Not Much To Celebrate In Past Decade

Crowds cheer as midnight arrives and the ball drops in New York's Times Square on Dec. 31, 2008. i

These crowds are cheering the arrival of the new year, but NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr doesn't find much to celebrate in the past decade. Seth Wenig/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Seth Wenig/AP
Crowds cheer as midnight arrives and the ball drops in New York's Times Square on Dec. 31, 2008.

These crowds are cheering the arrival of the new year, but NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr doesn't find much to celebrate in the past decade.

Seth Wenig/AP

Some decades are named by history: the Roaring '20s after World War I, the Threadbare '30s during the Great Depression, and the Fabulous '50s. This decade came in with a bang and is going out with a whimper. In these 10 years, we have gone from peace to war, from surplus to deficit, from prosperity to recession. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman calls it "The Big Zero," the decade "in which nothing good happened."

Well, maybe not nothing. This was the decade that gave us an African-American president, a historic event. But this was also the decade that left us with a sorry lexicon of code words starting with "9/11," the code word for a superpower besieged by suicidal fanatics.

There were other symbolic words and phrases: "weapons of mass destruction," as the pretext for invading Iraq; "waterboarding" and "Abu Ghraib" as shameful tokens of abusive behavior; "Katrina," a symbol of an inadequate response to a natural disaster; "foreclosure" and "underwater," denoting a housing economy in ruins; "bailout," denoting a transfusion to save Wall Street from ruin; and "stimulus," denoting an injection to revive an economy in crisis.

This decade will be remembered, too, for phrases like "public option," a reminder of the struggle to overhaul the health care system; and "swine flu," the global menace to health.

This decade didn't bequeath us a lot of rosy words. Thanks in part to President Obama, we heard a lot about "change" and "hope," but change and hope did not seem to be icons of this decade.

What's left to say? Well, we survived a bad decade, and the next one has to be better. Happy New Year.

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