July 1, 2014
Politicians and journalists have a common interest in crises. When there’s a crisis, people buy newspapers and turn on the news to learn how our political leaders will fix the problem. Indeed, crises give politicians more power, which is why so many politicians are fond of the phrase “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
President Obama has been particularly fond of fomenting a sense of crisis — environmental, economic and social — because he thinks doing so will advance his agenda. But every now and then, the truth comes out.
This spring, President Obama visited Malaysia. While talking to a group of young people, he repeated to them what he also tells the White House interns.
“I always tell them that despite how hard sometimes the world seems to be — and all you see on television is war and conflict and poverty and violence — the truth is that if you had to choose when to be born … now would be the time.” Optimism is warranted he continued, “because the world is less violent, it is healthier, it is wealthier, it is more tolerant and it offers more opportunity than any time in human history for more people than any time in human history.”
Obama was right. Just look at the numbers. Since 1990, child mortality globally has fallen nearly in half (48%). Maternal deaths have dropped almost a quarter, and the pace of improvement is accelerating. . . .
Indeed, at times it seems as if there’s an inverse relationship between the scope of a problem and the hysteria around it. For instance, today, college campuses are in a panic about a “rape epidemic.” Meanwhile, forcible rapes are down 80% in the U.S. since 1973.
Another source of anxiety these days is “white supremacy.” No doubt there is still racism in America — both structural and intentional — but can anyone outside the hothouse of racial paranoia at MSNBC really dispute that there is less today than there was at any other period in American history? And let’s not even dwell on a “war on women” that is largely defined as opposition to unnecessarily subsidized birth control.
Never let a crisis go to waste, even if you have to invent it.