The tagline of this blog refers to the decline of America, which we hope to stem by creatively presenting some of the problems and an occasional solution. Jeremiah is an old man, though, and open to the charge of nostalgia. Were things really better in the old days? Indeed, the simple topic of whether things are getting better or worse has become politicized. The incumbent party always wants us to feel rosy, and no one wants to talk about a secular decline.
Oswald shot Kennedy and the straitlaced bulwark gave way to the gargantuan banana republic – Philip Roth
Another crabby old man, Philip Roth, wrote that America went to hell after President Kennedy. That would mark a decline starting in 1963, which is the same year identified by Jeremiah. But don’t take our word for it. Below is a chart of America’s trade balance, with annual deficits from the 1970s, and approaching $800 billion in the new century.
Here are some key dates that marked America’s peak in the 1970s.
- Nixon ends gold standard, 1971
- Real weekly earnings peaks, 1972
- End of Apollo space program, 1972
- Personal saving rate peaks, 1975
- Trade balance goes negative, 1976
Some trends, like mortality, stature, and income continue to be positive, but lag other advanced economies since roughly 1960. See infant mortality, for example. The income trend is not so rosy once we correct for inflation. See chart below.
Civil rights have improved since 1960 but, again, not in comparison with other countries – and now we seem to be backsliding. The security state represents an attack on everyone’s civil rights, regardless of race or gender.
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Our purpose is not to diagnose the problem (links for that are here and here) but to make plain that there is a problem. This is the first step in any treatment program – and maybe the hardest. That’s why our collective American consciousness is in such deep denial. Try replacing “alcohol,” in the sentence above with, say, “consumerism.”