I didn’t find Tom Friedman’s Singapore column as revelatory as many others (probably because I’m skeptical on some of the current international panic). But I did think these two grafs were the money grafs though:
I was struck because that kind of linkage is so often missing in U.S. politics today. Republicans favor deep cuts in government spending, while so far exempting Medicare, Social Security and the defense budget. Not only is that not realistic, but it basically says that our nation’s priorities should be to fund retirement homes for older people rather than better schools for younger people and that we should build new schools in Afghanistan before Alabama.
President Obama just laid out a smart and compelling vision of where our priorities should be. But he did not spell out how and where we will have to both cut and invest — really intelligently and at a large scale — to deliver on his vision.
The Afghan line is a bit of a throwaway but the general point is right on. We have spent a lot building schools and on education during the last century but right now demographics mean this country’s fiscal burden is shifting to the elderly and we have no strategy for how to take care of our aging population and improve our schools – not just through spending but also by improving productivity and delivery. And our political debate, while contentious and loud, is pretty devoid of serious solutions because the politics don’t work right now given where the organized political power is.