US Should Shed Fear of Outside World: Panelists at JLF

To recover from the ongoing economic slump, the US should "urgently pull its act together" and shed fear of the outside world, panelists at the Jaipur Literature Festival observed here today.

Author Edward Luce led the pessimists on the panel discussion on 'The Decline of America: Westerners and Resterners' pointing to the "triple cocktail" of factors that are contributing to the American decline.

"The middle-class income is stagnating, there has been a decline in upward mobility and the inequality between the rich and poor is widening. This is the triple cocktail of causes that is fuelling my pessimism about United States," said Luce, the author of 'Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Descent.'

The other panelists, who included authors Ian Buruma, Frank Savage and Peter Hussler, agreed with him leading Luce to remark in a lighter vein, "The other pessimistic thing is that everyone agrees with me on the issue."

Buruma pointed to yet another cause that was a cause of worry.

"The real danger is if too many Americans give in to fear of the outside world," he said, to which Luce added pithily "With US not wanting to let in the next Mohammad Atta, it is missing out on letting in the next Bill Gates."

Savage furthered Luce's observations by adding to the list of factors leading to weakening of American power.

"We need to pull our act together... The education system is in a decline and the public schools are terrible. Besides, the financial crisis – brought over in part by the costly wars – is another big problem," he said.

"Things like educational decline, with American students scoring very low in subjects like Maths and English, are long term slow burning fuses," Luce added.

And that was not the end of areas where the panelists thought the American power was in decline.

"Besides the hold up on immigration reform that was just pointed out, there has also been a decline in investment in research and development as well as infrastructure," Luce explained, pointing out that all this had led to a breakdown of the social mobility escalator.

"In addition, the talks with Republicans to frame policies to address the problems are going nowhere," Savage said, adding to the already long list of woes discussed during the hour-long session.

"In fact, there is a complete governance paralysis from which I see little signs of US emerging," Luce added.

However, it was Savage who did bring in a little note of optimism at the very end of the session.

"I think despite everything, US will still end up as a strong country even though it might have to share power with other states. Also, I am hopeful that President Barack Obama in his second term will be able to act more confidently to address issues he believes in," he concluded.

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