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In his Washington Post column, Eugene Robinson says that as we head into 2012, President Barack Obama and policymakers need to think big as we face the prospect of a nation in decline. For numerous reasons, he says, tomorrow in the U.S. may not be as bright as today if proper steps are not taken.

… For much of the 20th century, the United States boasted the biggest, most vibrant economy in the world and its citizens enjoyed the best quality of life. The former is still obviously true; the latter, arguably still the case. But there is a sense that we’re fading — that tomorrow might not be as bright as today.

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Our systems seem to have become sclerotic. The United States still has the finest colleges and universities in the world, but it now ranks no higher than fifth among 36 industrialized countries in the percentage of working-age adults who have at least an associate degree, according to a 2011 report by the College Board. We have the most expensive medical care in the world, yet rank 50th in life expectancy, behind such nations as Jordan and Greece, according to the CIA Factbook. Our society now features less economic mobility than is found in Canada and much of Europe, according to the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Our manufacturing sector is just a shadow of what it once was, and that’s not China’s fault. Because of automation and the globalization of the labor market, rich countries can only excel at high-end manufacturing that requires more brains than brawn. Our future lies in knowledge and information. So let’s go there.

We’ve done it before. After World War II, the G.I. Bill dramatically boosted the percentage of Americans with college degrees …

Read Eugene Robinson's entire column at the Washington Post.

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