10/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Fundamentals of the Economy are Not Strong

Of course, Americans workers are energetic and skilled. Our business people are entrepreneurial. Our nation is vast. Its resources are deep. Its spirit strong. Well, sometimes strong.

But this does not mean the fundamentals are nearly in place for rapid economic growth in the new global environment. John McCain and George Bush have told us that the economy is fundamentally strong. Sadly, they are wrong. They are old-timers resting on a nation's past laurels. McCain tried to amend his case when questioned, saying he meant American workers were strong. Pandering can only go so far.

There is much to build on in America, but we are not doing so. Here is a snap picture of the cracking foundation.

--The rapidly rising costs of healthcare and the ineffeciencies of American medicine will consume hundreds of billions of dollars more of valuable resources in coming years without providing Americans adequate healthcare. And more people not fewer will have no health insurance coverage.

--We are fast becoming a low wage nation for far too many, right up to the middle of the income distribution, and even higher. We all know that median wages have not rise in the 2000s and typical family income is down. But do we all know that wages for male median workers have not risen for four decades?

-- In a time when two-worker families and single-parent families are the norm, the nation has no universal free pre-k education system of quality. Many of our competitors do.

-- Getting into a good college increasingly depends on the income of one's parents. Getting a good job increasingly reuires going to a good college, not just any college. We are becoming a class society. Income mobility is not as fluid as it is in much of Europe.

-- Engineering experts give America a 'D' for the quality of its infrastructure.

-- The nation has no national energy policy.

--Much of the nation's growth of the past twenty years was built on a mountain of debt, which is now crumbling.

That leaves quite an agenda. The beginning of reform is the admission of problems, not the trite and tiresome cliches about how all is well. Cheerleading is not leadership.