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September 2015 Brief: Volume 22, Number 27

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It's Time to Renew the American Century


by John Hendrickson



Henry Luce, the late publisher of Time and Life magazines, described the 20th century as the American Century. Today, in the 21st century, the United States is in decline. From an economic standpoint the national economy is suffering from a weak recovery from the Great Recession, and from a national security standpoint, the United States is being challenged across the globe by foreign powers who are hoping to benefit from our national decline.


One major economic threat confronting the nation is the escalating national debt driven by out-of-control spending and the escalating costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis, wrote:


The ‘official’ national debt recently topped $18 trillion and is projected to reach $26.5 trillion within 10 years. Worse, if you include the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, our real indebtedness exceeds $90.5 trillion.[1]


The debt situation does not appear to be improving either, even with small deficits. Tanner argues that “lower deficits are temporary,” and as entitlement costs continue to increase it is projected by “2024, deficits will again approach $1 trillion and will continue to rise in the decades that follow.”[2]


The United States is also suffering from the lack of job growth, especially in good-paying middle-class jobs, and wages have remained stagnant for some time. A major reason for this is a reckless trade policy — helped along by high taxes and regulations — to encourage business to leave the United States for cheaper labor markets. Kevin L. Kearns, who is President of the United States Business and Industry Council, wrote that “since 2000, the U.S. has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments.”[3]


The de-industrialization of the United States has not only hurt high-paying middle-class jobs, but it also threatens our national security. “This unbalanced trade has led to America no longer producing enough steel to supply its own defense and infrastructure needs,” stated Kearns.[4] The so called free-trade deals have hurt the American economy and represent a serious threat to our national security. As Brig. General John Adams explained:


America is vulnerable. There are threats near and far from which our military defends us. And many of these threats are hard to see, easy to ignore, or difficult to contain. Yet, one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is absolutely within our control — our growing reliance on global manufacturing supply chains to fulfill our national defense needs. The United States relies heavily on imports to keep our armed forces equipped and ready, and increasingly depends on foreign financing arrangements as well.[5]


The United States, once the Arsenal of Democracy, has allowed globalization to not only harm crucial industries such as steel, but also manufacturing even in regard to defense industries. As Kearns states:


Currently, our steel industry is facing a wave of subsidized steel at nearly unprecedented levels. And the U.S. also faces dependencies in such vital defense industries as propellant chemicals, batteries, and specialty metals. Where will we work, and how will we defend our nation, if these trends continue?[6]


Brig. General Adams provides some examples:


From magnets and batteries that enable our advanced missile systems to the uniforms worn by our service members, an alarming amount of equipment and components that go into weapons systems, aircraft, Navy vessels, tactical vehicles and other products are imported. And too often we are seeing potentially hostile trading partners become the sole source.[7]


“We don’t even know the scope of our defense industrial-base vulnerabilities…,” argues Brig. General Adams.[8] In addition, “America's military communications systems increasingly rely on network equipment from China, putting our entire defense at risk.”[9] One of the reasons why the 20th century was the American Century was the fact that the United States was a commanding industrial and manufacturing power. Brig. General Adams argues correctly that the armed forces and civilians deserve “better than a national security policy that relies on countries like China and Russia for their safety and the defense of our great nation.”[10]


Patrick J. Buchanan wrote, “We are a dependent nation now. We rely on imports for the necessities of our national life and the vital components of our weapons systems. [Alexander] Hamilton must be turning over in his grave.”[11] Kearns argues that “America, with $18 trillion in debt, a declining manufacturing base, and a growing dependence on China is a nation at risk.”[12]


In order to renew the American Century, it is necessary to solve the debt crisis and reverse the current manufacturing decline by following both conservative economic policies and an America first trade policy. This will lead to a more secure America with a stronger economy.



[1] Michael D. Tanner, Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., 2015, p. vii.
[2] Ibid., p. 2.
[3] Kevin L. Kearns, “Latest trade deal not good for Pennsylvania manufacturers, workers,”, The United States Business and Industry Council, April 22, 2015, <> accessed on April 24, 2015.
[4] Ibid.
[5] John Adams, “U.S. reliance on foreign defense supplies risks national security,” Orlando Sentinel, July 29, 2015, <> accessed on August 17, 2015.
[6] Kearns.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Alliance for American Manufacturing, “American-Made National Security: America’s Growing and Dangerous Reliance on Foreign Nations for the Products Needed to Defend the American People Puts Us at Serious Risk,” Alliance for American Manufacturing, <> accessed on August 17, 2015.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Patrick J. Buchanan, “Obama’s Republican Collaborators,”, April 21, 2015, <> accessed on April 21, 2015.
[12] Kevin L. Kearns, “Breitbart: China Devaluation Exposes Fragility of Globalized Economy,” posted on, August 15, 2015, <> accessed on August 18, 2015.

John Hendrickson is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact him at


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