Why I think America’s priorities need a refresher course.
By Cliff Ennico
I have tried really hard to avoid commenting on politics and the presidential election. I think I may be the only syndicated columnist in the United States right now who hasn’t weighed in on one side or the other, and believe me, I will continue to resist the temptation to do so as long as I can.
But the political atmosphere does impact the way in which you run your business. What government does (or does not) do impacts all of us, and I’m sure both leading candidates will be pitching for the “small business vote” this fall. It will be interesting to hear what their advisors tell them small businesses want – hopefully some of those advisors have run a business of their own before.
Rather than talk about specific policy choices (which really don’t matter until an elected official actually has to make them), I would like to hear the candidates talk more about America’s long-term priorities.
Here are some specific challenges I would like to hear them talk about:
Military Superiority. The world is a scarier place than it was 50 years ago. Russia and China no longer espouse communism as an ideology, but they and their satellites such as North Korea still pose the greatest dangers to world peace. Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants to rebuild the old Soviet Union, and China is hellbent on building its military with the goal of challenging America for world leadership. Add militant Islam to the mix, and one thing becomes clear: America must maintain its military superiority at all costs.
Right now, America has the strongest, most technologically advanced military on Earth, but that won’t continue as long as fewer than 1% of Americans are connected to the military. How can we beef up our defenses without reinstating the military draft?
Technological Leadership. Over the past 50 years, America has given up its leadership in manufacturing, some say permanently, to Asia. In a country where nobody manufactures anything, the only hope of survival is to become the world’s “research and development” department, providing the technological innovations and cutting-edge intellectual property that the manufacturing nations cannot (at least for now) develop on their own.
If Silicon Valley guru Marc Andreesen is correct when he says that “software is eating the world,” then America’s priorities need to focus all its energy on being the most innovative, entrepreneurial nation on Earth. Falling behind is not an option.
Reforming Education. Our education system is a relic of America’s agricultural past, and it needs to be completely rethought. Education must be year-round, and must be considered a lifelong enterprise, not something you do for the first 21 years of your life.
Business, economics, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and other technology-driven subjects (such as computer coding) should drive the curriculum. Teachers should be paid better, given more respect as professionals and held more accountable for results. Career paths in education should be based on competition and measurable performance, not tenure or union membership.
Creating Middle-Class Jobs Outside of Technology. Not everyone is meant to work in STEM fields. As technology becomes more sophisticated and takes over more unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, we need to give some thought to finding well-paying private sector jobs (not low-level service jobs) for people without STEM backgrounds.
If we don’t, there will be only three places for them to go: government bureaucracies, the military or the dole.
Energy and the Environment. Global warming is real, and it needs to be dealt with, but nobody wants to give up their smartphones, driver-less cars, drones and other technological marvels that no doubt will consume electricity much like Dracula sucks blood.
Solar, wind and other sustainable energy sources are too far in the future. We need to identify clean sources of energy that are available now, do not contribute to global warming and can “bridge the gap” until solar, wind, etc. become viable, even if that means re-embracing nuclear power.
Redefining Our National Identity and Value System. One of America’s priorities has been to support its ethnic diversity. But that diversity has always – until recently – been rooted in a common culture (based on a shared language, European heritage, Anglo-Saxon institutions and Judeo-Christian religious values) that many people feel is threatened by tidal waves of non-Western immigrants.
If America hopes to survive the next 50 years, “hyphenated Americans” must disappear. We need to focus less on “centrifugal” forces in our society – the racial, ethnic, sexual, religious and other tribal “identities” that separate us from each other – and more on “centripetal” forces – the values we hold in common that make us Americans and keep us working together despite our country’s many imperfections, even if we have to invent some of them from scratch.
As the Bible and Abe Lincoln remind us, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, and no country – however open and flexible to change – can be all things to all people. A country that stands for “anything and everything” ultimately stands for nothing. No one will fight or die for it.
Cliff Ennico (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2016 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.