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Perspective

America is squandering its assets

If you are very lucky, you get to a point in life where you can weigh your assets, consider how to apply them against your liabilities, and look with confidence to the future.

That's my fortunate spot now, but this column isn't really about my pending career transition. Yes, I'm about to step aside from editing the newspaper to take on a newsroom role more suited to a guy of my age — which is quite young, mind you — and so this notion of allocating resources to where they're going to be needed is at the front of my mind.

But you don't need to hear about how my wife and I plan to pay for our upkeep for the next quarter-century so as to not be a burden on our kid, much as it does occupy our thoughts. Let's think bigger — like, by considering how a society as mature as ours in America can make smart choices about its vast resources to assure that we're not sloughing off our clear responsibility to leave this whole place better for the next generation.

Because, frankly, we've been blowing it, Boomers. There's still a chance to make some things right, even if we haven't undertaken the societal equivalent of stowing money in a 401(k) and flossing for gum health. We children of the Greatest Generation might yet be able to avoid being considered the Heedless Generation, but time is running out.

Consider, for example, what we have chosen to do with the assets of the richest society in history, and whether we can be proud of our choices between today's comfort and tomorrow's security.

There's no question that our economy is doing quite well, so that if America were looking at retirement it would be checking out a winter home in a warmer climate. ("Hey, Uncle Sam, have we got a deal for you!" says Costa Rica.) The recovery that began two months into the Obama administration is now the longest bull market in history. But...

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