New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote about national malaise has impacted some of the challenges of the day. A large part, Brooks believes, is economic malaise tied particularly to the general economic challenges. Brooks and his sources suggests reducing benefits for affluent non-working people, while assisting employers in funding higher wages and assisting people from high unemployment areas in relocation expenses. He also suggests reforms in immigration to bring in research and innovation talent, reforming the tax code (with an endorsement of a plan offered by Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee), and increasing “human-capital” investment, specifically in education to allow more people to earn college degrees, since research shows this tends to increase people’s earning power (Brooks, 24 October, 2014, downloaded from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/opinion/david-brooks-the-working-nation.html, November 2, 2014). These are important ideas.
However, we cannot ignore or simplify everything down to just jobs. Economic life is extremely important to American life. It influences most decisions in one way or another. Even if some individuals wish this was not the case, it is a reality.
However, if the United States wants to truly address the malaise, it will take more than just policy innovations. The United States will also have to recapture some of its values of innovation, faith, scientific rigor, and continue to work to reestablish its moral center in the universe. It will take fidelity to its values, especially those enshrined in the Constitution. We will have to pay attention to the family unit, the bedrock of our society, and work to continue to reestablish those ties. The nation will need to confront the issues of mental health services and gun violence in a way that preserves individual liberty and dignity. We need to empower teachers and local school districts so that they perform at their very best, so that all children will have access to top-quality education from their earliest years until higher education and make sure that these students are fully prepared for a career upon completion of that education, not because education entitles people to jobs, but because the education system, working perhaps in partnership with government and industry, should be able to prepare students for stable work. We must empower our economic engines and our laborers, especially our small businesses and family farms and ranches. We need to encourage parents to take responsibility for their children and gradually encourage students to take responsibility for their own lives. We cannot avoid all inequalities, but we must reduce both the sense of victimhood / entitlement and correct the historical conditions that cause such a mentality. We need a health care system that is top of the line and yet, at the same time, encourages innovation that drives down the cost of health care so that one does not have to be wealthy to afford health care. We must exude both strength and moral leadership at home and abroad.
Most importantly, the citizens of the United States need to have and restore their sense of optimism in their institutions. Many citizens of the United States have pride in their country – and continue to do so no matter what party is in power. Their faith in country, and perhaps faith in a higher power, compels these citizens to do the needed work no matter what the situation is and strive forever on to meet the challenges that today and tomorrow may bring.
However, as citizens and as human beings, we cannot be merely satisfied with the status quo. We must think boldly. Saint Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I understood as a child; I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (NRSV, 1 Corinthians 13:11). The context of this piece of scripture has to do with spiritual gifts and love, specifically the concept of agape, divine love. Saint Paul is arguing here for maturity to understand these gifts. In other words, to fully reach our potential, we need to reach spiritual maturity.
We cannot be mired in depression and inaction. We need maturity and strength to deal with a changing world, yet we must be mindful of our societal challenges. Institutions and things in our world are changing and will continue to change. However, we must remain true to our faith and allegiance. We must be a people of action, of maturity, and of reason. Although the path will not always be easy, we cannot aspire to be our best if we are complicit in mediocrity or fail to meet the challenges. The United States is a country of big ideas. As we have in the past, we must rise to meet a new set of challenges. If we rise to this challenge, we can make our country and our world sustainable.
Because I believe in this mission, I will be utilizing this specific blog less. There are other opportunities to learn, develop, and even blog about. I will likely post occasionally at least for the foreseeable future. I will also publish links to any new blogs I develop. I thank my readers for your attention and comments over the course of this project.