President Elect Obama must govern from the center if he is to have a lasting legacy. What does this mean? Simply put, solutions to problems must be sustainable over time. Solutions which are overturned with changes of political party are not useful or productive. Legacies are built on centrist resolutions to problems.
Let’s look at a few to make the point.
- The first sustainable solution in America was the Constitution itself. Crafted with an eye to balancing powers and the flexibility of change through amendment, the Constitution has sustained the solution to the problem of government structure in the United States.
- Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation has sustained, has endured, has gained the confidence of generations. The Jim Crow laws and failures of post Civil War Reconstruction are examples of solutions which were not sustainable.
- T. R. Roosevelt brought federal intervention to monopolistic business – this concept appears to be sustainable in that our government consistently holds the position. Monopolies are not good for business or for consumers.
- Raising revenues by taxing business alone did not work. Our early government used tariffs, taxes on imported and exported goods, to generate the necessary revenues to run the government. In the early 20th Century the first income tax was implemented. This appears to be a sustainable solution to collecting revenues. While the exact proportions of collection between the haves and have-nots changes with power shifts, the concept of income tax has survived.
- Woodrow Wilson championed the idea of a League of Nations. Wilson was able to reach agreement with world powers only to fail in gaining United States Senate approval. By the late 1940’s the idea was resurrected as the United Nations. This idea is around to stay – but the exact legacy of the idea is yet to be seen or understood. Unity between world nations seems to be a moving target.
- Social Security was introduced in the mid 1930’s. This appears to be one of those acts which will live for the duration of our country. Medicare was passed in 1967 – another idea that has strength into the future.
- Some solutions were mandated by the courts. Integrated schools comes to mind, and this appears to be a sustainable concept – the idea will not change in the foreseeable future. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 appears to be established as a part of our culture.
Okay – the point is made. Now we must look to the future. What are some of the legacy solutions facing the Obama Administration? Perhaps we should just identify the issues – then we can speculate on the solutions.
- Universal Health Care: Simply understood, this is the concept of equality in access to the medical community by all citizens. President Elect Obama should address this idea – but if he wants to be successful he must find a solution that future generations can live with – this requires a compromise of interaction between individuals, business, and government.
- Equal access to higher education.
- The Environment: We believe this is one of the most critical of issues. But again, anything that is viable will consider the balance of economic viability. Again, this must include compromise between business, individuals, and government intervention. With that said, if we do not take swift and dramatic action we will soon be left with no compromises.
- Energy independence: This issue goes far beyond just being politically independent of oil producing countries. The world oil reserves are limited – real foresight will focus on renewable energy. New technologies must be developed and the government can help finance this research – but the best solution for long term viability is to allow private business to implement new found solutions. Growing new industry through energy generation insures competitive prices, individual jobs, and future tax revenues.
- Infrastructure: Our military infrastructure has had dominant attention since the beginning of World War II. The interstate highways were built in the two decades of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Municipal powers grids are antiquated. Waste control with sewage treatment, landfills, and industrial waste have not kept pace with population growth.
- Federal budget: There is only one sustainable solution – no deficits. Running annual deficits cannot continue indefinitely. The chickens will come home to roost. The compromise comes in the form of agreeing on which federal programs must be cut back or eliminated, and which revenue sources must be raised. For instance, President Obama could eliminate all entitlement (welfare) programs – but this solution would not sustain over time. We could eliminate the military – but that would last about ten minutes.
- We can imagine a reduced military budget which does not jeopradize our security.
- We can imagine infrastructure rebuilding which will create good employement opportunities – this is a win/win solution. Federal revenues will grow wil more people working and business will prosper with the support of power availability and reliable transportation. Many of these programs will have positive direct impacts our enviornment.
- We can imagine new technologies in energy generation. These programs are win/win, creating new jobs, freeing us from dependence on foreign countries, providing power to our industry, and minimizing harm to the environment.
- ….. etc.
The point is clear to this writer. If Obama wants a legacy of success he must correctly identify the problems and the solutions must be acceptable to future generations. That is the mark of leadership.
Readers – we could go on. But we would like very much to hear from others. A collective effort by the citizen class can dramatically impact decisions made in Washington, D.C.