You would be hard-pressed to find former Vice President Albert Gore Jr. and myself simpatico on many issues. However, I admire him for the passion he has exhibited on environmental issues dating back to his early college years. He stuck his neck out, and put his credibility on the line, when no other political figures of his stature were willing to do so. He wrote his first book, Earth in the Balance, way back in 1992 when global warming wasn’t a sexy issue. For these reasons GlobalWonk applauds his receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. (We were also happy to see him win the Oscar earlier this year.)
Unfortunately there are too few politicians, and leaders in all parts of society, willing to make the tough calls necessary to get the United States on a track that leads to sustainable growth, peace and prosperity. Let me preface the comments below by saying that I love my country. I served almost ten years active duty in our Armed Forces. I am saying these things because we need to make changes if we are to remain a great and free nation. Consider the following:
- What are we going to do about Social Security? We have seniors in our country that choose between food or medicine every night. The problem will only get worse. 2007 is the first year of the decade-plus wave of Baby Boomer retirees being added to an already strained system.
- Why are we not energy independent thirty-four years after the 1973 Oil Embargo that awoke a sleeping nation to the fact we were importing more oil than we were producing for the first time in our history; even though our government, and industry insiders, knew the inevitability of this as early as WWII.
- As of this posting the United States is $9.049 TRILLION in debt. This number increase by $1.42 Billion per day. This amounts to $29,838.44 per man, woman, and child living in our country. What happens when our financial system becomes so dire that nations like China and Japan cease buying our public debt? What if they decide the European Union, and the Euro, is a safer bet for their reserve currencies than the dollar?
We need strong leaders to make us confront these, and many other, critical issues. We need them because most Americans are unable, or unwilling, to face these issues themselves.
- We all know that Social Security may not be there for us as it was for our parent’s and grandparent’s retirement. Yet we are one of the least saving societies on the planet.
- We know we are trading lives and treasure every day to maintain our, and the world’s, free access to (relatively) cheap energy via Middle Eastern petroleum. Yet we drive cars larger than the homes of people in more modest countries.
- We know our country is deeply in debt. Yet we continue to expect the same level of government services and vote for politicians that bring the pork home in the form of pet projects and federally funded jobs.
We Americans will not change our ways until it becomes uncomfortable. I call this The Truth About Inconvenience. Sure, we should all drive a hybrid. But the kids can’t watch their DVDs in the back while they are driven the quarter-mile to soccer practice. We all talk the talk, but we do not want to be inconvenienced by having to walk the walk. The only way to get rid of gas guzzling monster trucks is to make fueling them cost prohibitive. I am certainly not a fan of higher taxes. I am however, a realist. There is a time and a place for government to step in and coerce activity that is conducive to progress for the public good.
Ridiculously expensive gasoline would also make people think twice about that eighth-of-a-mile trip to the gas station for the 300 oz. diet Dr. Pepper. We might actually walk more. Hey, we might even build sub-divisions with sidewalks that connect to each other, kinda like a community.You might meet your neighbors while walking to the store to pick-up a few things for dinner. Knowing your neighbor might encourage you not to call the cops the next time their kid crosses through your yard and steps on your perennials. We might all keep an eye on each other’s kids.
Ridiculously expensive gasoline would encourage the use of public transportation. It would spur venture capital investment in new energy technologies. This will create entirely new sectors of the economy (think Silicon Valley and the computer). They will innovate new products and potentially new energy sources. This will spur our economy which would generate more tax revenue and allow us to pay down the national debt. And so on, and so on…..
So, where do we find these leaders? Where is our Harry Truman? Where is our F.D.R.? Where is our Abraham Lincoln? If you spot one of these type leaders in the Presidential Debates, please drop me a line. We need a hero.