Before advancing proposals of improvement, let us summarize the mega problems facing the US.
- We are still in a Covid-19 pandemic crisis with over ten million cases;
- We have a health system that is costly and serves poorly the middle and lower classes;
- We have a hyper-individualistic form of capitalism. For example, after substantial tax cuts, business made few investments and did little hiring, also betraying Trump;
- We have a severe maldistribution of earnings: the lower 50% earns only 13%, compared to 22% in Europe. Wages have stagnated over the last 30 years, and many families need multiple jobs to make ends meet. They are part of the electorate of both parties;
- We have had a problem with globalization taking away US jobs. Relations with China and the possibility of American companies that produced abroad for US markets moving their production back to the US (thereby “reshoring”) are the key issues;
- We have a form of racism with little improvement over the last 50 years. For example, black males earn $0.51 for every $1 earned by white men in 1950 and in 2014. White residents tend to have more access to high-opportunity neighborhoods than residents of color do. Blacks comprise 12 percent of the adult population and 33 percent of the prison population, compared to 64 and 30 percent for whites in 2017;
- We have the complication of a new white minority, involving the white poor in particular;
- We have a low-quality secondary school system compared to the rest of the world;
- We have an expensive college educational system with unequal access;
- We have an inadequate job retraining, which is particularly needed for green infrastructure, and the jobs destroyed and created by Artificial Intelligence;
- We are not doing enough about climate change;
- We have political and social divisiveness that make political actions difficult. This is even threatening our democracy.
To make matters worse, all the problems are interrelated. Modifying one will impact others.
An overriding issue that emerges from several problems is that we have under-invested in our own care and well-being, particularly among the lower 50 percent of earners. We should propose change where we can realize it, where there is a minimum of common interest among the parties, different economic elites, and the unions.
Here is my list of proposals.
- Deal with the Covid-19 crisis involving both parties and all the states. The pandemic cannot be fought if a large part of the country does not follow the health recommendations. Political unity is the key. The measures should be made and followed according to pandemic severity in the various cities and states, like the schemes used in Europe. Critical issues include re-establishing federal government guidelines, facilitating the coordination among States, making testing more widely available, and preparing for a vaccine's rapid introduction.
- A new Covid-19 relief package is necessary. An agreement was almost reached before the election, and interest remains high before benefits expire at the end of the year. It is essential to permit a full economic recovery.
- Action is required on climate change, and the US must rejoin the 2015 Paris Treaty. However, to give substance to this act, a green infrastructure bill needs to be enacted. There is broad agreement that our present structure is outmoded. Republicans and Democrats almost reached a deal on infrastructure earlier. It would create jobs and positively affect other problems. Business would go along.
- Encourage state and federal minimum wage increases. Wages for the poorest workers need to grow to be more inclusive. New jobs will help but making it easier to join unions would also facilitate this. Our economic elite could reflect on inequalities so massive that they bring into question the American dream and the possibility of upward mobility.
- Another area for uniting Americans could be better job training and retraining. Both parties have expressed interest in the past, and there are many excellent local initiatives that need to be encouraged on a much larger scale. This would help in areas such as green infrastructure, new jobs created by A. I., and the situation of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
- Indeed, new taxes are required for these actions, which should be efficient and progressive.
- Go easy on the rest. Pick the low lying and high yielding fruit first. Other problems are difficult and too divisive to be solved in the short-term. First achieve the necessary inclusion.