Ben and Joel are are joined by Edward Luce, Washington columnist and commentator for the Financial Times, where he writes about American politics, and the economy. In addition to his reporting career, Luce spent 2000 as the chief speechwriter for Lawrence H. Summers, the US Treasury secretary. He has just written a book: "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent."
Questions considered in this podcast:
• Is anything going right in America these days?
• Why is the middle class stagnating? And why does it matter for our economy and our politics?
• Will Americans ever again get to have stable jobs with a stable set of skills? Or will careers be a constant process of retraining and "upscaling" of skills?
• Why should government push harder for solutions to America's problem when even the elites aren't smart enough to know what the right solutions are?
• How can America compete with state-centric economies like China while holding onto its traditional notions of liberty? Doesn't American have a bias against government picking winners and losers?
• Is innovation necessarily linked to manufacturing? If so, how does American innovation survive the country's dwindling manufacturing capacity? Can a digital economy spur the necessary innovation required by the economy?
• Is it more important to reform education or immigration? Are there changes we can make without spending lots of money? Or should we be pouring money into infrastructure—and how do we decide what projects to fund?
• Are Americans getting the (sclerotic) government we deserve—are we responsible for our own decline? Or are we just subject to the natural forces of history? Or can "American Exceptionalism" lead us out of decline?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Until The End of the World," U2.
• "Way Down In The Hole," Tom Waits.
• "The Distance," Cake.
• "Yawny at the Apocalypse," Andrew Bird.
• "End Theme," Zero 7.
Please visit and "like" the Ben and Joel page on Facebook to comment, as well as for updates about the podcast and links to our weekly syndicated column with ScrippsHoward News Service.