"It seems to me what our nation needs is more civil engineers and electrical engineers and fewer financial engineers," Volcker said.
U.S.: a decade of descent
And there you have it -- the United States' decade of descent, in a nutshell. Volcker's observation speaks volumes about where the United States economy -- and the nation, at large, for that matter -- is today.
For reasons that historians will undoubtedly debate for decades (globalization, automation, flawed public policies, inadequate regulations, overconsumption, the availability of foreign capital, greed) the United States embarked on a financing boom -- creating an increasing array of creative and untenable mortgage types, accompanied by an equally problematic set of mortgage backed securities. It generated an unsustainable housing bubble, which ended as all bubbles do -- badly -- triggering the global financial crisis.
And yet, all the while, as Volcker observed, public investment in infrastructure -- the physical backbone of the economy, of the nation, really -- declined. That infrastructure is now in a state of disrepair. The nation's schools, hospitals, roads/bridges/mass transit systems/air travel system and even our electric grid are inadequate to meet the nation's current requirements, let alone the requirements of an expanding, vibrant, dynamic, twenty-first century economy.