Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, researching and some debating over the future for the United States. There are a few key areas that I’ve been meaning to write about that all orbit around this central theme, so I’ll run through them quickly here and possibly follow up each in later posts.
First, the national debt, taxes and cuts. This is an important issue and one that we’ve ignored for too long. I equate it to the idiot bureaucrats here in the Washington DC Metropolitan area (surprise, right?) with regards to the local transportation infrastructure. This is the one market – the ONE – where housing prices are stable or rising in recent months but yet, there is little to no growth in the transportation infrastructure. And there hasn’t been in years. No new major arterial routes in Maryland except for Rt. 200 (the Intercounty Connector) which faced an arduous uphill fight and limited ones in Northern Virginia (Rts. 7100, 7900, etc.). But none have really addressed the greater metropolitan area’s traffic patterns as a whole from a systematic viewpoint. Why clog commuter routes with north-south bound through traffic – there’s no bypass. Why funnel hundreds of thousands of commuters making radial trips around the city onto one of a few bridge crossings? Similarly, the government – both republicans and democrats – have largely ignored the government spending problem. Now, the knee-jerk answer you’ll get from those on the left will be to raise taxes on the rich, cut defense spending and complain about the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan. None of that will address the issue. We face a demographic issue (as pointed out by ‘Puter here and myself here) that requires – yes, requires – us as a country to examine the social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other welfare programs. I fully believe that helping those less fortunate is a moral duty but I’m not convinced in any way that these programs are achieving this in a smart and economically sound way. People can maligned Rep. Ryan’s proposals and spread fear and doubt about the programs, but in the end he stood up and pointed at the elephant in the room. What other elected leader in recent times has had the political nerve to do so? Instead, their reactions are telling. They run scared – scared of losing their jobs because this is such a difficult issue. But guess what? We didn’t elect them and pay them significant salaries with lavish benefits to ignore the hard problems. This is one reason why I believe that when “politician” became an acceptable answer to “What’s your career or profession?” the government was damaged.
Second, innovation, manufacturing and growth. While tackling the debt and government spending is important, I think one way to help is to promote real growth. In the last 50 years, the United States has had 20 years of 4+% growth in GDP. James Glassman writes a little about it over at NRO. We are sitting in the low 2% range now and economists are predicting more of the same for years to come. Since World War II, we averaged around 3.5%. Increasing the GDP will mean lower unemployment, increased wealth for all and a means to reduce the debt. The difficult part is how to get there. Clearly the “stimulus” approach isn’t working. We’re into “Summer of Recovery, Part Deux” and likely facing a double-dip housing recession. Let’s dispell some myths too: 20% of the global manufacturing is American. One-sixth of American jobs are manufacturing. We have a trade surplus in manufacturing, agriculture, and services. Where the myth gets propgated from is the reduction in the number employed (still 1/6th, though) – and that is due to improved technology leading to more efficient production. We need to capitalize on this and do more.