Many of our systemic problems - and their solutions - fall to our governmental processes, elected officials and agencies.
Here we explore six essential questions at the heart of governing for prosperity. Don’t just read this brief; engage with it, providing feedback along the way. Your voice will shape the conversation, define the issues, and help the community drive meaningful change across our nation.
Where do we stand?
Governing for broad based national prosperity is about ensuring that our economy provides all American citizens and businesses the opportunity to flourish. To do this effectively, our national government needs to be really disciplined about when it should lead, follow or just get out of the way. Despite the partisan rhetoric – all three of these roles are valid and important. For example, our military requires national leadership while federal government involvement in purely local issues or areas better guided by free markets undermines effectiveness. And it’s not just about playing the appropriate role – government needs to be more efficient and accountable even when the role it’s playing is a good fit. While we might differ across the political spectrum about what to do about these governance challenges – we can all agree that we’re far from the sweet spot. Too often our national government is making it harder for citizens to achieve their dreams and for businesses to grow, innovate and create jobs. Hyper complex regulations, a tax system that plays favorites, ineffective programs and fiscal uncertainty fueled by political gridlock are just a few examples of how we’re undermining rather than fostering American prosperity. Bottom line – where we stand isn’t where we need to be.
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Where are we headed?
A glimpse at our future
The world is getting more and more competitive every year and if anything that’s likely to accelerate. Plus global businesses have more choices than ever before about where to locate and invest. At the same time, many nations are pushing the boundaries and then some to promote and attract economic development on their shores. Given this situation, making sure our government processes and policies facilitate sustainable prosperity is more critical than ever before. The smart way forward isn’t to trigger an economic arms race based on subsidies and market distortions – nor is it possible to hide our head in the sand by ignoring the global competitive forces we face. The only way to maintain and enhance the standard of living in this country is to better align our government policies with what will unleash American ingenuity and ensure our workers have all the tools they need to excel. Is that where we’re headed right now? No, in fact year after year we’re kicking the can down the road on our biggest economic challenges, e.g. our unsustainable budget imbalances and crumbling infrastructure. But we have the capacity to get this right if we can find the political will to take on the “big stuff” – and cut down on the time squandered on partisan tactics and bickering.
Watch our video to learn more
What's at stake?
Efficiency and Effectiveness
It’s virtually impossible to overstate how high the stakes are here. National security, retirement income, healthcare access, job growth and technological leadership are all inexorably linked to how well or poorly our government is run. The federal government alone is directly responsible for more than one fifth of our national economy and has significant impact on the rest of it. Even the most aggressive reform proposals from the right and the left don’t overturn this core reality. Of course we should challenge government spending levels and the extent of its reach into our lives, but we can’t afford to just argue about that at the expense of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of what’s being done day in and day out. Given the stakes involved – we either come together willing to roll up our sleeves or accept economic decline and diminished expectations for ourselves and our children.
What's holding up progress?
Our founders set up a system that requires compromise and collaboration to be effective. Parliamentary systems like the one in the United Kingdom can govern despite extreme polarization, but ours can’t. Our government was designed explicitly to limit excessive concentrations of power in any individual, branch or party. While this structure has protected us against tyranny for 200 years – it also makes us prone to gridlock and a strong status quo bias. This presents a significant challenge to every American generation – and one that has been taken up successfully again and again throughout our history. Honoring our deeply held personal convictions and still getting things done with people who see the world very differently is our most important political legacy. But it’s one that’s been under siege for the last several decades – undermined by the rising power of special interests and the reassertion of ideology as a political force. People and institutions advocating for their interests is part of a vibrant democratic system and therefore not inherently a problem. What’s wrong is that this ascendance of narrow interests has coincided (and probably contributed to) a decline in norms, values and coalitions committed to pursuing the nation’s aggregate interests through compromise and collaboration. Below are the major symptoms of this dangerous dynamic:
- Obsession with the small stuff and the short term – which is really about politics trumping the nation’s interest and particularly those of future generations
- Too much focus on what government should and shouldn’t do – and too little accountability regarding what it’s doing right now. The first question is valid and important, but it can’t be used to distract us from government efficiency and effectiveness – and holding our elected officials and government employees accountable.
- Low mainstream citizen engagement beyond the ballot box – and therefore the lack of an effective counterweight to narrow special interests priorities. Founding father James Madison was right – the only way to ensure liberty is to make sure all stakeholders are involved in our political process. Right now ordinary citizens are largely missing in action.
- We do have structural governance challenges some nations don’t – for example a strong separation of powers? Yes – and this is an authentic challenge, but one that’s been successfully navigated in the past and shouldn’t be tolerated as an excuse going forward.
What are the core
issues & challenges?
A multifaceted approach to reform
- Norms and Culture
- Support Citizen Engagement
- Process Improvement
- Fiscal Sustainability
- Tax Policy and Regulation
- Public/Private Partnerships
- International Relations
- It is essential that our government work to restore trust by increasing the emphasis on joint problem solving and lowering the obsession with finger pointing. This is actually possible – and mainstream citizens play a crucial role in making it safe for politicians to solve problems through principled compromise. Learn more
- It's time to make it interesting and rewarding for mainstream citizens to get involved beyond the ballot box. It must be safe and satisfying for citizens to engage on national economic strategy and policy Learn more
- Explore process enhancements to our current electoral and governance processes ranging from redistricting reforms to campaign financing enhancements to Congressional procedures. These actions aren't a silver bullet, but they have the potential to make a difference if pursued carefully and wisely. Learn more
- Progress on education requires clear success criteria that can be applied to students, teachers and schools. It’s less about numbers than accountability and determining what really has impact in the classroom. Learn more
- Identify and implement regulations and a tax policy that spur free and fair enterprise rather than impeding it, while limiting the burden placed on those with the least means to carry it. Learn more
- We need to be more adept at knowing when to partner with the business sector – rather than seeing it as an adversary Learn more
- Shifting from a focus on war to shared prosperity is essential if we hope to move beyond a politics of fear towards one of collaboration. Learn more
How can you help move
the nation forward?
A call to every American
Without your help and the support of citizens like you we’ll never move far enough or fast enough on governing for prosperity. What can you do today to help?
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