Thursday, June 30, 2011

Owning the Higher Ground How to maintain civil discourse when others don't. by Daven Morrison and David Limardi, Current Issue |

JULY 2011 · VOLUME 93 · NUMBER 6


Owning the Higher Ground

How to maintain civil discourse when others don't.

by Daven Morrison and David Limardi

For most public managers, working in an open forum is part of the job. The idea of a work life in a fishbowl is nothing new. Recently this situation has been compounded by the Internet,1 which some have called today’s “wild west.” In our experience, every manager is familiar with the regular distraction and destructive aspects of the web. The web’s mechanisms to produce and distribute seem endless.

Beyond the number of attacks, the often anonymous personal attacks can be particularly upsetting for the manager. The distress grows out of the seemingly limitless muckraking of individuals who work with selected facts and under a cloak of anonymity. Like the mechanisms, the individuals who produce the content seem limitless, too.

All citizens are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. For many reasons, but mostly to counter the personal, offensive, and unfair attacks, the call for civil discourse is being made at a steadily increasing pace. The unrelenting onslaught is draining, especially for those managers working in organizations that do not have the resources to counter the accusations and distribute fact-based communications to the community.

For those who possess those resources, the work of responding can seem exhausting, especially when there is a crisis or a significant conflict in the community. Time is required to read the blogs, Twitter accounts, and e-mails. Questions on the part of the council or board as well as the leadership team must be answered. Average citizens expect access and responses to inquiries as well.

Communications in response to questions are expected to be instantaneous, and the longer the delay the greater the suspicion. In this way conspiracy theories and assumptions of corruption blow up fast.

Figure 1. Components of Judgment.

But, what is perhaps most bothersome of all the aspects of managing the information is the lack of general civility in the messages. Cutting comments that are shared in passing with the manager as well as with the staff can be disturbing:

  • “You would never make it in the real world.”
  • “You work for me; my taxes pay your salary.”
  • “All public workers are corrupt.”
  • “Public workers are unprofessional, and they aren’t productive.”

These insensitive and personal remarks are what wear down the manager over time. Combined with an absence of appreciation for the work that needs to be done, two or three hostile community members active on the Internet or at council meetings can cause a severe emotional reaction in a manager. We believe this atmosphere has caused assistant managers to reconsider becoming managers and has blocked strong private sector leaders from considering entering into the profession.

Figure 2. Comparison of Political Language and Managerial Language.
FocusHow the message is perceived:
How does this make me look?
What is my exposure?
How do I keep the people who support me enthused?
How do I persuade those who can be persuaded to my way?
How the message can get things done:
Who is going to be responsible?
By when ought this be completed?
How much is this worth compared with another initiative?
How do the leaders in this organization make the best decisions?
How will we know if we did it well?
ExamplesThis is what the citizens expect us to do! How does this maximize value for the taxpayers?The mechanics in facilities believe it will take three months to convert the engines to the new required specifications.
Underlying motivationReelectionCompleting tasks


Fueled and exacerbated by a long period of financial uncertainty as well as a national tone of extremely polarized politics, this trend will probably not change anytime soon. It is astute on the part of managers to consider what to do; it is also astute to decide what to avoid. Today, the equivalent of punching someone in the nose is sending an e-mail that somehow is supposed to “teach them who’s boss and who has the facts right!” Thus, the first thing to remember in this atmosphere is not to act purely on your emotions.

Understanding what is happening is more important than taking a specific action quickly. Solid judgment is a simple and critical requirement. When taking action, the manager should collect all the relevant information, boil it down to the essentials, and then act according to what makes the most sense (see Figure 1).

Note that when done correctly, action is last:2 It’s easy in the heat of the moment to take action first, before collecting data. More accurately: it is easy to feel the need to take action. What happens when people turn rude and insensitive and the discourse becomes uncivil?

The worlds of politics and management have competing goals, as shown in Figure 2. This impairs communication as each world has its own different type of language.


When the discourse becomes uncivil, bullies who previously lurked can now make an appearance. The bully is not invested in the best resolution of an issue. A bully merely wants to be dominant, and that can include targeting the manager and trying to get the manager to look weak and foolish. The goal of the bully is to cause the person who is attacked to make a heated, impulsive response.

As children, we learned an emotional reaction is a trap, and the bully learned this also. The bully refines skills, too, and knows that without a response stakes are raised: the bully expands the conflict.

The underlying motivations of bullies come from their emotions. In our experience, the most challenging emotion for leaders to manage is embarrassment. Although unpleasant to experience, embarrassment and shame are emotions that allow us to adapt to our world. When we are children, shame allows us to stay out of harm’s way, and as adults, shame keeps us from tearing apart our social fabric.

The absence of a shame competency causes much of the lack of civility. Examples include the hate radio on the AM dial, the rudeness of paparazzi, and the insensitivity of those who blog unfairly and destructively about our communities.

Biologically, we are all wired for shame, an emotion experienced as an interruption to positive emotions. We can feel a little bit of shame as a twinge of self-consciousness or an immersion in shame as profound humiliation.

We are most embarrassed when we are invested in sharing something, and the other person is not interested. Figure 3 shows how shame works from a low experience of self-consciousness to a high level of humiliation when person B expressed interest in person A and that interest is not returned.


The bully appears to be insensitive to embarrassment. Inside, however, bullies are aware of and motivated by an acute fear of being shamed, and they have a strong motivation to avoid it. The emotions that motivate the bully include a mix of anger, disgust, contempt, and, at times when discovering a weakness, excitement.

Shaming others highlights weakness in others. Thus, bullies use shame for dominance in order to keep control. Threats to their power are met with a fierce defense. When the discussion becomes rational and moves in a direction where the bully will lose credibility or be perceived as weak, that is when bullies are most vicious.

In a larger arena, the bully will insert more chaos. Bullies are invested in avoiding being the loser in a battle; thus, the bully will inject chaos into an orderly process, particularly one that is heading to a loss. The recent financial crisis has led the politics of the right and the left to become particularly ruthless as the dollars have dried up, leading each to extreme efforts to bully the other side.

Both the political and the managerial languages have value. Neither is wrong in fact. The political side does have value. Politics assists the community in deciding how to take action. But during the working through of budgets and priorities, the languages become mixed. The manager faces a difficult challenge when an elected official or a citizen decides to use politics to bully.

The purely politically motivated person is not speaking to those in immediate earshot but, instead, is playing a larger game. The politically motivated are invested in the process only to send a message to a larger audience. This is a second magnifier of shame: exposure. A manager needs to remember the capacity for broader shaming with a larger group (Figure 4).


Recognize that although bullies’ comments are personal, they are a tactic. The intention of the bully is to provoke and cause managers to make mistakes. The attacks are the bully’s worldview, not the manager’s. Their comments are intended to provoke reflexive action, but they must be done thoughtfully. For a manager, it does not make sense to counterattack or withdraw. The manager needs to acknowledge the context and move the conversation out of earshot if possible. The manager needs to direct the conversation to facts and to the purpose of the meeting.

Here are several essentials to understand about uncivil discourse:

  1. There are two types of language for the public manager: political and managerial.
  2. Shame reinforces dominance.
  3. Bullies try to shame those who threaten their agendas.
  4. Bullies fear shame and take extreme measures to avoid it.
  5. Increased exposure equals amplified shame.

As a psychiatrist and as a city manager, we are both professionals, and as such we profess to have a higher set of ethics. It would be unnerving and even terrifying to some if either of us acted in the flippant, arrogant manner of those who fan the flames and use uncivil discourse as a means to their ends. Given this understanding, what remains for us as acceptable actions or guiding principles?

  • Minimize the access of bullies to audiences.
  • Don’t respond in kind.
  • Avoid political language.
  • Drive the managerial language.
  • Build your shame-tolerating muscles.


Practice tolerating shame. It is merely a feeling. As a public manager, you have learned in your life to tolerate feelings of hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Tolerating shame is a skill of the same order.

Managing insults and managing bullies are not skills to be taken lightly, and such management does not have to be done alone: use your team to game plan. When the team collectively observes and then establishes a strategy and tactics, those in the public arena can work against the bully.


Currently, an opportunity exists to excel when times are difficult. Although today’s challenges can bring out disruptive behavior, the environment may allow some of the toughest problems in your organization to be addressed. Times like these can allow us to innovate and recalibrate. The sleepy, barnacle-encrusted problems are now exposed and waiting to be worked on and changed.

To embrace this challenge may seem ridiculous. It may even seem impossible at times. But consider today what once seemed challenging in your past and that you have finally mastered. Passion for the management profession and pride in our work can be exhilarating for our peers and to those who will follow us. They can serve as antidotes to the attacks.

Own the high ground.

1 Daven Morrison, “Your Life in a Fishbowl . . . and on the Internet,” PM 92, no. 4 (May 2010).
2 David Limardi, Carol Morrison, and Daven Morrison, “Know Thyself: Judgment Capability Factors,” PM 90, no. 8 (September 2008).

Daven Morrison, M.D., is a psychiatrist, and director of Individual and team consultations, Morrison Associates, Ltd., Palatine, Illinois ( David Limardi, ICMA-CM, is city manager, Highland Park, Illinois ( All figures used in this article are the copyright of Morrison Associates, Ltd.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How Much Would You Pay for the U.S. Government? - Derek Thompson - Business - The Atlantic

How Much Would You Pay for the U.S. Government? - Derek Thompson - Business - The Atlantic

How Much Would You Pay for the U.S. Government?

Every year, the average family spends $17,000 on housing, $9,000 on transportation and $6,000 on food. What do you think it spends on government?


John, Jane, and their young son Justin are the typical American family. Two cars are parked inside the garage of their moderately sized house. With one predominant breadwinner, and a spouse who works part-time, the family pulls in about $60,000 a year. They spend $50,000. They save between $2,000 and $3,000. The rest is taxed.

No, not taxed. Let's say something else instead. Let's say the money is spent to buy government. How much should they spend?

It helps to understand how much they're paying for other stuff. Every year, John and Jane spend $17,000 on housing, including shelter, utilities, and furniture, according to the U.S. consumer expenditure survey (see above). They spend $9,000 on transportation, between their cars, gasoline, and the occasional taxi. They $6,000 on food. A little over $3,000 at home. A little under $3,000 at restaurants. Average consumer spending on entertainment and media -- cable, movies, etc -- is kissing triple digits. If they have smart phones, they probably spend more than $1,000 each on a data plans.
The price of government for the average American family falls somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000.

John and Jane are content, but they want security. What happens after they retire, when one of them gets sick, or the breadwinner becomes disabled? How much would they pay for highly trained professionals guarding their country, their airports, and their neighborhoods? For good roads and bridges? For enforced regulations to keep food and consumer products safe for Justin? For a year in public schools and national parks?

All of that is what government is for. So what's a good price for government?


You can argue that government is priceless, but it has a price. It's $3.6 trillion. That's what Washington spends every year to do its business, and its business is security. Social Security (20% of the budget) provides retirement security. Medicare and Medicaid (another 20%) provide health security. Defense (another 20%) provides national security. More than 10% is various forms of income security.

Now, how much should we pay for all this? The first thing to note is that we don't pay for all this. In 2010, taxpayers paid about $2 trillion for a government that spent $3.5 trillion. We borrowed the rest.
For the typical tax unit making $45,000 a year, the price of government is $5,535.

Most government revenue comes from the richest Americans, who have most of the income in the first place. For the typical tax unit making $45,000 a year, the price of government is $5,535. For John and Jane, a typical consumer unit (which is measured differently), it's probably closer to $10,000.

The upshot is that the price of government for the average American family falls somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. Remember, John and Jane spend $6,000 on food and $9,000 on entertainment. Somewhere between food and entertainment for the typical family is the price of government.


This exercise has two points.

First, if we want to close the deficit, we need to think more rigorously about what we want government to do, how much it will cost, and how we're going to pay for it. Republicans want to cut taxes (which are already at their lowest effective rate in half a century) while keeping defense and Medicare. Democrats want to expand the value of government for the lower middle class while letting them pay less for it. In an age of austerity, we need better arithmetic from our leaders.

Second, we also need a better understanding among of voters of how much government does that is worth paying for. Why do people in China, who are much poorer than the typical American, save 33% of their money while Americans save 3%? One big reason is that we pay our government to insure us when we get old and sick. China has much less protection. If government spends less on necessities like health care and retirement security, we'll have to spend more. Those are dollars that won't go to our homes, our food, our kids.

One more time: $17,000 for a year in housing, $9,000 for a year in transportation, $6,000 to $10,000 on a year on the federal government, and $6,000 on a year in food. So, what do you think of those prices?

The Truth About American Exceptionalism | On the Commons

The Truth About American Exceptionalism | On the Commons

The Truth About American Exceptionalism

America is exceptional but not in the way Republican Presidential candidates think


For Republican presidential candidates the phrase American Exceptionalism has taken on almost talismanic qualities. Newt Gingrich’s new book is titled, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. “American the Exceptional” is the title of a chapter in Sarah Palin’s book America by Heart.

And woe be to those who take issue with the phrase. 2008 Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares, “To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.” 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney insists, “The reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism is misguided and bankrupt.”

What is this American exceptionalism Republicans so venerate? After interviewing many Republican leaders, Washington Post Reporter Karen Tumulty concludes it is the belief that America “is inherently superior to the world’s other nations”. It is a widely held belief. Indeed, most Americans believe our superiority is not only inherent but divinely ordained. A survey by the Public Religious Research Institute and the Brookings Institution found that 58 percent of Americans agree with the statement, “God has granted America a special role in human history.”

Let me make it clear at the outset. I too believe in American exceptionalism, although I don’t think God has anything to do with it. But I suspect my perspective will find little favor among Republicans in general and Tea Party members in particular. For I believe that America is exceptional in the advantages we’ve had over other nations, not what we’ve done with those advantages.

Indeed, to me there are two American exceptionalisms. One is the exceptionally favorable circumstances the United States found itself in at its founding and over its first 200 years. The second is the exceptional way in which we have squandered those advantages, in the process creating a value system singularly antagonistic to the changes needed when those advantages disappeared.

Americans did not become rich because of our rugged individualism or entrepreneurial drive or technical inventiveness. We were born rich. Ann Richards’ famous description of George Bush Sr. as an individual is equally applicable to the United States as a whole, “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

When asked to identify the single most important difference between the Old and New World, renowned historian Henry Steele Commager responded, in the New World your baby survived. The New World had an abundance of cheap land which meant the New World, unlike the Old World, was largely populated by self-reliant property owners. Coupled with a moderate climate and rich soil, immigrants could grow all the food needed for their families, livestock and horses. There was plenty of clean water and sufficient free or low cost wood to build and heat one’s house.

The fact that Americans could choose to live on a farm also gave them significant bargaining power with employers. As a result wages in the New World were much higher than in the Old World.

The United States also benefited enormously from tens of millions of immigrants who, through a Darwinian-like process of natural selection, were among the most driven and entrepreneurial and hardy of their native countries. And on the dark side of the immigration picture, we also benefited immensely from millions of involuntary immigrants who provided an army of unpaid labor for southern plantations.

American exceptionalism must also include our unique advantage in having two oceans separating us from potential enemies. After 1815, no foreign troops ever again set foot on American soil. Indeed, America has benefited mightily from foreign wars. Arguably, the conflict between France and England had more to do with our winning independence than our own military efforts. In the first half of the 19th century, European wars led political leaders to peacefully sell huge quantities of land to the United States for a pittance (e.g. the Louisiana purchase of 1803 doubled the size of our infant nation).

A century later foreign wars again dramatically benefited the United States. “In the twentieth century the American economy was twice left undamaged and indeed enriched by war while its potential competitors were transformed into pensioner”, notes historian Godfrey Hodgson. After World War I the United States became the world’s creditor. After World War II Europe and Japan lay in ashes while the United States accounted for a full 40 percent of the world’s economy.

The list of exceptional advantages must also include our vast reserves of fossil fuels and iron ore. For our first 200 years we were self-sufficient in oil. Today we still export coal and are largely self-sufficient in natural gas.

Making a Sow’s Ear Out of a Silk Purse: The Culture Born of American Exceptionalism

Americans became the richest people on earth not because we were endowed with inherently superior national traits nor because we are God’s chosen people, nor because we have an elegant and compact Constitution and a noble sounding Declaration of Independence. We became rich because we were exceptionally lucky.

But the myth that we became richer than other countries because of our blessedness encouraged us to develop a truly exceptionalist culture, one that has left us singularly unequipped to prosper when our luck changed, when inexpensive land and energy proved exhaustible, when the best and the brightest in the world began staying at home rather than emigrating to our shores, when wars began to burden us and enrich our economic competitors.

The central tenet of that culture is a celebration of the “me” and an aversion to the “we”. When Harris pollsters asked US citizens aged 18 and older what it means to be an American the answers surprised no one. Nearly 60 percent used the word freedom. The second most common word was patriotism. Only 4 percent mentioned the word community.

To American exceptionalists freedom means being able to do what you want unencumbered by obligations to your fellow citizens. It is a definition of freedom the rest of the world finds bewildering. Can it be, they ask, that the quintessential expression of American freedom is low or no taxes and the right to carry a loaded gun into a bar? To which a growing number of Americans, if recent elections were any indication, would respond, “You’re damn right it is.”

Strikingly, Americans are not exceptional in our attitudes toward government. In a survey of 27 countries, two thirds of the respondents on both sides of the Atlantic answered yes to the following question, “Does the government control too much of your daily life? Is it usually inefficient and wasteful?”

What makes us exceptional is our response to the next question. “It is the responsibility of the government to reduce the difference in income”. Less than a third of Americans agreed while in 26 other countries more than two thirds did.

Citizens in other countries are as critical of their governments as we are. But unlike us they do not criticize the importance of government itself or the fundamental role it plays in boosting the general welfare. They do not like to pay taxes, but they understand the necessity of taxes not only in building a public infrastructure but also in building a personal security infrastructure.

Far more than other peoples, Americans believe that skill and hard work are the keys to success and wealth is a measure of how hard you work or how skilled you are. Which leads us to believe that people should have the right to amass as much wealth as they can and view a graduated income tax as a punitive penalty on success and a sturdy social safety net an invitation to slothfulness, reduced productivity and an overall slowdown in economic growth.

The expression, “The Nanny State” is singularly American. The expression “We’re all in this together”, while rhetorically still extant in the United States, less and less describes the values that motivate our policies.

In contrast, Europeans believe luck and circumstance are more important than hard work and skill and a sturdy social safety net is needed to help those who are unlucky. Acting on this principle, they have designed most of their social benefits to be universal, as have Canada and Japan, unlike here where residents have to prostrate themselves before bureaucrats to validate their penury before they are grudgingly doled out ever-smaller and temporary amounts of assistance.

One consequence of universality is that even while they complain about taxes, Europeans can point to many aspects of their lives where they directly and personally benefit from taxes (e.g. universal health insurance). Americans cannot.

For many Americans even means tested benefits are unwelcome. The term “welfare” is a pejorative a handout given to undeserving people who will use it in unworthy ways. Ronald Reagan’s lethal phrase “welfare Queen” accurately captured that mindset.

The new influence of Tea Party conservatives has taken this anti-social attitude a step further best reflected in the speeches of Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and made concrete in his recent budget. Ryan believes that helping the poor represents a “collectivist” philosophy. His heroine is Ayn Rand, the God of libertarians. He requires his staffers to read Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.”

Jonathan Chait sums up Rand’s moral philosophy, “The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.”

For Ayn Rand charity is not only unwelcome; it is evil.

"Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others…The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good. Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime.

That value system is made explicit in Paul Ryan’s much publicized budget which would slash taxes on the rich by almost $3 trillion while cutting spending on the needy by almost that much."

The United States is also exceptional among industrialized nations not only in having by far the world’s most unequal income distribution but in believing that this inequality benefits us all, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

The data is crystal clear. Since 1980, the income share of the upper 1 percent of Americans has doubled. The share going to the top 0.1 percent, those earning more than $1.2 million a year, has quadrupled. Meanwhile the average worker’s wages have declined. In 2004 a full-time worker’s wage was 11 percent lower than in 1973, adjusting for inflation, even though productivity had risen 78 percent between 1973 and 2004

In the last decade, while the top 1 percent of Americans saw their incomes rise, on average, by more than a quarter of a million dollars each, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined.

To Republicans, inequality is unimportant because of another aspect of American exceptionalism, the unparalleled opportunity in the United States for those with ambition and grit to move up the economic ladder. They insist, and most of us firmly believe, that America is still the land of opportunity, that the probability of a rags to riches saga is much higher here than abroad.

But recent data contradicts that fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism. A Brookings Institutionreport comparing economic mobility in the United States and other countries concludes, "…"Starting at the bottom of the earnings ladder is more of a handicap in the United States than it is in other countries." And more broadly notes, "there is growing evidence of less intergenerational economic mobility in the United States than in many other rich industrialized countries.”

Another hobbling fundamental tenet of American exceptionalism is that we have nothing to learn from other countries. Why mess with God’s perfection? Back in the late 1980s I went to producers at Minneota’s public television station, TPT and proposed a show tentatively entitled, “What We Can Learn From Others”. They wondered what in the world I was smoking.

This sense of uniqueness has most clearly been reflected in our debates on national health care reform. In 1994 both the United States and Taiwan engaged in national debates about how their health care systems might be improved. To come up with the answers, Taiwan’s leaders visited about a dozen other countries to gain insights about the wide variety of existing national health system structures and used these insights to tailor a system adapted to their own needs. US leaders visited no other countries. The debate rarely even mentioned other countries except dismissively and usually inaccurately (e.g. Canadians cannot choose their own doctors). This occurred despite the overwhelming evidence that the US medical system is the most expensive, the least accessible and by many measures, one of the least well-performing of any in the industrialized world.

The 2009 debate over health reform took place as the United States economy collapsed, unemployment soared and foreclosures mushroomed. Yet there was virtually no discussion about the relationship of health care and personal financial adversity. A study by Steffie Woolhandler and colleagues at the Harvard Medical School done in 2007 revealed a remarkable statistic: 62 percent of US bankruptcies were a result of medical expenses. Equally damning, 75 percent of the people with a medically related bankruptcy had health insurance.

How does this woeful statistic compare to other countries? It is impossible to say because in other countries such a statistic would be a sign of gross irresponsibility and perhaps a societal breakdown. On Frontline, Washington Post veteran reporter T.R. Reid examined health systems around the world. In the process he interviewed the President of the Swiss Federation. Switzerland had dramatically changed its own health system in 1994 through a national referendum.

Reid: How many people in Switzerland go bankrupt because of medical bills?

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin: Nobody. It doesn't happen. It would be a huge scandal if it happens.

Conservatives proudly point to the Declaration of Independence as the foundational source of their guiding principles. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But American exceptionalism has bred a culture and value system that have in turn embraced policies that have made the pursuit of happiness exceedingly difficult.

More and more Americans are desperately trying to hold on. In an astonishing reversal of the first 200 years of American history when we were seen as perhaps the most optimistic of all peoples, we have become one of the most personally insecure.

To make up for the decline in wages, Americans are working longer hours and taking on more debt just to make ends meet. Today Americans are at work 4-10 weeks longer than their counterparts in Europe. Forty million Americans lack health insurance and tens of millions more have health insurance with limited coverage.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, at the founding of the American Republic a key difference between the Old World and the New World was that in the New World a baby survived. Today, the numbers paint a different picture. The proportion of infants that survive in the United States is one of the lowest in the industrialized world.

At the founding of the nation, access to low cost land transformed the United States into the first large nation in history populated principally by property owners. Since late 2007. however, there have been more than 7 million foreclosures in the United States and some predict another 2 million in 2011.

America has been and continues to be exceptional. At first we were exceptional because of circumstances that conferred on us enormous advantages over other nations. Today we are exceptional because of our culture, a culture born of our unusually fortunate history and now perhaps the single biggest handicap to our collective survival and prosperity in the less favorable circumstances of the 21st century.

We’re #1

Charting American Exceptionalism