I am superwhelmed at the moment, and so the backlog of posts (oil sands, other failure modes) piles up. But I wanted to point out to readers that Brad Delong has cogently summed up the challenges facing the United States about which we've done nothing over the past two decades. To paraphrase:
- Medicare is gonna eat us alive, and we’ve known that for 20 years;
- Private medical costs are gonna eat us alive, and avoidably kill a lot of people along the way, and we’ve known that for 20 years;
- Congestion, global warming, and the need to play imperial policeman in the Arabian Gulf are gonna eat us alive, so we should start taxing coal and oil, and we’ve known that for 20 years;
- As our relative power declines, other countries will eventually eat us alive, unless we do something to build an imperial exit strategy that leaves us secure, and we’ve known that for 20 years;
- The deregulated financial system almost just ate us alive (and would’ve in fact eaten us alive without a willingness to throw money at the economy), and so needs to be re-regulated in a sensible way, and we’ve known that for about 20 months.
So here’s the question. How much of the inaction is because the problems are hard to solve, and how much of the inaction is because the U.S. has a veto-filled political system? Put another way, if the United States circa 1989 had somehow found itself with Canada’s constitution but the same distribution of political ideologies and interests that it actually has, would we have gotten more of a handle on these problems, or would we be punting just as much?