America, Land of Second Chances

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President Trump won the election due to many Americans’ deep dissatisfaction with our country’s trajectory. Some Americans have been left behind by the rapidly changing global economy. Many are troubled by the disappearance of traditions that have grounded them to their communities. While the immediate period post the election looked opportune for the President and the Republican majority to offer comprehensive strategies to improve the quality of life for Americans and to encourage Democrats to participate, President Trump’s prospect to effect decisive change is slipping away.

Unfortunately, President Trump prioritizes identity politics, with his appeals to the basest prejudices, his bombast, and sensationalism (“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office”), over inspiring all Americans, and developing and promoting a modernized role for the federal government. His failure to demonstrate moral leadership after the tragic loss of life in Charlottesville and the evil of racism is tragic for America. President Trump has extraordinary visibility but little to show for his spouting and bragging.

America, however, always provides second chances. The President should seize the moment and reset his course. He should stop his perpetual campaigning, pause, and make a decisive speech promising all Americans that he is learning how critical it is for the President of the United States to speak carefully and with gravitas to inspire and work for all Americans. He should get to work and present a comprehensive and carefully designed domestic and foreign policy agenda that improves opportunity for all Americans and acknowledges America’s role as the leader of the free world. The plan must:

1. Regain economic momentum. Sound bites announcing a few big domestic investments induced by state subsidies are “crony capitalism” and do not constitute a serious free-market strategy (Foxcom’s Wisconsin investment was made possible by $3 billion of tax breaks). A plan should include:

a. Tax policy changes, especially globally competitive business taxes, legislative regulatory changes to enhance business competitiveness, and strategies to prioritize work and enhance lifetime adult learning and job retraining.

b. Serious support for global free trade, which has always been an engine for global growth, and aggressive efforts to improve the trade deals in place. We must remember that most Americans are the beneficiaries of cheap goods manufactured and purchased overseas. We must also acknowledge the benefits and stresses of global free trade and educate and help our citizens to compete more effectively. As the richest nation in the world, America must responsibly support free markets and prevent the world from shutting its doors to trade, which would lead to global economic malaise and further world tensions.

2. Rethink the federal social safety net that has expanded over the last 75 years. Today almost 70% of the annual federal budget goes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and support programs such as welfare, at the expense of other legitimate federal needs including improving infrastructure and modernizing our military. These programs are in danger of collapsing over the next 20 years. There are compassionate, better alternatives that could be responsibly introduced over a 25 to 30-year period:

a. Introduce National Catastrophic Insurance. Three hundred twenty-five million Americans would contribute to the risk pool, but only those with the worst maladies would be covered. If consumers, employers, or the states chose to supplement this catastrophic coverage, they could purchase incremental insurance, which would cost less than it does today. National Catastrophic Insurance would replace “one-size fits all” Obamacare. The intrusive role of the federal government in every aspect of healthcare could then be wound down. Finally, the federal government should stimulate the development of a robust and free healthcare market with consumers and healthcare providers legitimately negotiating in an environment with true price discovery. Medicare could then be slowly ended if catastrophic care was assured and efficient and competitive free markets existed.

b. Modernize Medicaid and redefine covered treatments to incentivize personal responsibility for wellness.

c. Gradually, over 30 years, transition away from Social Security, as lifespans continue to increase, and introduce federal retirement insurance where all working Americans would pay (less than we do today) into the system, but only those with the lowest lifetime earnings would receive regular retirement payments.

3. Modernize our military to assure that we can rapidly deploy assets as required and design a foreign policy that embraces America as the free world’s essential nation. We must forthrightly support freedom, use power (financial leverage, collective political action, passionate public support for freedom, and selective military and covert action) to thwart those who attempt to abuse their citizens, and promote regional and global stability.

4. Introduce national service for all young Americans, linked to our domestic and foreign policy agendas. Promoting civic responsibility and our tradition as a melting pot are critical to our national revitalization.

Across the globe, the citizens of the world’s most stable democracies are disenchanted with their lives and with their governments. In essence, the welfare state, as we know it, has begun to “leak.” Politicians are held in low esteem because they do not offer new ideas but appeal to prejudice and individual constituencies. Only bold and new approaches will expand opportunity and enhance civic health for those who have been marginalized by globalization, technological change, and the welfare state.

President Trump should put his country’s needs above his own ego and seize this historic moment to provide a comprehensive plan for America and Americans for the 21st Century. If he chooses this course, he could resurrect his Presidency before it is too late.

-A retired energy company executive, Paul Addis lives in Delaware County and is a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at AddisforPA.