japan talks of marketing hybrid cars, not re-establishing its old “Co-Prosperity Sphere.” The Persian Gulf looks more like Las Vegas than the badlands of Waziristan. Billions in the new globalized world are now emulating the American middle class, which, for all the caricatures, still represents freedom and affluence for so many.
The downside, of course, is a growing collective panic here at home, over whether such undeniable progress is sustainable when America is up to its neck in debt, dependent on foreign energy and plagued by self-doubt and inaction.
Our 21st-century paralysis is surprising. The United States is not materially exhausted. We sit atop trillions of dollars worth of untapped oil, gas, coal, shale and tar sands.
America could mine more uranium, and reprocess fuels to build hundreds of nuclear plants. American agriculture is blessed with the world’s best soils, most developed irrigation systems, and most productive and astute farmers.
There is as much sun and wind in the western United States as anywhere in the world. We have plenty of natural resources and the know-how to make all the wood, steel and cement products we need.
A new, hungrier generation of Americans will have to want to reclaim our pre-eminence and change the national attitude. It must be ready to pay off generations of debt rather than borrow, build rather than sue, and drill rather than whine.
It’s time to honor rather than avoid and outsource physical labor. Our children are healthy enough to cut our own lawns and pick our fruit. Let’s also hope they want to hear a lot more about Gen. David Petraeus’ success, and a lot less of Madonna’s latest psychodramas.
But just as importantly, what Americans need now is leadership to get moving again -- rather than more platitudes about hope, squabbling about race and gender, and endless rhetoric about who is really a maverick or a true conservative or the most liberal. What we need to know from our two presidential candidates are specifics about how to jumpstart America.
So, how many more barrels of oil, refineries and megawatts will America produce --and when and how? How much debt will the next administration retire -- and when and how. How and when will our schools return to knowledge-based rather than the present (and failing) therapeutic curriculum?
Americans, in short, should be tired of hearing that we are a post-industrial, postmodern, post-anything society. Instead, we want to be known again as a can-do producer nation that sweats as much as it thinks. And the confident presidential candidate who can best assure us of that will surely win this election.