With an exasperating mid-term election behind us I thought it would be a good idea to look at all the issues facing the nation that will be completely ignored for the next two years at least.
1. Income Inequality/Economy – Considering that economic wealth is, in my opinion, the single most important determinant of a person’s happiness, it is no wonder I rate this first. We have two problems here: an economy that refuses to recover and even if it does will see most of the gains accrue to those already on top of the economic strata. The thing is, we have an easy answer for both of these, income redistribution and “unconventional” monetary policy. I use quotes because it’s not really unconventional at all and has firm theoretical groundings among right-minded economists.
2. Healthcare – This is actually inextricable from the above problem. Now you may be thinking that Obamacare fixed this right? Well, Switzerland has the second highest healthcare costs in the developed world and it has mandatory private insurance like Obamacare. You know what works? Single-payer healthcare. Anyways, as long as healthcare costs take up an increasing share of the economy, it will cut into people’s wages either directly as employers stagnate wages to pay for health insurance or indirectly as people spend increasing shares of their income on medical care. Single-payer is a great start, but lots of evidence points toward other areas we can improve such as an overabundance of testing, often without any proof of their efficacy.
3. Housing – Hey look another problem dealing with the economy. You see, cities are coming back big time. This is great. People in cities are way more productive than their rural counterparts. The problem is, cities are fascist despots when it comes to zoning. Republicans decry every little thing the Obama administration does as an assault on our liberties, but never seem to care that city governments are telling people what they can and cannot build on their private property. For the most part cities seem to dislike dense residential areas and sadly, the market is not great either as most developers want to make high margin luxury condos. This is driving up housing prices in all growing cities and pushing poorer people into long commutes into the city. And of course commuting is essentially the most depressing activity you can engage in. Not only this, but it’s causing an exodus to shitty places like Texas where wages are actually relatively low, but it may make economic sense if housing costs less. The thing is, more housing benefits everyone on the economic ladder as it lessens competition at every bracket and it makes labor cheaper in the city too which will lower prices for all other kinds of goods and services.
4. Education – I think the worries over primary education are completely overblown. It’s doing just fine for our middle class or higher families. It’s doing terribly for our poor minorities. However, a lot of that would be fixed by getting the #1 issue fixed. My concern is more with the increasing inaccessibility of secondary education. Huge amounts of student debt are not a solution. For-profit colleges are a hair’s breadth away from being scams. Something needs to change.
5. Immigration – The irony of immigration is that those most fervently opposed to it probably support free trade of goods. However, immigration is just the import of labor, another economic input. Freer immigration is a win for our society just like free trade. Yeah, we can’t let everyone in, but our current restrictions are ridiculous and spending ever more on ridiculous border schemes seems absolutely crazy.
As I will talk about in a future post, our political system is grossly ineffective and I would not count on any of the above issues being tackled or if they are, it will be an ineffectual compromise.