The United States faces tremendous challenges of a magnitude which will require a national effort coordinated at the federal level. We are beset by problems that we have ignored for decades and are now come home to roost. It’s not just about recovering from the Great Recession: the recession brought into glaring relief the terrible structural deficiencies which have taken us to the very edge of ruin. The technological and demographic revolutions are creating winners and losers, adopters and resisters. Those countries that produce conditions most favorable to the adopters are ultimately the most successful. The United States has historically been one of the most, if not the most successful adopter, thanks to our liberal markets, strong institutions, political flexibility and legitimacy, and educated workforce, but we cannot assume that this will always be the case.
Today, we still have a commanding lead, but the cracks are beginning to show. For the past thirty years, we have failed to make the investments and the reforms our country needs to succeed. We became complacent. Changes to our political system increased polarization and partisanship.
The problems that trouble us are surmountable, but we need to understand them if we are to address them. We can group them into three broad categories:
- Governance – our political system is a mess and our democracy no longer functions as it was meant to;
- Economic – the US economy is as outmoded as the steam locomotive. Changes since 1990 have made it obsolescent;
- Fiscal – the way we tax and the way we spend is broken at both the federal and the state level.
What’s more, the interrelation between these categories is such that we must resolve them in parallel. Fixing elements within each pillar of performance will only have a modest impact – we need a comprehensive approach with broad political and public support.
Challenging- yes. Impossible – no.
Whatever we do, we cannot continue the way we are and hope for the best. Simply tweaking the system – cutting some here, reforming some there – is an approach that can no longer be successful. At best, it can only delay our decline. Whichever party wins in 2012, it is highly unlikely that the electoral results will create a decisive preponderance of a single party in the executive and legislative branches. Nor is it likely that either party will be sufficiently chastised so as to abandon destructive partisanship. We need to begin by taking responsibility ourselves: if you want to fix government, start by looking in the mirror.
We are a most determined and innovative people. Working together, there is no limit to our greatness. Divided, there is no limit to how far we may fall.
- Bridging the Democracy Deficit
1.1 The New Voting Rights Act
1.2 Electoral and Campaign Finance Reform
1.3 Improving Government Efficiency through Metrics and Pay-For-Performance
1.4 Two Tools for Democracy
- The New Economy
2.1 Rebuilding our Infrastructure
2.2 Energy Independence
2.3 Rebuilding the American Small Business
2.4 New Labor
2.5 Refunding R&D
- Four Steps to Fiscal Fitness
3.1 Simplify the Tax Code
3.2 Reform Entitlements
3.3 Align Military Spending
3.4 “VAT” until we’re Debt-free