, Salem, MA

November 8, 2012

Our view: The challenges ahead

The Salem News

---- — The 2012 national election is now behind us, and the enormous voter turnout says clearly that citizens have done their part to speak with their votes.

Whatever the promises that were made during the campaign, there are certain issues that are binding to all of us as Americans. We hope that both Congress and the president will work together to solve these common goals:

National debt: Our nation is approaching a potential economic catastrophe if our national debt is not brought under control. The national debt has tripled in the past 12 years, with about $5 billion added during George Bush’s eight years in office, and more than that during President Barack Obama’s four years. It now exceeds 100 percent of our gross domestic product, which is a measure of all goods and services produced in a year. This is the first time since World War II that the nation has put itself in such economic peril, and, unlike today, the post-World War II years were a time of substantial economic growth.

Economists have warned for some time now of the peril that uncontrolled public debt will cause not only for the United States, but the world as a whole. We have seen the inklings of what a small nation’s potential inability to pay its debt can do to the world economy — Greece’s financial problems have rocked the world markets. A debt-related crisis caused by the United States would bring the world to its knees.

Congress and the president must commit themselves to carefully reducing the debt and restoring fiscal responsibility to the nation’s spending. This will no doubt require spending cuts, changes in entitlement programs such as Medicare, changes in public employee pensions and increased revenues through higher taxes. These are all hard realities to face, but they will seem trivial in the face of a debt default and the economic disaster that would follow.

Middle class: The best thing that can happen for the middle class is a growing economy with good jobs, a fair tax system and incentives for necessities such as higher education that help wage-earners achieve the American dream. The middle class also needs access to capital in order to start new businesses, and a well-regulated banking industry that cannot cause the kind of economic collapses that led to 2008’s crisis. It needs a reliable and affordable network of social programs — such as Social Security and Medicare — to provide a safety net for retirement years. Government can play a positive role in all of these things.

We have become a society that, on the world stage, can no longer hang onto large segments of our traditional manufacturing industry. Many of those jobs have been lost forever to low-wage nations such as China. This is nothing new for America. We need to remember that our economy thrives when we focus on developing the latest technology.

Energy: We believe that America has the know-how to solve its energy problems, but it has only halfhearted resolve. Cutting our dependence on foreign oil — particularly from the Middle East — and developing reliable, highly productive renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and wave dynamic technologies will go a long way toward getting America to that goal. Fusion-powered automobiles have long been a fantasy; we should work toward making them a reality. This would perhaps be the greatest technological revolution of all.

There are many challenges that face this nation. These are just a few. We live in a country that prides itself on its foundation of freedoms and a common sense of unity. We need to demand that our nation’s leaders remember that America, not party politics, comes first.