Half-way points in two-term presidencies are inevitably moments to take stock and to consider redirections of policy. Right now, the political blogosphere is properly full of that stocktaking and redesign. Lists abound on policies needed and priorities to be pushed, which is why there is no need to add to those lists in any detail here.
What may therefore be more valuable is this: an insistence that, to properly situate this second Obama Inaugural, we need more than favorite lists and seamless histories. We need coherent policy platforms that are anchored in the proper periodization of time. For as a country and as an economy we are not just at any random moment in history. Rather, we are at the very end of the second great growth period experienced by the American economy since 1945. In consequence, we are currently in a deeper hole than any that can be quickly corrected by this policy or by that. And unless we realize this underlying truth – and design the full sweep of our public policies accordingly – we run the risk (indeed, probably face the certainty) that the 2010s will eventually be remembered, as the 1970s are now remembered, as a lost decade. The 1970s cost one generation easy access to the American Dream. We must do all that we can to make sure that the 2010s do not impose a similar cost on another generation.