The year is 1933. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announces the New Deal to aid recovery from the Great Depression.
The year is 1961. President John F. Kennedy announces that Americans are going to the moon within the decade.
The year is 2010. President Barack Obama announces â€¦ what, exactly? His intention to repeal â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ or maybe pass national health care. But these arenâ€™t the kind of grand, long-term plans that will drive Americans for the next decade.
Until we can find such a plan, weâ€™ll find it impossible to maintain a competitive advantage over countries such as China that are making big bets in technology and infrastructure.
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been the only true global superpower and its international policeman. Since 2001, the War on Terror has drained our resources, and weâ€™ve lost sight of other internal goals.
We financially support corrupt governments but leave our own people in poverty. We need a commitment to developing infrastructure that brings 21st-century technology to the entire country. We need long-term goals that will inspire a generation of American youth.
In a New York Times column last week, economist Thomas Friedman compared the United Statesâ€™ investment in Afghanistan to Chinaâ€™s investment in infrastructure and cutting-edge technology. His conclusion: â€œThe contrast is not good.â€
Friedman is right. China is investing in renewable energy and high-speed rail, and its (mostly) command economy means that its authoritarian government supports those investments.
Among the advanced technologies Friedman discusses are electric vehicles. China has made such cars one of its â€œindustrial pillars.â€ But while China and Europe are focusing on innovative technologies for transportation, the U.S. seems to be making little progress.
Sure, political leaders make speeches promoting renewable energy and high-efficiency vehicles, but until their words are backed by broad efforts, we will only see incremental developments.