As we continue to pull out of the pandemic and life gradually returns to normal, it is pertinent to think about other big issues facing our country. As most of you know, I live in Omaha and, Nebraska now has, for August 2020, the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 4%. So things tend to look good from where I am perched.
Let’s examine the severity of some of the bigger problems facing the U.S. today:
- The Pandemic. The number of new daily coronavirus infections is steadily decreasing. The unemployment rate dropped from 10.2% in July to 8.4% in August. So the most important measures are moving in the right direction and we are already recovering from the pandemic. Our decentralized policy of reopening the economy as quickly as possible with the governors in charge is working well.
- Racism. The killing of George Floyd in late May while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department has led to a summer of racial discontent. Yes, there is still (mostly) latent racism in the U.S. but it is steadily decreasing as blacks continue to move up the economic ladder.
- Inequality and Poverty. Inequality gets the most attention in the media but (lack of) poverty is really a better measure of social progress. And we are making steady progress in reducing the poverty rate.
- Political Polarization. The split is largely geographical between the blue coastal states and the red interior states. The two sides barely talk the same language. The presidential election is unlikely to resolve these differences especially if it is close and the results are contested. For me, the worst thing about polarization is that it makes it impossible for the two sides to work together to address our debt problem.
- The National Debt. The pandemic has turned our already bad debt problem into a severe problem. After the pandemic subsides, we need to become far more serious about getting our massive debt under control. The excessive cost of healthcare in the U.S. is a major component of this problem.
- The China Threat. China is our biggest competitive rival by far. However, the U.S. has many advantages in this ongoing economic and military struggle and should be able to maintain its dominent unipolar status for many years to come.
- Other Foreign Policy Issues. The U.S is withdrawing most troops from the war zones of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and also some troops from allied countries such as Germany and South Korea. This represents an intelligent policy of using military resources as sparingly as possible while still defending vital U.S. interests around the world.
Conclusion. The U.S. is responding appropriately and well to most of the biggest problems we face. The biggest exception by far is our out-of-control national debt which will turn into a huge new financial crisis if not strongly addressed as soon as the pandemic subsides. The current highly politicized political climate is the primary impediment to progress on this issue.