Friday, January 1, 2010

Past Decade Draws Poor Reviews

The reviews are coming in about the past decade, and they're not good. Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker summarizes the disasters of the past 10 years:

The events of and reaction to September 11th seem to be the decade’s defining catastrophe, although it could be argued that it was in the voting booths of Florida, with their flawed and faulty machines, that the crucial historical turn took place.

...the decade saw the unimaginable unfolding: the depravities of Abu Ghraib, and, even more shocking, their apparent lack of impact on voters in the 2004 Presidential election; the horrors of Hurricane Katrina and the flight of twenty-five thousand of the country’s poorest people to the only slightly less hostile environs of the Superdome; the grotesque inflation and catastrophic popping of a housing bubble, exposing an economy built not even on sand but on fairy dust; the astonishing near-collapse of the world financial system, and the discovery that the assumed ironclad laws of the marketplace were only about as reliable as superstition. And, after all this, the still more remarkable: the election of a certified intellectual as President, not to mention an African-American one.

Paul Krugman calls the decade "The Big Zero" and elaborates on the period's economic illusions and the political culture's unwillingness to honestly assess them:

What was truly impressive about the decade past, however, was our unwillingness, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.

Even as the dot-com bubble deflated, credulous bankers and investors began inflating a new bubble in housing. Even after famous, admired companies like Enron and WorldCom were revealed to have been Potemkin corporations with facades built out of creative accounting, analysts and investors believed banks’ claims about their own financial strength and bought into the hype about investments they didn’t understand. Even after triggering a global economic collapse, and having to be rescued at taxpayers’ expense, bankers wasted no time going right back to the culture of giant bonuses and excessive leverage.

Then there are the politicians. Even now, it’s hard to get Democrats, President Obama included, to deliver a full-throated critique of the practices that got us into the mess we’re in. And as for the Republicans: now that their policies of tax cuts and deregulation have led us into an economic quagmire, their prescription for recovery is — tax cuts and deregulation.

E.J. Dionne speaks of a "reckless, squandered decade" at home and abroad:

I'm afraid that the past 10 years will be seen as a time when the United States badly lost its way by using our military power carelessly, misunderstanding the real challenges to our long-term security and pursuing domestic policies that constrained our options for the future while needlessly threatening our prosperity.

Above, political cartoonist Joel Pett sums up "a decade of fear"–while fearing that its effects will continue. But after all of these calamities, the next decade can only be better, right?

1 comment:

Tim Gunter said...

It was a time when Verizon Wireless bought up and swallowed Alltel, thus causing many people in Little Rock loss of jobs.