Critical Agreement Possibilities

It seems to me….

The ability to compromise is not a diplomatic politeness toward a partner but rather taking into account and respecting your partner’s legitimate interests.” ~ Vladimir Putin[1].

It is very difficult to know what priorities President-Elect Trump will support. Given his campaign promises, it is very difficult to believe he will espouse many of the policies I believe necessary to improve our economy or strengthen the nation for sustainable growth. As he has yet to assume the office, we can still be hopeful the advisors he selects will be more rational and build on the sound foundation created by President Obama. As of now, given the names of his current cabinet selections, that appears to be wishful thinking.

Our country is stronger when all political ideologies agree in support of broad national principles. While differences of opinion and philosophy always will exist on almost every issue between liberal and conservative factions, the very concept of compromise is that no one wins everything in which they might very strongly believe but reach consensus for the overall general welfare. While far from general agreement, areas exist, though not always readily apparent, where cooperation might be possible. The following comments are obviously not policy recommendations as while both parties might reach basic agreement on an issue, they frequently have been unable to achieve any reasonable compromise on funding.

If agreement can be reached on one issue, hopefully it will encourage cooperation and agreement on additional issues as well. The time has long-passed when the divisive issues of the past should have been set aside so as to move forward for the benefit of the entire country.

There is near universal agreement on the need for infrastructure repair and modernization. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our nation’s existing infrastructure an overall grade of “D+” and in desperate need of repair. Once a world leader in new technologies and infrastructure, the U.S. now finds itself behind the curve while countries like China are building new airports, interstate highways, high-speed train lines, and state-of-the-art telecommunications networks. Our existing infrastructure has been permitted to deteriorate to where it might be less expensive to completely redesign much of it to meet future needs rather than continue Band-Aid repairs. We are losing our competitive power; massive investments were made fifty years ago but very little of comparable magnitude has been done since. America’s government-run infrastructure – roads, bridges, rail and mass transit, utilities – is under severe financial strain as maintenance costs have increased faster than tax revenues. A February 2009 report from the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission warned that without policy changes, state and local governments would raise only about a third of the $200 billion needed each year to maintain and improve the nation’s roads and transit systems.

No area is in more need of modernization than our information technology infrastructure where our air traffic control system has difficulty handling current demand, our weather forecasting is less capable than in Europe, the majority of the world’s fastest computers are now in China, and even though the Internet was a U.S. development, data speeds lag far behind many other countries.

Hopefully, a compromise can be reached. Everyone, including Donald Trump, has stated infrastructure improvement is a high priority. The problem, and what has made agreement difficult in the past, is how to pay for it. Perhaps the best way to start would be approval of a National Infrastructure Bank to stimulate development of economically-critical projects that would create jobs and increase U.S. global economic competiveness.

Both parties agree on the importance of funding the Social Security Trust Fund which will run an overall surplus adding to the fund through the end of 2019 but without changes be exhausted by 2034. Both parties also are in general agreement as to the nature of necessary changes though disagreement remains on some small details.

Contrary to Trump’s campaign rhetoric to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on his first day in office, which everyone agrees is far from perfect, conservatives should acknowledge it as having original been their concept, that over twenty-two million previously uninsured additional people now have medical insurance, and work to improve its provisions rather than opposing it for having been approved under a Democratic president. Several extensions of the act; e.g., to cover mental health for veterans suffering from PTSD and expanded research, education, counseling, and treatment for addiction; are obvious. Compromise will be difficult as Democrats favor a single-payer plan while Republicans back free-market solutions. Other alternatives exist, such as placing both Social Security and healthcare management under a single quasi-government corporation similar to the Postal Service or Amtrak to be managed using proven business practices rather than political expediency though such loss of political control would not be acceptable to either party.

Both liberals and conservatives favoring immigration reform should look back to the proposal by then President George W. Bush which was rejected primarily for political reasons. Both political parties objected to some aspects of the measure but those differences could have been resolved rather than simply rejecting the entire package. While border walls, such as the one proposed by Trump, are not a solution, increased border security is necessary. Everyone would benefit from such reform – we are a nation of immigrants who always brought innovation and new employment opportunities with them. Everyone benefits from the diversity and creativity immigrants provide.

It is difficult to know what a Trump administration will recommend regarding educational reform. While perhaps slightly more controversial, both parties agree educational expenses have become unacceptable and prevent an increasing number of qualified students from completing their education: it is time for national debt forgiveness and college affordability. Free education currently is available to everyone in the U.S. through high school, an adequate policy when agriculture or manufacturing were the primary occupations, but must be extended through higher education if our nation is to remain competitive now that employment opportunities have increasingly become technologically dependent. College attendance is not appropriate for everyone so provisions for vocational and certification programs also are necessary. Some form of agreement should be possible though Republicans frequently oppose educational expansion knowing highly educated voters tend to be more liberal and progressive than their traditional base.

The election gave rise to a tide of populism and protectionism that now threatens to damage economic growth but there still is a possibility of approval for international agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) favored by many Republicans including Paul Ryan but opposed by Donald Trump. Still, the primary opposition probably will be from the Democrats. While a considerable percentage of people have been convinced that trade agreements have resulted in extensive loss of employment within the U.S., this is not factual. While a small number of jobs were lost, international trade has mostly been beneficial to the average person. Agreements such as the TPP are advantageous to the U.S. not only economically but politically as related to China. Similarly, criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ignores that the Mexican economy is miniscule compared to the U.S. and any improvement in their economy would be more beneficial in preventing undocumented immigration than building border walls.

There also is broad agreement of the necessity for comprehensive financial reform: the financial segment of our economy has become too influential while contributing little to the overall economy though hardly any agreement exists as to the nature of those reforms. Democrats favor reintroduction of some aspects of Glass-Steagall regulations, breakup of some large financial institutions (so-called “too big to fail”), and reduction of economic inequality; Republicans favor less financial regulation and lower taxes for the wealthy. Trump apparently favors removal of all regulations limiting businesses. Hopefully, Congress will act as a restraint on many of Trump’s excesses.

Both personal and corporate tax simplification and reform is very necessary but a wide chasm exists as to how the problem should be corrected. Still, there might be some common areas where limited agreement might be possible. The goal should be reduction of the Gini coefficient from its current 0.42 to below 0.35 but any progress in that area would prove politically difficult. Trump, and his advisors, are extremely wealthy and out of touch with the issue of economic inequality as it primarily affects lower and middle-income Americans.

Climate change is the most critical issue facing the world at this time but Donald Trump is a climate-change denier: additional environmental improvement might be difficult. Hopefully, common sense and reasonable advisors will prevail permitting advances implemented by the Obama administration to be further strengthened even beyond those greenhouse gas curtailments agreed to under COP21. The U.S. needs to strengthen pollution and efficiency standards and approve a clean energy tax such as a partial destination-based carbon tax. Energy research funds need to be redirected from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation which would be beneficial to our economy, our environment, and our security. Environmental degradation is anticipated to result in an immediate and chronic health threat to those living in developed urban areas with an ensuing increase of about 4.5 percent in pollution-related deaths from the 1990s to the 2050s[2].

Increased implementation of recommendations by scientists and economists are necessary in all areas in addition to economic and energy-related measures; the best available science should be a general guide to decision-making whenever policy choices are being made. Instead, there seems to be increasing mistrust and disbelief in scientific findings and recommendations though they are based on facts rather than emotion or ideology.

The U.S. faces numerous serious problems in addition to those mentioned that should have been addressed many years in the past. Hopefully, progress can be achieved under a Trump administration rather than what I fear instead: a general negation of past accomplishments. The U.S. has three branches of government. Hopefully the legislative and judiciary branches will have the will to refuse to approve any actions detrimental to the nation’s best interests.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is a Russian politician who is the current President of the Russian Federation.

[2] Result of studies undertaken by Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities.

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About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in ACA, Affordable Care Act, airports, American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE, Bridges, Bush, Carbon Tax, China, Clean, Climate, Climate Change, College, College, Communications, COP21, Cost, Cost, Economics, Economy, Education, Education, Employment, Employment, Energy, energy, Environment, Free-Trade, Funding, George W. Bush, Gini Coefficient, Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, Global Warming, Global Warming, Globalization, Healthcare, highways, Immigration, Income, Inequality, Inequality, Inequality, Infrastructure, Internet, Jobs, Lower-Income, Manufacturing, Middle-Income, National Infrastructure Bank, National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, Obama, rains, Renewable, Roads, Science, Social Security, Taxes, telecommunications, TPP, Trade, Training, Training, Trains, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump, Vocational, Wealth, Wealth and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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