Future of democracy is on the ballot, but what about future of Americans?
Joe Biden sent a clear message to voters at the convention. The future of democracy is at stake. But what about the future of Americans?
Massive changes are now underway, from population aging to the rise of emerging markets, with technology constantly shifting how we work and play. Instead of a baby boom, we are facing a baby drought. Women have made enormous progress for education and own half of the wealth in the world, but the coronavirus has hit them harder in terms of unemployment and household tasks. Many are placing their careers on hold, particularly women of color. Generational groups are jockeying for position over who will shoulder the financial burden of government debt. The global middle class continues to expand but not in western nations. Before we know it, the United States will be relegated to the back of the world stage.
Biden vividly argued for molding the future to benefit all Americans. But are Democrats, or Republicans for that matter, aware that the definition of the future will be obsolete come January? The future is coming faster than ever with the pandemic. Consider population aging. As couples postpone having babies due to the current recession and high unemployment, our population will become older much faster than over past decades, which is a trend that will only accelerate as immigration slows down. Unless we enact policies to address this, then our pension system will be in trouble. Meanwhile, our economic standing in the world will decline rapidly as the emerging markets across Asia continue to outpace us in growth, and our handling of the coronavirus will only accentuate this difference.
If Biden wins the election, he must come to terms with an accelerated history and the intensification of trends triggered by the pandemic. He wants to create five million new jobs, but it takes engagement with the world. Made in the United States sounds great for politics, but it is not great economics. Engaging with the world would enable companies to sell their products and services at home and abroad. Emerging markets growth is much higher than ours, which indicates that the fastest way to create jobs is to share in these gains. A different strategy over economic diplomacy is needed, one that changes the focus from trade sanctions and protectionism toward mutual gains and shared interests.
Biden promised to fight for racial justice and many systemic problems that it entails. The clock is ticking in this respect. By 2030, minorities including Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans could be the majority of us living in the United States under 40, according to the Census Bureau. That is what the future looks like, and it is paramount that our policies reflect and support this demographic shift, which impacts all aspects of society and the labor market in the United States.
Finally, Biden discussed the threat of climate change and how we have to address it head on. President Obama set into motion several initiatives in this arena. But if this approach is to be sustainable, it will need bipartisan consensus, regardless of which party is in power. Climate change cannot be spun simply as a political issue for one side. If it is, one administration will introduce policies, and another administration will undo them.
This could confuse companies, consumers, and investors, not to mention throw our entire future into existential jeopardy. We should be committed to less waste by preserving natural resources for our children and scaling back on careless consumption. We waste a third of the food that reaches consumers, according to the Agriculture Department. Food production and distribution accounts for the largest share of carbon emissions by contributing about 30 percent of the total carbon emissions.
Biden was clear to say that he is dedicated to working on behalf of all Americans and not only his supporters. Whether this works out, we will have to see. A decisive victory by Democrats might force Republicans to set politics aside and address issues like jobs and climate change for the benefit of the nation. But another term of Donald Trump may completely derail our chances of tackling such an accelerated future in the making, which will leave countless families and communities behind.
Shaping the future so it serves all Americans must be our goal. But do the candidates realize that the future has nearly arrived? Only time will tell.
Mauro Guillen is a professor of international management for the Wharton School for the University of Pennsylvania and is the author of “2030: How the Biggest Trends Today will Collide and Shape the Future of Everything.”