Connect to share and comment

Opinion: Gloom and doom in US news

Bad news, especially about America, sells papers. But author Joseph Nye says America is not in decline โ€” at least not yet.

american flag
A mannequin's head sits atop a flag pole on a boat in Bayou LaBatre, Ala., May 11, 2010. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

LONDON, U.K. — The default mode for the American media is usually pessimism: America is in terminal decline. Its banking system is broken. Its politics are dysfunctional. The American empire is about to go the way of Rome and Britain. The future is China.

Gloom and doom sell books. Bad news sells newspapers and grabs television viewers. Especially bad news about America and dire predictions about where the country is heading.

That's not new.

In the 1950s when the Soviets launched Sputnik, the gloom mongers predicted the end of American power. The Russians were winning the space race. Nikita Krushchev crowed that the Soviet Union would bury America. We all know what really happened. President John F. Kennedy took up the challenge. The United States leap-frogged the Russians and landed a man on the moon. And the Soviet Union is history.

Time and time again, the pundits have drawn the wrong conclusions from the news of the day.

In the 1980s, they thought Japan was burying America. Instead, Japan's bubble burst and it became the poster child for a mismanaged country, an example of mistakes to be avoided when the economy overheats.

When the worldwide financial crisis exploded in 2008 — if you believe the media hype — it was all America's fault. Our system of capitalism is broken. We are hopelessly indebted and depend on the Chinese and rich Arabs to bail us out, etc. etc.

The latest fear being propagated by the commentariat is that our political system is broken . With the Tea Party movement pushing Republican politicians into the outer reaches of unreason and compromise almost impossible in Congress, our government seems dysfunctional. The pundits forget that America lived through the fuss over the John Birch Society a half century ago. Anti-government extremism is a recurrent American phenomenon.