Friday, June 06, 2008

Wake up call......

These days a lot of my reading has been focusing upon learning all that I can about the complex relationships that have arisen between the United States, China, India, and many other nations due to globalization. The book that I recently finished called The Elephant and the Dragon, about India and China, was both informative and daunting at points. Like many of the scholars, business leaders, and public policy makers interviewed in the book, I feel like we all need to invest more time in examining and coming to grips with the delicate nature of how global trade, labor, environmental policy, energy policy, and national identity/understanding are interwoven and immersed in potentially explosive tensions in our globalized world. These sections at the end of the book were really sobering for me....a few things that I am thinking about as we prepare to elect a new president......:

"Back in Mr. (Robert) Rubin's office, his serious tone of analysis takes on an edge of frustration. From where he sits, it seems that as the United States focuses on fighting the war on terror and a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it isn't paying enough attention to the gathering storm right outside his windows: America isn't fighting the economic war that has already reached its shores. Mr. Rubin isn't really worried about the rise of India and China. He's worried about America. "What we've really got to do is to get serious, " Mr. Rubin says. "We have to address the various challenges we have and create the best possible environment in this country."

He reels off a rather gloomy list of what America must do to compete-matters that the nation has put on the back burner in recent years. "We've got to have a public education system that's first rate. We've got to get our basic reasearch back. We've got to get our fiscal house back in order" by reining in the budget deficit. He adds that the United States must recognize that "in the long run, good environmental policy is good economic policy." Then he pauses, and his almost perpetually worried look gives way as he thinks about how making these changes could change America. "We've got to put in place the ability to be the best we can be," Mr. Rubin says. A small smile emerges: "The best we can be might actually be pretty good (p 204)."

Reading further......

"Today's challenge is to ready the nation for the coming wave of stiff competition from India and China. The good news is that what the United States must do is clear: it must stengthen its educational and economic foundations and foster the innovation that will keep the U.S. ahead in the technology that underpins so many parts of the nation's culture and global economy. Now is the time for the United States to recognize the threat to American standards of living and to resolve to raise its game and compete on the new global terms. Forget protectionism. Forget letting the free market ride. To meet the challenges, the United States must choose a third way: the nation must focus on creating jobs, even as it increases support to those losing jobs."

"In readying for a storm of competition, America must return to basics. The most critical building block is education. Federal, State, and local governments-and the individuals who elect them-will be catastrophically irresponsible unless they insist on dramatically improved education, starting with elementary school. Despite years of hand-wringing and despite higher spending than other industrialized nations, America's schools threaten to leave the nation less competitive in global labor markets. A barrage of test scores shows American students are already far behind the world's academic leaders. U.S. universities are still considered the best in the world, but shockingly, American fifteen year-olds are tied for twenty-first place in average academic performance globally (p. 205)."

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