A land of workarounds: Why doesn't America do great things anymore?

Recent travel underscored for me just how far we’ve fallen, as I watched things work better in other lands — including in some that we rebuilt. Airports are clean and efficient, immigration lines relatively speedy. Trains go everywhere, on time. Road traffic (usually) flows. Few drop out of school. And I’m not just referring to Singapore and Switzerland. Luggage arrives faster at Mumbai’s new airport than at JFK. The New Delhi subway system is growing faster — and is cleaner, brighter — than Washington’s.

Back home again, I re-encountered the pathetic condition of our passenger rail service. It goes almost nowhere — and infrequently. The tunnel under Baltimore is 140 years old. At D.C.’s Union Station, they still — in 2014 — manually change engines from electric to diesel while through-passengers wait.

Congress is gridlocked, as are the highways. Our schools aren’t educating. Our colleges cost a mint. Our health care system is overpriced, and our postal service is withering. We can’t get needed drugs approved or keep nasty drugs out. Our pipes burst in winter. The IRS doesn’t have enough staff to help taxpayers work through a vast Tax Code that we’re unable to reform.

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