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How America Can Stay Ahead

With the 2020 election getting closer, it is time to start thinking about the policies and reforms that most Americans would like to see implemented. The main problem in these discussions is that currently, all federal politicians are in lockstep with their party. There is a sentiment that, no matter how pressing some of these issues are, if the others are in favor of a particular rule or regulation, you need to stand up against it. This leads to ineffective governance, and both Democrats and Republicans are to blame. What needs to happen is an honest conversation on policy, not just the repeating of slogans that your base agrees with. It is also important to remember that in the United States, not everything ought to be done through the federal government. Local and State governments have a better picture of what their people need and thus are often more effective. So, what could be done?

There is a lot that can be discussed about the economy. However, since there is not yet a clear picture of the long-term impact of coronavirus, the focus will be lying on the change that was already needed before this crisis. Infrastructure in the United States is in desperate need of improvement. This is something Democrats are correct about. Republicans, on the other hand, have a perfectly valid point that the federal government should not be leading this effort. Infrastructure will only improve the economy if it is done where it is needed. This means that State government, both the governors and the majors of the states’ cities, need to figure out where and what is most needed and take charge of implementing the improvements. The federal government’s job is then only to help provide the funds needed. By letting local government deal with these issues, the costs will go down. If – like some Democrats want – the federal government would be managing this effort, capital would be spent ineffective. Building a bridge will only increase economic activity in the long term if the bridge actually leads somewhere. Another big issue when it comes to infrastructure is that it is overregulated. This regulation has made fast improvements and economic growth almost impossible. To give an example: when President Kennedy wanted to put someone on the moon, it took 8 years, now it can take up to 12 years to get the right permits to build a bridge.

The public school system is falling behind, especially in intercity schools. This is in stark contrast to American universities – which are seen as the best in the world. The children that go to these inter-city schools are often reading and doing math at a level that is under the national average of their respective age group. It is estimated that 50% of those intercity kids do not graduate. This is not a problem that can be fixed by throwing more money at it. In 2016, the United States spent approximately 39% more per student than the OECD member counties. One of the ways this could be effectively changed is by allowing for school choice. Too many children are forced to attend schools to which they are assigned by their zip code. By opening this up, parents can find the right school for their kids. It also leads to more competition between schools, since parents want to give their kids the best education they can. Charter schools – which are semi-autonomous public schools – also increase the options parents have, and the more choice the better. However, while on the topic of education, we need to acknowledge that it is not necessary for every student to go to university. Trade schools help prepare kids to get a good paying job immediately after high school. This is an alternative system that needs to get promoted.

Social security, Medicare, and Medicaid are some of the more controversial issues. As a society, we ought to aid those who need help. Currently, the United States spends about 48% of its budget on these programs. These programs need to be fixed, as they are currently the biggest drivers of government spending and if, left unchecked, will eclipse economic growth. Instead, the government should implement a negative income tax, letting those who make less than the threshold receive cash. This gives those individuals the ability to control themselves how much money they want to spend on these issues. It also decreases the cost for the federal government and the bureaucracy that comes with it. State and local levels can run their own additional programs if they see the need for it. To lower the price of healthcare, regulation needs to change so that individuals can shop for health insurance in different state. Currently this is not allowed under federal law. By increasing the competition between insurers, downward pressure prices will increase. There might be a larger role for government in the case of healthcare, however a full government takeover of this market won’t end up giving the promised benefits and will instead increase the bureaucracy and inefficiency as can be seen in the British NHS. Let’s not forget, the United States healthcare sector is the best in the world when looking at doctors, pharmaceuticals, etc. Decreasing the costs of healthcare also needs to be addressed indirectly. Schools need to educate children better on the effects of unhealthy behavior and increase exercise programs. This might decrease the underlying medical problems America faces such as obesity and the opioid crisis.

Immigration is an issue in which the points that are made by both sides are true. Republicans are correct in stating that there needs to be more border security on their southern border. Whether this is best done through a wall or a fence I will leave to the experts. What has to be said here is that up to recently this was a bipartisan standpoint. On the other hand, Democrats are correct in stating that immigration is good for the economy. America should want to have a meritocratic immigration system that attracts the best and most qualified people from all over the world. Currently the United States is educating thousands of highly qualified people in their universities and then sending them home. As a country built by immigrants, the United States should want to retain that amount of intellectual capital. Democrats are also correct in stating that the federal government is not going to deport all illegal immigrants that are currently in the country. These individuals should have a path to citizenship. If the security at the border is improved, there should be nothing standing in the way to help those individuals obtaining permanent residence in the United States. This can be done by revisiting the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, which was a bipartisan bill – supported by Senators Bennet (D-CO), Durbin (D-IL), Flake (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), McCain (R-AZ), Menendez (D-NJ), Rubio (R-FL), and Schumer (D-NY) that would bring this comprehensive immigration reform to be.

On the topic of Geopolitics, the main issue is that the United States has isolated itself from its main allies. While the United States is correct when it points out the unfair treatment it receives from China, it has taken certain actions that have had additional consequences. Tariffs have unforeseeable effects. By going up against China without first getting its allies on the same page, a lot of frictions were created. What also needs to be noted is that tariffs might be a good mechanism to get people on the on the table for a conversation, they are not a good long-term solution. It leads to a increased prices for the domestic consumers, which isn’t easily noticeable but does hurt the economy in the long term.

The United States is an exceptional country, founded on the ideas written down in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is a bastion for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of enterprise. It has the largest military in the world with amazing neighbors both to the north and the south. It is completely independent for food, water, and energy. With its low corruption and reliable rule of law it has created the world’s longest surviving democracy that fosters private enterprise and innovation around the world. All of us should want to see its continued success. Hopefully both parties can come together and address the issues so that the foundations of the United States remain solid. The entire world benefits from a strong United States.


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