Monday, February 27, 2017

Issues the President and Congress Should Be Dealing With

The United States, and indeed the whole world, are facing serious problems. Many of these haven’t received the attention they deserve from Congress and the President. What I’d like to do in this post is review the major problems facing this country today. I hope to heighten your awareness of these issues, and help you to understand gravity of the situation this country is in. I hope this will encourage you to write your Senators and Representative if you believe these aren’t being addressed with the urgency they deserve.

President Trump has many of these issues on his to-do list, but he’ll need the cooperation of Congress to get anything done. Encourage your Senators and Representative to put aside partisan politics and work for the common good.

Below is a list of the most serious problems and an explanation as to why I believe they must be addressed sooner rather than later. These are not “conservative” issues or “liberal” issues – they are simply issues that affect just about everyone no matter what your politics are. I don’t think anybody would deny these issues are serious and should have been dealt with years ago.

National security and safety issues

ISIS: there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that ISIS is a threat to the security of the United States, as well as other countries. We need to build up our military to the point where it can be effective against all enemies and potential enemies.

Terrorism: unfortunately terrorism is an ongoing threat, so I believe we could be doing more to defeat ISIS. More cooperation with Islamic countries will help to uncover terrorists and their plots. Unfortunately government may have to become more intrusive as it tries to identify people who appear to be at risk of committing terrorist acts.

Cyber Defense: we are vulnerable to cyber warfare and must invest in efforts to protect ourselves. A cyber attack could cripple our economy, shut down our power grid, and seriously impact communications and transportation.

Military: we must build up the military intelligently. By that I mean don’t invest in weapons that would fight yesterday’s wars, but focus on state-of-the-art weapons for 21st century warfare (see “Cyber Defense” above).

Crime (especially murders): I consider the crime level in our cities to be a form of terrorism, Chicago being a good example. Law-abiding citizens get hit by stray bullets and are afraid to leave their houses or apartments. They live in constant fear. We need to give our police the tools to effectively deal with crime. This means working with the community so that you have law-abiding citizens helping the police to keep down the level of crime.

Gangs: much of the crime is caused by gangs. Sadly, innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire and are shot by gang members battling each other. Our country has to be committed to eliminating gangs so that they are no longer a threat to a peaceful society.

Drugs: drugs are another cause of crime. You have addicts robbing people to pay for their drug habit. You also have rival drug dealers fighting each other. Again, we as a society have to be committed to stopping the drug trade. This involves working with foreign countries from which these drugs come to stop them at their source. Lives are being ruined and even lost by addicts – stopping the flow of drugs into this country and shutting down the local manufacture of harmful drugs must be aggressively pursued.

The Police: it is unacceptable that police are being targeted for execution by criminals. Again, police should work with the local communities so that the police will be viewed as their friends and protectors, not as the enemy. Police should be specially trained in community relations. Cops with a history of abuse should be reassigned to positions where there is little interaction with civilians. The police must police themselves better.

Career criminals in revolving door justice system: It makes me angry when I hear in the news that somebody committed a murder and the reporter states that “he had a long rap sheet.” If he had a long rap sheet he shouldn’t be running around loose. He should be imprisoned for a long time. Somebody like that starts off with petty crimes and works his way up to the bigger ones. Before he can get to the bigger ones he should be locked up. Some version of “three strikes and you’re out” should be implemented to keep these career criminals off the streets.

Immigration: Porous borders allow all kinds of people to enter the US illegally, not to mention drugs and other contraband. This is a threat to national security, and tightening the border should reduce illegal immigration and drug smuggling. The issue is illegal immigration. Solutions must be found concerning illegals already here, and split families (some family members legal while others are illegal).

Economic issues

Loss of jobs to other countries: for a number of years now we have been losing jobs to other countries. This happens because the cost of labor in many of these countries is much lower than in the US, cost of benefits is lower, and there are fewer regulations. These lower costs result in much more profit for the company selling the goods. What the President and Congress need to do is to develop incentives to keep jobs in the US. One that might help is to reduce the number of onerous regulations that are often overkill. The regulations at all levels, local, state, and federal, should be addressed and simplified.
Another incentive to keep jobs in the U.S. is to tax goods developed here in the US but manufactured elsewhere. The tax would equalize costs so that the company receives little or no benefit from manufacturing overseas.

Job creation: One of the ways job creation takes place is innovation. However, the U.S. has sent most of its innovations abroad to be manufactured in Japan, China, and Korea. Anything we develop should be manufactured in the U.S. and not overseas. This can be enforced by penalties levied on goods developed here but manufactured elsewhere.

Balance of trade deficit: we import more than we export. This is because so much of what we buy comes from overseas, namely, China. We must get to a point where our exports equal, or come close to, the value of our imports. Having the current imbalance is not sustainable over the long run.

Huge national debt: the government spends more than it takes in through taxes and fees. It makes up the difference by incurring debt (such as bonds). We have trillions of dollars of debt, much of it with China. A large part of the federal budget goes to paying the interest on this debt. We must have a plan to work down this debt and to ultimately have a balanced budget.

Huge debt with China: as I mentioned above, much of our national debt is held by China. This, as I see it, is a dangerous situation in which China has a certain level of control over us.
Huge consumer debt: right now our consumer debt is in the trillions of dollars. Should this debt become uncollectible, it would have to be written off by the banks and others that hold this debt, reducing their value considerably and probably precipitating an economic crisis. I believe much of this debt is in jeopardy because $1.4 trillion of it consists of student loans (which I think is particularly at risk).

Updating our infrastructure: with our aging infrastructure we are getting to be more and more like a Third World country. Our infrastructure must be updated and modernized if we are to compete in the world market. By infrastructure I mean our bridges, our power grid, our roads and highways, railroads, airports, the air traffic control system, dams, and our communications systems. This updating would provide jobs and make our country safer.

Energy policy: we should have developed an energy policy in the 1970s when we had the Arab oil embargoes. They were a message to us that we are vulnerable. We must develop an energy policy that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. We should also develop a policy concerning nuclear generating plants for electricity. If the French can successfully have a large percentage of their electricity generated by nuclear plants without incident, we should be able to do so as well. All we need is the will to get it done.

Regarding nuclear power plants, they should be the cornerstone of any energy policy. Those who want to shut down existing nuclear plants and prevent new ones from being built should then be willing to shut off their air conditioners, TVs, microwave ovens, and computers.
Regarding transportation, vehicles should be made more efficient and public transportation should be upgraded to be more appealing.

High local, state and federal taxes: high taxes are a problem at all levels of government. Moreover, there is double taxation of corporate dividends: the corporation pays taxes on its profit and stockholders pay taxes on the dividends they receive. The tax on dividends should be either eliminated or reduced to something like 15%.

Too Many Regulations: intrusive government has gotten into every aspect of life. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the truth is that we are getting to be over-regulated. Paperwork and bureaucracy make for inefficient businesses and hinders the entrepreneurial spirit. Government at all levels should review its regulations and make changes where appropriate. Having said that, most organizations (businesses, governments, professions and even the church) have demonstrated time and time again that they are incapable of policing themselves. Therefore some level of regulation is needed, particularly in the financial industry.

Social issues

Wealth inequality and the decline of the middle class: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This used to happen in other countries but now it’s happening here. One of the solutions to this problem is to bring back well-paying jobs. Another solution is redistribution of income from ridiculously highly-paid executives and sports figures to the lower classes. This help to the lower classes could be in the form of subsidies and other kinds of financial help for such things as education and job training. The money would come from closing loopholes enjoyed by the rich.

Racial tensions: sadly, we still have racial tensions. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but it needs to be resolved in some way or another. The one thing I do know is that it will require a change of heart for both white people and black.

Affordable quality health care for everybody: affordable healthcare is necessary, and so government should keep trying to come up with a good solution. The better parts of Obamacare should be kept, the bad parts discarded, and additional adjustments should be made so that it works as it was intended.

Equal pay for equal work: I believe most large companies have narrowed the gender gap, but there’s still more work to be done.
Veterans Affairs: Much work still needs to be done in this area, especially regarding the treatment of Gulf War Syndrome by the VA
Education: we lag behind most industrialized nations in this area. We have failed inner city schools that do a disservice to their students.

International Issues

Emergence of aggressive Russia (Crimea, Ukraine, Syria): the president needs to work with the Russians so that we are on the same page. We have to let them know there will be penalties to be paid for doing things they shouldn’t. If they behave themselves, there could be many benefits coming their way such as improved trade relations. Complicating this is the fact that just about all of Europe’s natural gas and much of its oil come from Russia. This puts Europe under the control of Russia.

Emergence of aggressive China : China is getting more and more aggressive in pursuing relationships with various countries and using its economic power to bully other countries. The Chinese defense budget has grown by double digits for I don’t know how many years now. We need to meet strength with strength.

Catastrophe in Syria: the United Nations should be the organization working to solve the Syrian problem. Unfortunately, the UN has shown itself to be useless in resolving international problems in the past 30 or 40 years. Under Obama the US has shown very little leadership as well. Given the power vacuum in the Middle East I believe we need to show leadership by getting our allies and hopefully Russia to work together to put an end to this terrible crisis in Syria.

International terrorism: terrorism is not just local but is a worldwide global issue. Countries need to work together and with Muslim countries to destroy the terrorist networks. Sadly, there may be collateral damage as a result of military actions that we take. Our country’s main job is to protect its citizens, and we can’t lose our focus on that goal.

North Korea possible aggression: again, we need to meet strength with strength and let North Korea know that they will pay a heavy price she’s a do something against the United States or South Korea.

Iran possible aggression and nuclear program: the same thing as North Korea: we meet strength with strength and work with our allies in the Middle East and Europe to contain Iran.

Support for Israel: support for Israel is nonnegotiable. As our only true ally in the region, it is our duty to support Israel diplomatically and militarily. We have to realize that the main goal of Hamas and other similar organizations is to totally wipe Israel off the map. This is been stated publicly that yet people don’t seem to understand it. Israel has not been the aggressor but has been the victim of rocket attacks and terrorist activities.

Human Sex Trafficking: this isn’t discussed much but is a terrible problem. This isn’t just something that happens in other countries but right here in the USA. There should be a concerted effort by as many countries as possible to coordinate their efforts to stop this criminal activity.

Climate change: climate change has been debated, with some people arguing that it is not an issue. However, if we cut through all the rhetoric, there are two main points that we should understand. First, there is some sort of global warming or climate change occurring based on all the statistics that have been gathered. We don’t know whether this is a short-term blip or long term trend, but we should do everything in our power to reduce carbon emissions and slow down any changes in climate. Second, the atmosphere is polluted and nobody was to breathe in that kind of air. So reducing carbon emissions and other poisons in the atmosphere is good for our health.

I don’t think anybody could argue that these items aren’t critically important, and must be addressed before some calamity happens, such a collapse of the economy.

More on critical problems in a future post.