Three New Year wishes for our nation
As we close the books on 2022, it’s a convenient time to reflect on what transpired over the past year and look forward to what 2023 may offer.
Although each of us can offer our own laundry list of wishes and hopes for our nation, here are three that focus not so much on tasks to be accomplished but on principles that are needed to help our nation move forward and be a better place for all.
Compromise: With Republicans controlling the House and Democrats in charge in the Senate and the White House, the potential for gridlock is great. Yet, it need not be that way. The recently passed omnibus spending package demonstrates the necessary give and take that can lead to tangible outcomes and progress.
Compromise means that each stakeholder may not get everything they want. It does mean that they will get some of what they deem important.
Meaningful and controversial issues that demand compromise and discussion include firearm safety that protects without restricting, immigration laws that welcome but do not burden, as well as political redistricting that best serves voters and our democracy, to name just a few.
To reach compromised solutions must take the winner/loser mentality out of negotiations and focus on progress for the betterment of the nation (is that not what our elected officials are supposed to do?).
Fiscal responsibility: Spending never seems to be a problem in Washington, while cut backs draw opposition, or is used as a political weapon in negotiations. The outcome of such shenanigans is an accumulated national debt that is nearing $32 trillion, or almost $100,000 for every man, woman and child. With interest rates climbing, and persistent federal budget deficits, this number will continue to climb, with no end in sight.
If any individual, organization or company ran their affairs like the federal government, bankruptcy would be imminent. Yet, countries like Japan and China continue to own and buy treasury bills to fund our fiscal excesses, enabling even more deficit spending and accumulated debt.
Can this problem be resolved quickly? Of course not. Yet, for it to be addressed demands attention, and no politician is willing to take on a problem like this, let alone discuss it. It offers little political capital to be gained and can jeopardize a political career when spending restraints are proposed.
For fiscal responsibility to be placed on a legislative agenda requires voters to demand it. Until that occurs, a fiscal tsunami looms before us that will be felt by all.
Kindness: Conflicts around the world are ubiquitous. The Russia-Ukraine war is approaching its first anniversary. No one could have predicted such a conflict raging on for so long.
Politics is often filled with nastiness and self-serving interests. The Jan. 6 House committee findings disclose such behavior, with our former president appearing to have acted … unpresidential, for personal gains, while risking the very foundational principles of our nation.
Perhaps it is time that a spirit of kindness comes to Washington, and to our nation for that matter.
After 9/11, we all came together to mourn our collective losses. After natural disasters like Hurricane Ian, the innate generosity of people helping each other is abundantly on display.
Why must it take a national disaster or calamity for people to exhibit the very best qualities that make us proud to be American?
The fact is, it does not need to be that way. Kindness is a choice that anyone can make at any time. Try allowing someone to go ahead of you in the grocery store checkout line, and watch their appreciation — and surprise. Notice also how you feel with your act of kindness.
It is our differences that make us collectively stronger, and it is our similarities that unite us. These seeming tensions are relentless, yet they provide the glue to make our nation the most desirable to immigrate to, as measured by the number of foreign-born residents.
Perhaps 2023 can be a launch pad for improvement on multiple fronts. If we do not take such action for ourselves, perhaps we should take them for our children and grandchildren.
Compromise is clearly making progress in Washington, while fiscal responsibility is a long shot. Most would call me Pollyanna for hoping for kindness.
Lord Baden-Powell followed the thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.”
What better time to practice this principle than in 2023.
Sheldon H. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a professor in computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. A data scientist, he applies his expertise in data-driven risk-based decision-making to evaluate and inform public policy.
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