A look back, and a look ahead – The next decade can’t be worse, can it?

When we think back to 10 years ago, the end of 1999, we recall how upbeat and optimistic we were.

The U.S. economy was undergoing a revolutionary conversion from old style manufacturing to high tech and biotech, the promise of which seemed limitless. The stock market was roaring higher and higher, especially the NASDAQ, which was on its way to 5000 by March of 2000.

The Clinton years, though not without their controversy, had been good ones for all Americans on the economic ladder. Real incomes had increased and energy costs were well under control. Moreover, the world was at peace, and had been for many years, with only the horrors of Rwanda and Bosnia marring an otherwise peaceful period.

But in 2000, we had the stock market meltdown.

Then came the tainted election of George Bush, in which the American electoral system performed no better than a third rate banana republic.

In September of 2001, we endured the attack of 9/11.

And then, everything came undone, as the most incompetent, most venal administration in American history plunged us into an abyss from which we still are recovering.

We have had the worst stock market, the worst housing market, and the worst job market since the Great Depression, and we were saved from another one of those only because the Bush administration got out before they could have caused it.

We have lived through the biggest foreign policy mistakes, the invasion of Iraq and the failure in Afghanistan, in our nation’s history for which there still are no solutions on the horizon.

And let’s not forget the natural, and man-made, disaster of Katrina and the threat of global warming that appears to be accelerating at a pace faster than even the most dire computer models had predicted.

Yes, it is fair to say that the past decade has been the worst of times for the United States. But unlike Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities, there have been none of the best of times.

So when we consider how bright our future looked on January 1, 2000, and how wretched it is today, on January 1, 2010, we can only shake our heads in disbelief as if it were some awful national nightmare.

Thankfully, we have a president and an administration that is trying to do the right thing, but they can only do so much.

About the only thing we have going in our favor is that we have history on our side; in the long run, things do get better. (Although as the wise man said, “But in the long run, we’re all dead.”)

On the local front, Winthrop voters did away with more than 150 years of history by approving a new charter that changed our town government to a town manager and town council from the previous Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting that had been in place since the town’s founding in 1852.

And while most would agree that the change has been a good one, it has not saved us from enduring the worst state budget cutbacks in our history, far exceeding the crises that occurred in the late 1970s, the late 1980s/early 90s, and the early part of this decade.

It is fair to say that with WHS students being charged hundreds of dollars to play a sport and with the continued operation of our town library on the brink, the local budget is worse than it was even during the Great Depression.

Yet, all of us will be greeting the New Year with hope and optimism, as we should. After all, we have to persevere and do our best, because for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we have no choice.

We wish a Happy and a Healthy New Year to all of our readers.

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