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Debunking the Myths of American Decline

by Staff


Tags: American decline, America's decline, baby boomers, social security, religious fundamentalism, religious right, American diversity, U.S. Census,

Prospect coverDon’t fret, America. The U.S. journalist Michael Lind has taken to the pages of the UK's Prospect to dispatch with three persistent myths about American instability and decline: divisive racial and ethnic rivalries, encroaching religious fundamentalism, and impending bankruptcy from baby boomer retirement. These myths enjoy continuing popularity, Lind contends, because the U.S. media feeds on the sensationalism they stir up.

The essay’s meticulous construction would make Lind's high school writing teachers proud. Wielding statistics and studies, he deconstructs each of the three fears one by one. By his account, the conclusion that minorities will outnumber whites in the near-future is a fear-mongering tactic, based on the arbitrary racial categories in the U.S. Census. As for the country’s supposed balkanization: The melting pot, he assures, is still stewing diverse groups together.

And while Americans are more religious than western Europeans, the nation is growing more secular. The religious right is less a national phenomenon to be feared than “an ethnic and regional movement” of white southern Protestants, best understood as a label adopted as less racist-sounding than “white southerner.”

Finally, Lind calms fears about the failure of the Social Security system. The crisis amounts to “nothing more than the fact that taxes will have to be raised or benefits cut before 2041 in order to supplement a mostly sound system,” Lind concludes.

Of course, Lind doesn’t disappoint the savvy reader with a blithely cheery forecast. Problems we should address, according to Lind, are declining social mobility, increasing healthcare costs, and allowing our international commitments “to exceed the resources that the public is willing to allot to foreign policy.” These are problems, not fuel for paranoia, and they require careful consideration.

Lisa Gulya