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Who are you? And what did you do with Tom Friedman? December 24, 2008

Posted by neoavatara in Economy, Politics.
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/24/opinion/24friedman.html

Let me start by saying that I actually repect Tom Friedman.  He has been ahead of the curve on the changing world economic dynamic, and has been on the forefront of how to approach the middle east.

But recently, his common sense approach is off the track.

Now, I have been beating up on him the last few months, so I was reluctant to take him to the woodshed again. But frankly, he is making it too easy.  Today, Friedman wrote an op-ed, which basically stated that the U.S. needed a ‘reboot’; that we have gone far away from what will make us great, and what helped us succeed in the past.

Ironically, I don’t necessarily disagree with this.  What I disagree with is the observations and so called facts that he uses to back up his argument.

He starts off by commenting on how great Hong Kong is.  Seamless wireless internet.   As if this is some wonder.  Then he talks about the beauty of the new Hong Kong airport in relation to JFK in New York.  Um, yeah.  Because it is A NEW AIRPORT.  Do we want to spend $10 billion on a new airport in New York because of aesthetics?  And this doesn’t even mention the simple fact that Hong Kong is now a Communist country.  Then, comments about old Penn Station.  Again, do we have to build a new train station for looks alone?

And then he comments about how others are living better than us.  Um, what?  He was comparing us to a country that doesn’t even have the right to free speech or religion.  I guess that is irrelevant as long as you have a new shiny highway.

Then, he comments about tax cuts we can’t afford.  Um, how about the government spending what it can afford?  Why is it always our job to maintain fiscal discipline, when our leaders fail to do so on a daily basis?  We spend more money on more things than any other country in the world, and apparently that isn’t enough.  And the money we do spend isn’t really used well, something Friedman and I probably agree on; the only difference is that he thinks that if we just spend a little bit more, it will fix all the problems.

Then, the final nail in the coffin.  He claims that we send the best and brightest to work in the financial industry, and not the sciences and engineering.  Um, this is a Manhattan-centric view of the world if I ever heard of one.  First of all, if one thing has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt this year, it is that the financial types are not so bright when things get rough.  Second, our engineering schools and medical schools are teeming with the bright and self motivated youth of America.  Friedman, living in his little alcove in New York, misses that.  We still produce the best engineers, and among the best doctors, in the world.  The financial guys aren’t even on the top 10% of the IQ range in this country.

Now, let me step back one step.  I agree that we need to rebuild much of our infrastructure.  I am not against that.  We need to invest in energy, telecommunications, transportation…etc.  But comparing us to Hong Kong, basically the equivalent of a single city with communist control, is just plain idiotic.  And stating our intellingensia is centered on Wall Street misses the other 99% of the country.

Why Friedman has fallen in the deep end is beyond me.  But he really has lost all perspective.  His general point, that the U.S. needs to redefine its economic and educational goals, is an absolute fact.  But his observations then make leaps of logic that, well, are anything but logical.

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Comments»

1. Gilmour Poincaree - December 24, 2008

I would dare Hong Kong to fare so well if they had to handle two stupid wars and George Walker Bush as their Great Leader … it’s no wonder Hong Kong’s airport is so beautiful …


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