What is the Real State of the Union?
A special report by The Atlantic Monthly in partnership with theNew America foundation
INTRODUCTION
The Forgotten Home Front
What are the main elements of national well-being? It is startling how out-of-date and out-of-touch our official politics has become. By James Fallows.

THE SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH OF THE NATION

TRUST
Suspicious Minds
Too much trust can actually be a bad thing—a polity of suckers is no better than a nation of cynics. But Americans' steadily declining faith in one another is a warning. By Jedediah Purdy. [Click here for further reading.]

NATIONAL UNITY
The New Continental Divide
Overcrowded cities on the coasts. Dying rural communities in the interior. The way to save both may be to create a post-agrarian heartland. By Michael Lind. [Click here for further reading.]

HEALTH CARE
The Overtreated American
One of our biggest health-care problems is that there's just too much health care. Cutting down on the excess could save enough to cover everyone who is now uninsured. By Shannon Brownlee. [Click here for further reading.]

WEALTH INEQUALITY
The $6,000 Solution
The United States is more unequal than at any other time since the dawn of the New Deal—indeed, it's the most unequal society in the advanced democratic world. Here's how to fix that. By Ray Boshara. [Click here for further reading.]

RACE RELATIONS
Mongrel America
The most important long-term social fact in America may be the rising rates of intermarriage among members of ethnic and racial groups. A glimpse into our mestizo future. By Gregory Rodriguez. [Click here for further reading.]

CRIME
Catch and Release
[At the author's request, this article has been removed from the site and is unavailable online.]
The inevitable consequence of America's high incarceration rate is a high prison-release rate—and the prisoners getting out are more often more violent or antisocial than they were before. It's time to rethink—and rebuild—rehabilitation and parole. By Margaret Talbot.

THE ECONOMY AND AMERICANS' FORTUNES

HOUSEHOLD DEBT
Spendthrift Nation
It's a precarious situation: U.S. consumer spending is sustaining the economy—but we need to save more to prepare for the surge in retirements. Here's how to boost personal saving without undermining the economic recovery. By Michael Calabrese and Maya MacGuineas. [Click here for further reading.]

WELFARE AND POVERTY
The Black Gender Gap
It may be the greatest policy achievement in recent history: over the past decade significant numbers of formerly welfare-dependent black women have successfully entered the work force. But what about black men?. By Michael Katherine Boo. [Click here for further reading.]

JOBS AND PRODUCTIVITY
One-Dimensional Growth
Since 1998 the United States has lost 11 percent of its manufacturing jobs—and the much vaunted productivity gains of the digital revolution seem to have disappeared. We need an industrial policy that produces real growth. By David Friedman. [Click here for further reading.]

WORK AND FAMILY
The Parent Trap
Working American parents have twenty-two fewer hours a week to spend with their kids than they did thirty years ago. Here's how to help the new "juggler family." By Karen Kornbluh. [Click here for further reading.]

BUILDING BLOCKS FOR THE FUTURE

EDUCATION
A Grand Compromise
Saving American education requires ending the reliance of public schools on local property-tax bases. By James P. Pinkerton. [Click here for further reading.]

THE ENVIRONMENT
The Fuel Subsidy We Need
Oil dependence is still the Achilles' heel of the American empire. It doesn't have to be—and if we don't want to lose economic ground to Europe, it can't be. By Ricardo Bayon. [Click here for further reading.]

PUBLIC CAPITAL
Taking Stock
The demands of our two politically mightiest generations—Boomers and retirees—have knocked the country's public-investment priorities out of whack. By Jonathan Rauch. [Click here for further reading.]

BESTS AND WORSTS
The American Paradox
The country with the most patents, Nobel laureates, and millionaires is also the country with the highest levels of poverty, homicide, and infant mortality among modern democracies. A case for revising our social contract. By Ted Halstead. [Click here for further reading.]

POLITICS
State of the Union Address
Annotated by James Fallows, with additional commentary from the authors of "The Real State of the Union" and supporting material from The Atlantic's archive.

INTERVIEWS
Ted Halstead:
A More Perfect Union

Ted Halstead, the founder and CEO of the New America Foundation, argues that the time has come for Americans to devise a new social contract.

Post & Riposte
Discuss your views about the "The Real State of the Union" in Post & Riposte, The Atlantic's online forum. Also, if you were the president, what would you say to Congress in your State of the Union address? Some posts may be featured on the State of the Union home page.



Highlights from Post & Riposte:

Re: "The New Continental Divide" by Michael Lind
"Lind's article is brilliant and creative. I have been photographing rural Western Kansas and the poverty and desolation is truly depressing. I would add to the discussion the idea of developing wind and solar installations and transmission lines as a new way of developing a resource sorely neglected. The alternative energy possibilities in the Plain States are incredible and would provide great employment possibilities as well as plentiful energy for the nation." —Bob Goldfeder

Re: "The $6,000 Solution" by Ray Boshara
"What kind of skewed view of history leads to such an idea? The Homestead Act cost the government nothing and the benefits were clear—the creation of wealth from wilderness, the extension of federal power, the expansion of de jure American territory by filling it with de facto citizens. The GI Bill helped citizens who earned it in spades. So from there, the author takes a short leap to 'Let's give every baby $6,000.' This is a false analogy." —Leon Goudikian

Re: "The Overtreated American" by Shannon Brownlee
"People want to live like they're machines that can be abused and then taken to the doctor to be fixed. We need to take responsibility for our own health, and use doctors sparingly as diagnosticians only when needed." —Wendy Babiak


What do you think? Discuss this special report in Post & Riposte.

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