James Fallows nails it. My old pal and former boss from U.S. News & World Report, has made a very important statement in The Atlantic about “How America is Putting Itself Back Together” by criss-crossing it via private airplane and actually talking to people about what they are doing to improve their lives, economically and otherwise. Many prominent writers seem to think they can understand what is happening in the United States by calling their Ph.D-economist friends, who are almost completely cut off from the American reality.
Fallows hits a theme that I also have explored–the key to creating America’s future lies in the creative, non-ideological solutions that states, cities and regions have pursued at the microeconomic level.
“But here is what I now know about America that I didn’t know when we started these travels, and that I think almost no one would infer from the normal diet of news coverage and political discourse. The discouraging parts of the San Bernardino story are exceptional—only five other U.S. cities are officially bankrupt—but the encouraging parts have resonance almost anywhere else you look… What is true for this very hard-luck city prevails more generally: Many people are discouraged by what they hear and read about America, but the closer they are to the action at home, the better they like what they see.”
Given the fact that our politics are frozen at the national level and there is widespread confusion over the right role of the federal government in spurring economic growth, by default the key action is at the grassroots level. That was the theme of my book, “The Next American Economy: Blueprint For A Real Recovery.”
The central question is how should Americans coordinate their universities, community colleges, venture capitalists, angel investors, large and small companies, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies and governments at various levels to create coherent economic strategies. There are right ways, and wrong ways, for these players to cooperate and thereby create jobs and wealth. They have done it in Austin, Texas. They have done it in San Diego, California. The lessons are available. As Fallows suggests, let us learn from each other.