Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Our Crumbling Foundation" NYT 5/26/2009 A19

Reading Bob Herbert’s “Our Crumbling Foundation” in the NYT, May 26, 2009 A 19, one is tempted to think back to the last posting here of David Goldman’s “Depression and Demographics” where he pins the long term, and really, only solution  to the financial health of the country on the birth rate. Anything besides living babies who will grow into autonomous producers of wealth is considered “bookkeeping and ultimately trivial.”

Today, Bob Herbert wrings his hands and does not know what to say about the solution:

“America has become self-destructively shortsighted in recent decades. That has kept us from acknowledging the awful long-term consequences of the tidal wave of joblessness that has swept over the nation since the start of the recession in December 2007. And it is keeping us from understanding how important the maintenance and development of the infrastructure is to the nation’s long-term social and economic prospects.

“It is not just about roads and bridges, although they are important. It’s also about schools, and the electrical grid, and environmental and technological innovation. It ‘s about establishing a world-class industrial and economic platform for a nation that is speeding toward second-class status on a range of important fronts.

“It’s about whether we’re serious about remaining a great nation. We don’t act like it. Here’s a staggering statistic: According to the Education Trust, the U.S. is the only industrialized country in which young people are less likely than their parents to graduate from high school

“We can’t put our people to work. We can’t educate the young. We can’t keep the infrastructure in good repair. It’s hard to believe that this nation could be so dysfunctional at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. It’s tragic.”


It’s important to keep in mind that this is the same newspaper with editorial and op-ed that has espoused 1) contraception fearing that we would be standing on each other’s shoulders eating seaweed, and 2) abortion that has done in 49,551,703 babies.

Attempting to make a point and sustain the critique, I offer a piece from the previous posting of David Goldman on this blog:

“The declining demographics of the traditional American family raise a dismal possibility: Perhaps the world is poorer now because the present generation did not bother to rear a new generation. All else is bookkeeping and ultimately trivial. This unwelcome and unprecedented change underlies the present global economic crisis. We are grayer, and less fecund, and as a result we are poorer, and will get poor­er still —no utter what economic policies we put in place.

“We could put this another way: America’s housing market collapsed because conservatives lost the culture wars even back while they were prevailing in electoral politics. During the past half century America has changed from a nation in which most households had two parents with young children. We are now a mélange of alternative arrangements in which the nuclear family is merely a niche phenomenon. By 2025, single-person households may outnumber families with children.

“The collapse of home prices and the knock-on effects on the banking system stem from the shrinking count of families that require houses. It is no accident that the housing market —the economic sector most sensitive to demographics— was the epicenter of the economic crisis. In fact, demographers have been predicting a housing crash for years due to the demographics of diminishing demand. Wall Stre­et and Washington merely succeeded in prolonging the housing bubble for a few additional years. The adverse demographics arising from cultural decay, though, portend far graver consequences for the funding of health and retirement systems.

“Conservatives have indulged in self-congratulation over the quarter-century run of growth that began in 1984 with the Reagan administration’s tax reforms. A prosperity that fails to rear a new generation in sufficient number is hollow, as we have learned to our detriment during the past year. Compared to Japan and most European countries, which face demographic catastrophe, America’s position seems relatively strong, but that strength is only postponing the reckoning by keeping the world’s capital flowing into the U.S. mortgage market right up until the crash at the end of 2007.

“As long as conservative leaders delivered economic growth, family issues were relegated to Sunday rhetoric. Of course, conservative thinkers never actually proposed to measure the movement’s success solely in units of gross domestic product, or square feet per home, or cubic displacement of the average automobile engine. But delivering consumer goods was what conservatives seemed to do well, and they rode the momentum of the Reagan boom.

“Until now. Our children are our wealth. Too few of them are seated around America’s common table, and it is their absence that makes us poor. Not only the absolute count of children, to be sure, but also the shrinking proportion of children raised with the moral material advantages of two-parent families diminishes our prospects. The capital markets have reduced the value of homeowners’ equity by $8 trillion and of stocks by $7 trillion. House­holds with a provider aged 45 to 54 have lost half their net worth between 2004 and 2009, according to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. There are ways to ameliorate the financial crisis, but none of them will replace the lives that should have been part of America and now are missed.”

This suggests that nothing economic policy can do will entirely reverse the great wave of wealth destruction.”[1]


Welcome news is the upholding of Proposition 8 in California that bans same sex marriage.  The loss of perception concerning the meaning of human sexuality and the communio of the sexes as imaging the Divine Persons in holy matrimony was foreseen as an outgrowth of contraception. That originating evil is still with us, and still not clearly understood in its treacherous undermining of the human person.

[1] David P. Goldman, “First Things,” May 2009.

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