Summary: America faces serious threats, most of which are ignored by the presidential candidates. There are solutions that can command the support of an American majority. Our ruling elites have no interest in them. But we can find candidates who offer these solutions – and win. If not in 2020 – then afterwards.
“We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.”
— Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech to Congress on 9 September 2009.
My previous post showed that Campaign 2020 ignores the big threats to America. This post gives examples showing that a candidate can win by offering sensible solutions that appeal to most Americans – even if they do not benefit our ruling elites.
(1) A fearful America.
“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
— Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757).
“Nothing is terrible except fear itself.”
— Francis Bacon in De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II – Fortitudo (1623).
The various factions of our ruling elites sell their proposals almost exclusively with fear – for good reason. It works, because of what we have become – weak, even cowardly. This problem should be addressed directly. Our past offers ample examples. On 4 March 1933, during one of the darkest times in our history, FDR spoke to us with words that can help us today. See the full speech. Here is his powerful opening.
“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties.”
(2) Climate Change.
We are locked into two camps, with a large confused mass between the climate extremists and those who deny that global warming is a threat. The resulting gridlock leaves us vulnerable to the inevitable repeat of past extreme weather and the effects of the continuation of the two centuries of warming (from a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors). We can continue to do almost nothing, waiting for one side to stampede the American public into acquiescence – or for the weather to decide for us. Or we can immediately take smaller but still effectual steps. I gave these recommendations six years, and they remain sound today. They could command popular support.
- Increased government funding for climate sciences. Many key aspects (e.g., global temperature data collection and analysis) are grossly underfunded. But this research should be run with tighter standards (e.g., posting of data and methods, review by unaffiliated experts), just as we do for biomedical research – and for the same reason, to increase its reliability.
- Fund a review of the climate forecasting models by a multidisciplinary team of relevant experts who have not been central players in this debate. Include a broader pool than those who have dominated the field, such as geologists, chemists, statisticians and software engineers. This should include a back-test of the climate models used in the first four Assessment Reports of the IPCC (i.e., run them with forcing data through now, and compare their predictions with actual weather). This will tell us much (details here).
- We should begin a well-funded conversion in fifty years to mostly non-carbon-based energy sources. We need not wreck the economy or defund defenses against the many other threats we face. This is justified by both environmental and economic reasons (see these posts for details). As we learn more about climate change, this program can be accelerated if necessary.
- Begin more aggressive efforts to prepare for extreme climate. We’re not prepared for repeat of past extreme weather (e.g., a major hurricane hitting NYC), let alone predictable climate change (e.g., sea levels climbing, as they have for thousands of years).
(3) The robot revolution.
The great and wise dismiss the potential risk of the next wave of automation. Paul Krugman does so on the grounds that science fiction author Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the automation disaster described in 1952’s Player Piano – and it has not yet happened! He does not mention that Isaac Asimov wrote about a galactic empire in 1951 (Foundation) – and it has not yet happened. Perhaps Krugman does not understand science fiction. Even more oddly, he also says that it did not happen in the past so it cannot happen in the future.
Another voice on the Left, candidate Andrew Yang, says that a universal basic income is the solution – the standard Left’s zero-sum solution of taking money from one group to give it to another. Of course, that automation will destroy millions of jobs – mostly low-skill jobs – is no reason for Yang to oppose his opponents’ call for open borders, flooding the US with more low-skill and low-education migrants. An instant underclass!
There are no easy solutions to the next wave of automation. A universal basic income might be part of the solution set, but keeping millions of Americans from falling into poverty is not much of a solution. Like climate change, there is no one certain solution. But there are effective measures we can take today. Japan is a model for a viable future: low-fertility, closed-borders, and high levels of education. America’s education system is a wreck, and we are building a new and larger underclass. Addressing these weaknesses is an easy place to start. Other nations offer solutions to both of these problems; no radical innovations are needed.
(4) Demographics: the age wave.
The stress the retiring boomers will place immense stress on America’s financial systems. It is too late to prevent the collapse of many public and private pension plans. But the giants are social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Their future has been imperiled by the GOP’s attacks on the government’s solvency: the tax cuts for the rich by Regan, Bush Jr., and Trump. Without these, by now the Federal government’s debt would have been paid down – or paid off. Then we could run up debt as the Boomers retire, and pay it down afterwards. At 76% of GDP, now our net public debt is too high to easily do this.
Social security is the easiest to fix. The SS Administration lists a wide range of fixes. The earlier we act, the easier the fix. Of course, no Democratic candidates are interested. The GOP candidates are less interested, since the GOP believes, “the worse, the better” concerning the government’s solvency.
Health care is a far more difficult problem. It is ~18% of GDP, 2x or 3x the level at other developed nations – most of whom have similar health outcomes as the US. Obamacare boosted spending slightly. Medicare for all will boost it a lot. Aging of the Boomers will boost it even more. But none of the candidates have any interest in reforming the system – just feeding it more money.
This is how the grifter economy works. Defense, health care, education, and Wall Street – our most powerful and lucrative (in different ways) sectors – are immune to reform. Politicians debate only which sector should be fed even more.
To see the rest of this history, read 50 years of warnings about the new industrial revolution. It’s here. Ignore the naysayers. See all posts about it here.
There are solutions to the other problems discussed in my previous post. Like these, our politicians have no interest in them. Perhaps when we are on the brink of disaster, they will discuss real solutions. Too bad that these problems will have grown much worse by then.
Until then the Democrats will pursue identity politics – fragmenting America’s social cohesion – and their radical experiments with gender. And the Republicans will make more tax cuts for the rich, more attacks on workers, more attacks on regulations that limit corporate profits, etc.
The message of this post, like my scores of others about our increasingly dysfunctional politics, is that there is another path for America. The proposals in this post (or rather, proposals based on these bullets) would gain broad support. There is a middle in America. Now it sleeps, but it can awaken. I believe that is the only way America can find a secure and prosperous future.
For More Information
Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about populism, about Republicans and Democrats, about the Left and the Right, about ways to reform America politics, and especially these…
- 2016 revealed the true nature of America’s left & right. It’s bad news.
- Left and Right use race as a way to divide America.
- Visions of America if the Left wins.
- The Left crushes the Right. The counter-revolution will be ugly – Final victory is rare. There is often a second act.
- The Left crushes the alt-Right, but Darwin might bring them to power.
- The Democrats show us the politics of ClownWorld.
- Trump promised to rebuild America but did nothing – To the GOP, the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.
- Campaign 2020 shows who will mold America’s future.
- Two levers to bring the Democrats victory in 2020.
- Stoking hatred in America for political gain.
Books about our broken politics
American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony by Samuel P. Huntington (1981).
The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump by Peter Wehner (2019).