President Obama gave an excellent State of the Union address last week. But in covering so much ground – as Presidents invariably do – he missed an opportunity to drive home a fundamental message – his highest priority policy initiatives are all about building a stronger, more prosperous economy.
Education – a well-prepared, agile workforce and world leadership in research and innovation are what made the American economy what it was for so many years – the engine of prosperity. Look around the world and you’ll find economic growth and increased living standards in countries where education is a national priority (and you’ll find the worst economic records where, through corruption or ideology, education is neglected or suppressed).
Health Care – Major US corporations finally figured out that global competitiveness is hard to achieve when your competitors all have robust and universal health care systems that aren’t dependent on an accident of history – employer-paid health care that is far from universal. Healthy people are more productive, and productive people drive a healthy and growing economy.
Energy and Climate – in investing, creating wealth comes through reducing the risk of loss and identifying profitable growth. Avoiding the potentially ruinous costs of climate change is all about reducing risk on a national and global scale. The clean energy economy has the potential to lead the US economy in much the same way that transportation, electronics, aviation, computing and communications did over the last 60 years. And reducing our dependence on unfriendly sources of energy saves money directly through lower outflows to those countries and indirectly through increased national security and decreased dependence on unfriendly countries.
None of this will happen overnight – and that’s not easy for us to hear when there’s so much economic pain. But it won’t happen at all unless we get started.