Thomas Friedman Despairs

From “Obama’s 1-2 Punch?,” Thomas Friedman, NYT:

“If election campaigns are supposed to be an exercise in coming to grips with our biggest problems, then the one we just went through was a dismal failure.  Our only real solution — a strategy to reignite consistent growth so we can narrow our income gaps and lift the middle class.  — never got a serious airing.  Instead, each side was focused on how to secure a bigger slice of a shrinking pie for its own base.

“On Sunday, The Times’s Annie Lowrey wrote a piece quoting [Harvard economist Benjamin] Friedman who wondered aloud whether we’re not now entering a reverse cycle, ‘in which our absence of growth is delivering political paralysis, and the political paralysis preserves the absence of growth.’

“I think he’s right and that the only way to break out of this deadly cycle is with extraordinary leadership.  Republicans and Democrats would have to govern is just the opposite way they ran their campaigns — by offering bold plans that not only challenge the other’s base but their own and thereby mobilize the center, a big majority, behind their agenda, to break the deadlock.

“[T]he mantra that if you ‘just work hard and play by the rules’ you should expect a middle-class lifestyle is no longer operable.  Today you need to work harder and smarter, learn and re-learn faster and longer to be in the middle class.  The high-wage, middle-skilled job is a thing of the past.  Today’s high-wage or decent-wage jobs all require higher skills, passion or curiosity.  Government’s job is to help provide citizens with as many lifelong learning opportunities as possible to hone such skills.

“I still believe that America’s rich and the middle classes would pay more taxes and trim entitlements if they thought it was for a plan that was fair, would truly address our long-term fiscal imbalances and set America on a journey of renewal that would ensure our kids have a crack at the American dream. … If only we had a second-term president, unencumbered by ever having to run again, who was ready to test what really bold leadership might produce.”  Emphasis added.


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