I do not have the ability to alter the past. When I say, “we the people,” I do not mean the current, incumbent Congress.
There are many reasons to blame Congress for the economic situation we find ourselves in. But blaming us may be a bit far-fetched. I think we the people just need to look deeper at what we do. I’m often asked by people what the essence of the American Dream is. My answer to this is the idea that opportunity for all should be available and attainable for everyone.
To suggest that the government spends too much money on programs that serve the poor is not to suggest that those programs are the only solution to poverty. To suggest that we’re at a point in our recovery where it’s important to tax the rich in order to bring back prosperity in our country is not to deny that our traditional system has been failing many people.
The major problem I see with this assessment is that we ask most of our problems to the government without understanding that we the people have chosen to be involved in the political process.
We can certainly improve our economy and our security by taking care of important issues like immigration, expanding opportunities for our veterans and providing support to our struggling families. However, by far the most important goal for our country moving forward is to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to succeed.
Yes, we should increase the defense budget as well as invest in our infrastructure. We cannot fully tackle those challenges without at least some new revenues. Yes, we should accept more from the wealthiest Americans in the form of higher taxes. But, more than that, we must rebuild our economic system and make sure that everyone has a chance to do well.
In order to do this, a number of things must happen. We have to build an economy that works for all Americans. That means investing in our infrastructure, which makes us more productive, and improves our education system. That means creating a federal guest-worker program to keep pace with what is happening across the world.
If we do that, our economy will be stronger, stronger enough to help lift all those who have fallen through the cracks.
At the same time, we should expand the types of legal work that requires our people to live in poverty. We should better protect the social safety net for our families.
We also have to reform our immigration system, moving away from our status quo and toward something that works. Our legal immigration system should not be based on rejecting people we dislike or through discrimination; we should instead choose people who are here and who want to be here.
We need to expand opportunities for those families who are working hard and struggling to make ends meet and encourage them to go to school and work hard. We need to end the broken tax code that hurts those who work hard to provide for their families and rebuild our tax system in a way that rewards hard work.
Finally, we need to recognize that the government cannot do everything. It is never right for our government to tell people how to manage their personal lives. This is not about entitlements; it is about a fair tax system that allows those who have worked hard to raise their families and to live within their means.
As we rebuild our economy, we have to be open to solutions that others may offer. We must solve these issues in the same spirit in which we think about the next generation of Americans and recognize that we each have a role to play to continue to build the American Dream.
Mira Rapp-Hooper is a senior policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Innovation, which is a research and education organization. Heritage officials contributed to this column.