Lack of Future Vision

elephantAs I listened to and reheard parts of the recent State of the Union, I am worried that as a nation, we are not focusing on serious longer term issues. My biggest concern with our current leadership is that we are making short term decisions with little concern for long term consequences. It’s clear that the majority of Americans are deeply concerned about our future direction. The chaos of our leadership causes instability and that has an impact in several ways:

1. Our allies don’t trust us. It seems like we are now living in one of my favorite Sponge Bob episodes, “Opposite Day”, where are friends become our enemies and our enemies are now are allies. Our world is interdependent, more so than ever, and decisions need to be considered with a eye to longer term impact.

As part of this concern it appears to me that every policy of the Obama administration, rightly or wrongly, becomes a policy our current administration seeks to change. Perhaps some needed to be re-thought, but surely not every one. Our word as a nation now is weakened and agreements are broken via tweet du jour. We now lack integrity here and abroad. That has a long term consequence.

2. Despite a relatively strong economy, our financial markets have become less stable since we have inconsistent and changing policies impacting international markets. And the Fed needs to make independent decisions on interest rates based on their knowledgeable view of the economy and its direction.

3. Our priorities as to what are “emergencies” are out of whack. The latest government shutdown/wall saga is an example of a pseudo emergency, while far more serious problems articulated below are ignored or denied.

Worst yet, we have little vision on problems we need to solve for tomorrow. We have become a nation fixated on the latest trend, Presidential proclamation, latest wrongdoings, and tweet of the hour. As a nation we need to look beyond the horizon. That’s merely a reflection of a broader trend of instant information overload, a 24-news cycle, quarterly earnings reports, and scandal of the minute, which becomes old news in a week. In today’s world we know (or think we know) too much, too quickly and don’t step back and absorb longer term trends and think about their implications.

Here are issues we really need to address, but until they smack us in the face (and they will), are chosing not to address:

1. Climate change

Too many really smart people throughout the world recognize the obvious. We are screwing up the planet in which we live and the cost of doing so will be horrific. And it will slam us all, rich and poor, all nations, but particularly the poor. Here’s the problem…Every hot summer day does not mean we are experiencing “global warming” and every cold snap does not mean the opposite. Every hurricane, tsunami, storm doesn’t mean anything individually. Climate change doesn’t happen in a day, month or year. It happens over time.

However…macro trends of overall climate change are happening throughout the world. Of that there is no denial. And the fact that our administration, along with its EPA are deniers, pays little attention is beyond worrisome. It will become tomorrow’s problem, and when it does, it will be a real and ongoing emergency, and one that can’t be “solved”.

2. “Regulations are bad” syndrome

Our current administration looks at every regulation of the prior administration as bad. Government regulations are surely not a panacea for for all issues, but do they really need to be dismantled in all cases?

—Are regulations of financial institutions which tanked our economy in 2008/2009 unnecessary?

—Are regulations of auto makers requiring manufacturing of autos with higher fuel efficiency (albeit with additional cost) not worth it? I remember waiting in line for hours to get gas. Do we need a reminder?

—Are environmental regulations forcing more stringent environmental oversight bad?

These are complex issues far more complex than my superficial questions, but what’s worrisome is that anything with a short-term cost, but longer-term value, is being gutted by our current administration.

3. Tax laws

We implemented a sweeping change in our tax laws heavily weighted to corporate benefits and higher earners. We provided a short term economic stimulus at a time when it was unneeded. Did it need to be so sweeping and deep? Taxing  less but spending more, which create massive deficits, will be a mega-problem for future administrations to solve.

4. Social Security/ Medicare/ and other social programs

We need to address the potential shortfalls in social programs in an intelligent way with small, but meaningful, adjustments now, so we don’t run into large shortfalls later. These programs are vital for our country, but we need address them with wisdom, compassion and vision.  And the impact of #3 exacerbates the problem

5. Healthcare

I never understood the zeal of the current administration to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, particularly without a better idea. The ACA was progressive and wise legislation that was directionally right, but flawed. It needed (and still needs) to be improved. There is no current vision of how to improve the nation’s healthcare and reduce cost, just boastful claims that the ACA is “dead” (it isn’t thankfully).

6. Polarization of rich and poor

I fear we are an economic downturn away from the kind of civil unrest we experienced in the late 60s. We are demonizing minorities and immigrants. There is underlying bigotry that is rising above the surface. Why?

7. Manufacturing

Manufacturing jobs at best are stable and in many industries are not “coming back”. That’s a fact that we are unwilling to fully face. We have evolved to a more service oriented economy. That’s not bad. Some jobs decline, but others emerge. It is obviously very painful for those in industries in decline. But yearning for yesteryear won’t bring back the “good old days”, which weren’t so good in the first place.

8. Tighter gun control

This is a true emergency that remains unaddressed. Simply put, the majority of Americans want tighter controls. Our Administration is not listening to the majority of the nation.

Based on overriding feeling that we are losing our way, and a strong indications that the majority of Americans will not vote for the current President in 2020 (if he even seeks re-election), our current administration will likely be gone in less than 2 years. However in the interim, we are not addressing real, deeper long-term issues. Without addressing the longer-term issues, we will face a far less rosy future. My hope is over time we will regain a deeper understanding of the impact that short term decisions have on longer term outcomes and so that the hard work of creating lasting solutions of complex problems can begin.

Time will tell.

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