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create safe, reliable energy. That solves several problems, including what to do with nuclear waste, how to diminish the supply of materials for terrorist bombs, and how to decrease reliance on foreign oil. For the past four decades, we have systematically underinvested in nuclear technology, which is tragic.
I could give scores of examples of new ventures in the economy that have the potential to create a boom here and abroad. There are potential cures for diseases like diabetes. There are fabulous companies focused on delivering high quality affordable health to millions. There are thousands of social entrepreneurs trying to improve education and social services. We just need to create a context in which they can thrive.
Instead, what we have done in the U.S. is to impose the greatest imaginable tax on hope and opportunity. We have created a corrosive, divisive context of uncertainty, blame and retribution. Consider, for example, young people pursuing a career in science. Already, such careers are fraught with risk as access to funding for research grows tighter. Now, in the grand compromise over the debt ceiling, we have offered up the prospect that funding at organizations like NIH and NSF will get arbitrarily cut by almost 10 percent. Help me out—does that increase or decrease the supply of great people to careers in research? Does it create opportunity for all? I don’t think so.
The other day in a conversation with my officemate, I called current politicians twits. He objected. I now agree, my assessment was an insult to twits everywhere. Though our politicians are inept, private action can overcome partisan haggling and incompetence. America is a great country because it has citizens who constantly search for new ways to improve the world. We have willing investors. We view crises as opportunities. We, the non-politicians, need to accept responsibility for fixing the country and get to it.
In 1974, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was approximately 600. Today, even as the market plunges, an investment of $1 in 1974 would be worth approximately $50. The real rate of return over the period would have been 7 percent per year, not too shabby considering how depressing the start of the period was. I suspect that 10 or 20 years from now, we will look back in like fashion, marveling at how hopeless August of 2011 seemed, and how resilient and resourceful Americans were in helping her get her mojo back.