Over the past few months, it seems like America is more divided than it has been in a long time. At least, that is the narrative the media and unscrupulous politicians are peddling, for higher ratings and more votes, most likely.
However, I postulate that America is actually not as politically and socially divided as those in the media and some politicians would like us to believe. In actuality, I suspect (based on polling and anecdotal evidence) that there are several pressing issues that most Americans would like to tackle in a commonsense manner, with a few compromises here and there.
So, let's put it all on the table. First, let's examine the issue of policing, a hot topic of debate. Obviously, the vast majority of Americans desire basic safety and protection from criminals. And most Americans oppose, or at least question, the militarization of police and certain tactics, such as no-knock raids and unnecessary chokeholds.
Therefore, our leaders should address the policing problem in a way that does not vilify the police, but seeks to form a harmonious relationship between residents and law enforcement. This could be accomplished via a variety of reforms, including enhanced training, ending civil asset forfeiture, and ensuring that police officers are held accountable for their actions by disempowering police unions.
Second, let's take a look at education. Far too many Americans are dissatisfied with the K-12 and higher education systems. And a plethora of polls show that Americans of all political persuasions, races, and generations avidly support school choice. A simple and politically palpable solution would be education savings accounts for all K-12 students, so that all Americans (not just wealthy families) could afford to send their children to the school that best meets their unique needs and circumstances. Another popular idea is the repeal of Common Core and a reduction in high stakes testing, as well as the decentralization of education policy. After all, parents and local officials are much more aware of and able to cater to the needs of their students than a one-size-fits-all approach.
In reference to higher education reform, there are a boatload of bipartisan ideas to improve the high-priced, low-quality experience that has become the norm. For instance, student loan and accreditation reform, private sector-community college partnerships, and vocational/apprenticeship training would vastly expand options and lower higher education costs for millions of young Americans after they complete high school. As the past few decades have shown, there is a huge need for skills-based training in professions that do not require high-priced degrees.
Third, the thorny topic of health care. In my opinion, most Americans are frustrated with the current health care system for a variety of reasons, namely insanely high prices for services and medications, as well as the lack of transparency in today’s health care system.
However, there is more common ground on what Americans covet when it comes to health care reform than you might think. For instance, health savings accounts, direct primary care agreements, and association health plans are very popular across political, economic, and social lines. As is doing away with the hopelessly outdated notion that one’s health care insurance should be tied to one’s job. On these subjects, and several others, there is more than enough room for compromise. Might I suggest you check out this health care plan by The Heartland Institute’s Editorial Director and Research Fellow Justin Haskins, which includes many of the reforms mentioned above in greater detail.
Fourth, everyone’s (least) favorite topic: taxes. Speaking on behalf of myself and most of my acquittances, we are taxed too much. I am well aware that taxes, like death, are an inevitable aspect of life. However, I am also well aware that almost 40 percent of my paycheck disappears due to an excessive amount of taxes. No wonder it is difficult for middle-class America to thrive. The government is taking almost half of the income from the ever-shrinking middle class.
In short, taxes should be reduced for most Americans, especially those at the middle and lower ends of the income ladder. Overly taxing hard-working Americans is crushing the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that has catapulted America to the top of the world. We should have a robust national debate on reforming our tax structure, with a key emphasis on reducing the severe tax burden borne by the middle class.
For the sake of brevity, here are a few other problems that most Americans know need to be addressed, even as our political leaders are reluctant to acknowledge them, let alone propose solutions that have any real possibility of taking place.
The opioid crisis is killing tens of thousands of Americans every single year. We need to address this social scourge ASAP.
At the same time, we need to have a national discourse on our out-of-control national debt, which just crossed the mind boggling $26 trillion threshold. That equates to more than $210,000 for each taxpayer! This is a sin against future Americans, who will be forced to deal with this unsustainable fiscal situation. I would add to this the urgent need for entitlement reform, which has played a large part in our ballooning national debt.
Last, but certainly not least, we need to find common ground on energy and environmental issues. The vast majority of Americans want to preserve our precious planet. Yet, polls show that most Americans are unwilling to pay even $10 more per month in energy costs in order to replace fossil fuels with green energy. There are a number of proposals that have a groundswell of support concerning how to guarantee our energy costs remain low while our environmental footprint stays small. For example, nuclear energy, natural gas, and clean coal could ensure that America’s energy demands are fulfilled at low cost for decades to come.
In summary, Americans stand at a proverbial fork in the road. We can double-down on intransigence, remain divided, and retreat to our political, racial, social, economic, etc. corners. Or we can come to the table, negotiate, compromise, and find common ground.
Believe it or not, most Americans desire reasonable reforms and solutions to our most vexing problems. I hope we realize this and hold our political leaders to task when they engage in divide-and-conquer political gamesmanship rather than bridging the partisan divide to address these pressing issues. If not, we have nobody to blame but ourselves for letting this happen on our watch. As French philosopher Joseph de Maistre said, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”
Chris Talgo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.