No surprise, then, that we are disappointed—often angry—with government at all levels. No wonder we are particularly frustrated by the deadlock in Washington.
The current model of American government that emerged during the New Deal and in its aftermath--at the local, state, and federal level--was reasonably well suited to the "old normal” of the post-World War II era.
But in today’s "new normal," our government has proven deficient in achieving its three main goals: (1) protecting and enhancing public safety, health, resources, and infrastructure; (2) providing economic security and equal opportunity; and (3) creating an effective market.
Mind-boggling numbers about government's cost and complexity tempt us to concentrate on the size of government. Yes, American government is big. The federal government alone spends over $6 trillion, taxes over $5 trillion, and regulates a lot (over 160,000 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations). And size matters.
But the central question is: To get the United States back on track, what exactly should government do?
What should localities do? What should states do? What should Washington do?
The question can be answered, and with precision.
The starting point is to recognize that we need to radically redesign what American government should (and should not) do. Fundamental reform is particularly needed at the federal level.
Our government should ensure that Americans have:
· Jobs that pay a decent wage;
· A comfortable income (if we work, or cannot work, or retire in our 60’s);
· Excellent health insurance and a good education;
· A clean environment and a marketplace that does not harm us;
· A fixed-up infrastructure; and
· A tax system that is fair, simple, and less burdensome.
These reforms, together with other measures, will help the U.S. to greatly reduce racial disparities and injustice. They will help to stop (in time, reverse) the rising tide of inequality in income and wealth. Establishing a sound system of economic security also lets us abolish poverty-requiring welfare programs. Creating an effective market, and a fair and simple tax system, also requires the elimination of all subsidies for specific types of consumption and investment.
The nation will continue to drift until we revisit the New Deal and its 80-year aftermath, and fix the gaps and shortcomings. We will falter unless we create a new design for government, translating the six major reforms that we most urgently need (summarized in the sidebar) into the specific policy changes spelled out here in detail.
With these new policies in place, American government will then find its proper, limited place in our nation's economy and culture.
And the American people--all the American people: black and white, women and men, rural and urban; regardless of our ethnic origins, religious beliefs, marital status, or work in life--will experience our next birth of freedom.
David Riemer’s career defies stereotypes. Lawyer, author, politician, administrator, and advocate, he has worked with both Democrats and Republicans for four decades to enact policy changes that advance the new design for government spelled out here. Continue reading ->
In 2015, 29 million Americans still had no health insurance, despite the major expansion in coverage caused by Affordable Care Act.source
Nearly one in seven U.S. residents, 13.5% of population, were officially poor in 2015... higher than 40 years ago.source
An EPA survey in 2013 estimated we need to invest $384 billion to improve our drinking water infrastructure to ensure safe drinking water.source