The black/white, yes/no, right/wrong, good/evil, rich/poor, and friend/enemy world that Bush, Cheney, Rove, and friends bring us every day is enormously unfit for today’s world. This over simplistic view certainly aids the party in power to rule and utilize fear and patriotism without offering sound supporting reasons. But even more important is that it shields the government from seeing the world and our country as a complex system of intertwining causes and effects. Setting up the idea that Al Qaeda and its friends are the number one threat to America is as dangerously short sighted with regard to longer term implications as it is handy for the Bush crowd to manipulate and distract the electorate.
The longer term implications most suscinctly is the world competitiveness of the US and whether our country is becoming more competitive or less competitive while we waste away time, lives, and resources on the Iraq war and all the other wrong header Bush goverment positions. I submit we are doing all we can to become a second rate country in the decades ahead. But it does not have to be that way.
The scandalous interference by political hacks with world recognized NASA experts on global warming is a good example. Or the championing of “no child left behind” where the government support is around measurable standards of achievment (teaching to the test) and little or no funding to enable our nations schools to deal with the social fabric that limits the future of many students to learn is another. This current situation will not lead to a generation of students who can compete globally. Who do you know who can speak Mandarin? Who do you know that understands the Hindu and Sikh religions (what do their beliefs teach, what do they value)? Who do you know who wants to become an engineer and make things, things that lead to jobs, jobs that can pay well?
We are clearly the world’s most militarily powerful country today and probably will be for some time. We are a country of 300 million and China and India together are at least 3 billion. These countries are developing rapidly and will seek exponentially more and more of the same resources we are used to using. Oil, gas, and, metals of all types, as well as natural resources such as fish, meats, grains, and wood will rise in price do to supply and demand. At some point there will be friction over who gets what and for how much. What will we do then, invade again?
This is the BIG type of issue our government should be addressing because it is real and bigger than anything any state, company, or individual can deal with. Government analysis and leadership in enabling competitiveness is key. Building competitiveness can only be accomplished by the private sector.
I would offer that the following three “man to the moon” type initiative are ready and waiting to be championed and will serve as the core for a resurgence of competitiveness within the US. They are:
1. By 2015, a reduction by 50% of oil consuption from today’s levels combined with a similar reduction in CO2 emissions. While we will probably find no silver bullet, these goals will not be reached without a significant increase in solar sources (wind, sun, geothermal). The benfits include a healthier environment as well as less dependence on foreign sources of oil.
2. By 2010, a national health care system that provides quality care with dignity for all living in the US. This entails the creation and funding of a single payer system and a set of principles on how we will allocate scarce medical resources (such as beds, equipment, top doctors, drugs). Our country is currently rotting from within and one major cause is the immoral and unethical distribution of health care. With a fair system, we can begin to discuss other social issues that divide us. With less division, our country will be able to focus better and become more competitive.
3. By 2008, there needs to be a coordinated national effort to foster scientific education and its application to engineering and manufacturing. Wealth is created by mining, growing, or making. We need to rejuvernate our manufacturing base in an environmentally friendly way as well as to provide good jobs with dignity. We seem to be living in the last days of American manufacturing greatness. Jobs are flowing overseas driven their mainly on lower cost of wages. A country without good jobs can not endure.
Ending the Iraq War is not losing (as Cheney would like you to think). It is actually the beginning of winning. It will give us the chance to put our national energies against these three great initiatives as well as go through a period of reflection and understanding of what type of thinking got us into this mess in the first place. Let’s begin to win.