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Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?
and human services, Mike Leavitt, observes that “there is simply no place on the economic leader-board for a nation that spends a fifth of its domestic product on health care.”
Similar considerations are related to employer-provided pensions. Bethlehem Steel in 2001 celebrated its impending 100th birthday by declaring bankruptcy. The number of workers that the firm employed during World War II had dropped by a factor of 27 by the time the company was liquidated in 2004, down to 11,000. But, the company had over 5 times that many pensioners on the roles still drawing benefits from the firm. Similarly, General Motors supports three pensioners for every worker now on the payroll. Time magazine offers the following summary: “Dig through the financial statements of the Detroit Three … and you can easily conclude that they are money-losing retirement and healthcare organizations just masquerading as money-losing carmakers.” But perhaps most troubling of all, the lack of portability of most pensions will make them almost irrelevant to the needs of the average worker in an increasingly turbulent job market.
Finally, as previously noted, and perhaps most astounding of all, US industry consistently spends three times more on litigation than on research. This is in part attributable to the malfeasance of some business leaders who abuse their fiduciary responsibilities and in part to the actions of some members of the legal profession who exploit the vagaries of the judicial system for their personal gain. Whatever the cause, the result is clear, and it is not a formula for survival in the emerging, intensely competitive world.
It is presumably because of such considerations that only 41% of the global corporations responding to a recent survey ranked the United States as an “attractive” location for new R&D facilities, compared with 62% for China. This, of course, represents a remarkable shift.
Perhaps the most incisive summary to be found, as far as the nation’s competitiveness ecosystem is concerned, comes from the 2,500-year-old writings of Aeschylus: