Bump Ahead

While driving down the road last summer, I saw the pictured “Bump Ahead” sign. Sure enough, unmissable in my path was a large bad spot in the pavement that, if hit at full speed, could cause damage to a non-rugged car like mine. I slowed down.

“That’s nice of the government to warn people,” was my first thought. “But, why don’t they just fix the bumpy spot in the road?” was my next thought. 

The bump and the sign both remain there to this day, as a standing metaphor for the disappointment I feel when government officials warn of problems, but seem less concerned about actually resolving them. Yes, I happen to believe that road maintenance departments are not the only public servants whose job it is to figure out what needs fixing within their jurisdictions, and then at least attempt to fix those problems.

That is what I would try to do in Washington, D.C.

What to Fix

Immediately following is my punch list of broken items the U.S. government needs to repair. The next section will provide an overview of my ideas for how to address these problems.

First on any list for a country’s central government is the problem of national security, which includes border security. In addition to the mess at our border – a mess that reaches into the entire country – the United States faces major national security risks through cyber-attacks, along with threats by foreign governments from China and North Korea to Russia, and terrorist groups like Hamas and the Houthis. Other national security risks include climate change and disease.

A second major bump ahead is the looming demise of the Social Security trust fund. Our government has known this for years, but politicians are afraid to bring it up, for fear of being accused of plotting to take away Grandma’s monthly check. Well, if we continue to sweep this problem under the rug, Grandma’s check – and yours – will be cut dramatically.

Third, there is the perennial hump known as the national budget. Most years, we cannot get over that one. Failure to pass and then stick to a budget has caused a $34 trillion national debt.

“It’s the economy, stupid,” pointed out political strategist James Carville, discussing the nation’s foremost problems. That was 1992, and the U.S. economy still needs to be addressed today. Perhaps the economy should have been first on this list.

Lastly, dysfunction in Congress may be the root cause of why the above bumps have not been fixed. So, we should get to work on getting Congress to work.

And How (In Brief)

How to enhance national security: I would start by increasing defense spending, particularly for ships, technology, defense shields, drones, and manufacturing capacity, all while enhancing efficiency to get more bang for the buck. America then should preserve and strengthen its international commitments, such as to NATO, by persuading our allies to make similar military budget increases.

How to fix the border: First, let’s send the message through words and actions that our border is not “wide open.” Rather than playing political games, our Congress should ask our border officials what they need to prevent illegal entry. More agents? More asylum judges? Housing at the border? More wall sections? Whatever our experts say they need, Congress should authorize it.

How to shore up Social Security: To fulfill the promises our government has made to retirees, we need to pass a law extending by one to three years (phased in) the time at which a person 52 or under will reach “full retirement age.” High-earners also could be required to pay in more each year by increasing the current cap on annual Social Security contributions. If implemented, these two solutions would shore up the Social Security trust fund and not affect those who currently rely, or are close to relying, on Social Security income.

How to reduce the national debt: This is easy – we pass a budget that is balanced, and then we exceed the revenue budget and underspend the expense budget. But where do we start cutting costs? The list is long, but let’s start with the federal government reducing federal subsidies and recapturing those wrongly paid out, discontinuing all duplicative agencies and programs, and not paying student loan debts. Then, leave many other expenses to the states (if such expenses are necessary at all), and stay out of K-12 and higher education except for the provision of needed grants to poor students.

How to improve the economy: The free enterprise system will do this if we reduce taxation and regulation of business. Also, by increasing legal immigration we can strengthen the labor market, lower inflation, and increase economic growth all at the same time.

How to make Congress functional: It is incumbent on voters to elect people to the House and Senate who commit not to stay in office more than a few terms, or we amend the U.S. Constitution to require term limits on them. We also must elect only principled federal leaders who will create a “tone at the top” of setting aside partisan politics and getting things done.

In short, politicians, let’s be problem solvers, not problem warners. Let’s repair bumps, instead of stridently calling them out. Let’s fix things, rather than complain that the other side doesn’t. Let’s explain and help the public to understand dilemmas, rather than mongering fear.

Quentin R. Wittrock

Responsible. Respected. Rational.

1 thought on “Bump Ahead”

  1. Well said. All we need is politicians who put the greater good of our economy, security and society ahead of getting reelected. And some courageous leaders who will stand up to misguided, self-serving people like Trump.

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