Diary

Seeing Clearly to Chart America’s Way Forward

Introduction

 

In a
book titled Generations: The History of America’s
Future
,
Published in 1991 by William Strauss and Neil Howe, the authors looked at 13
generations of Americans as they attempted to envision the sort of crisis their
analysis of history predicted America
would confront by the year 2020.  Writing
in 1991, however, Strauss and Howe did make this now prescient statement:

One rather safe prediction experts often
make about elderly Boomers is that they will collide with underfunded federal
pension and health-care systems, starting in the mid-2010s. … Boomers will
force a dramatic turn in the politics of Social Security. In the 2010s, they
will lay the terms of an entirely new intergenerational “deal,” snapping the
chain of ever-rising benefits that G.I.s insisted would never end. Boom leaders
will thoroughly recast – and probably rename – Social Security and Medicare. …
Affluent Boomers will receive little economic recompense from a lifetime of
payroll taxes paid to support others. Yet in a turnabout from the G.I.
entitlement ethic, Boomers will derive self-esteem from knowing they are not receiving rewards from the
community.

Borrowing
a metaphor from a short story written by Nathanial Hawthorne in the early 1800s
titled “The Gray Champion,” William Strauss and Neil Howe likened the Boomer
generation to this mythical guardian of American liberties.  The authors of Generations: The History of
America’s Future
did not envision just one Gray Champion, but rather a
generation that produces many such leaders. They conclude their conversation
about the prospect of such future Gray Champions (individuals who would arise
out of the Baby Boom generation and whom, I believe, the Tea Party movement now
embodies) this way:

Let us hope that the old Boomers will
look within themselves and find something richer than apocalypse. If they see
(and assert) themselves as beacons of civilization, younger Americans may well
look up to them as G.I.s did to the great Missionary leaders: as elders wise
beyond the comprehension of youth. If the Gray Champions among them can seize
this historic opportunity, they can guide a unified national community through
the gates of history to a better world beyond.

As a member of the Boomer generation, I see
myself as one of these many such Gray Champions.  And so, today, I wish to provide some
insights to the would-be Republican Nominee for President of the United States
who will seek my vote, as well as my active grassroots support. 

 

2020
Vision:  Seizing the New Kennedy Moment

 

America faces today nearly
certain financial collapse.  It is not a
collapse that is caused by our inability to solve our problems.  Rather, it is caused by our unwillingness to
galvanize the American People around an ideal larger than themselves which
provides the hope they need to chart America’s way forward and, as the
current occupant of 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue has said, “Win the
Future”. 

 

As Proverbs 29:18 states: Where there is no
vision, the people perish.

 

Hindsight, they say, is “always 20/20”.  However, we can’t afford to wait until the
year 2020 to look back and see, with hindsight, what we should have done.  America needs a leader today who
can look into the future with 2020 vision and say “This is how we’re going to not
just take that hill, but how we’re going to go to the other side of that hill.”

 

Since 1974, lip service has been paid to a
vision of energy independence.  Ever
since the Three Mile Island accident, the
environmental lobby has pushed “green” technologies that include anything but
fossil fuels.  Today, serious investors
realize that unless something qualifies for a federal or state tax break and
has the phrase “green” woven into the proposal, it is not worth their time to
invest.  Green technology promoters,
including former Vice President Al Gore, have so demonized oil and coal that
any hope to achieve energy independence has been abolished.

 

Until now.

 

It is time to take seriously such a goal.  America
is looking for a presidential candidate who will boldly proclaim that America should
harness its coal, oil and natural gas resources to promote such a 2020 vision,
and not be sidetracked by the Cheshire cat promises of a solar/wind/ethanol
subsidy cocktail that leaves us with empty wallets and a grain-alcohol hang
over.  Even John Stewart,  in a 2010 satire about our failure to pursue
a serious national energy policy, states: “Let’s just use oil.  You know what?  We have to!” (see
this link
to watch the video).

 

The
Three Pillars of a 2020 Vision

 

For the would-be nominee of the Republican
Party, a cogently articulated plan is needed to lay the foundation of a vision which
galvanizes America
to rise to the challenge of its current “man on the moon” moment.  Make no mistake, EVERY Republican candidate
will bow to the idol of “energy independence” just as the John Stewart video
satire makes clear.  They will all sing
the chorus of “Drill, Baby, Drill!”  But,
the only candidate who can win in 2012 is the one he articulates a 2020 Vision
built on three key pillars.  These
pillars are:

 

1.     The need to create
jobs related to energy exports.

2.     The threat of
global terrorism funded with petro-dollars.

3.     The courage to
strip away self-made impediments that prevent us from becoming energy
self-sufficient.

 

1.     The Need to
Create Jobs Related to Energy Exports

 

In
July, 2010, The Brookings Institute released a study done by the Hamilton
Project titled: “
June’s Employment Numbers
Highlight America’s
Increasingly Distressed Communities”. 
In their study, they cited a statistic they call
“the jobs gap,” which they define as “
the number of jobs it would take to
return to employment levels from before the Great Recession, while also
accounting for the 125,000 people who enter the labor force in a typical
month.” [1]  Based on
their estimates, the jobs gap in 2010 stood at 11.3 million jobs.  Estimating that if we create 208,000 jobs per
month (which they indicate was the best we did during the years George W. Bush
was in office), it would take a little over 11 years to close that gap.  A graph depicting the time it would take to
close the “jobs gap” can be viewed at http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0702_jobs_greenstone/chart.aspx

 

If
you focus on job creation for the months of February through April of 2011, we
are averaging 217,000 jobs per month – not significantly different from the
pace they say would take 11 years to get back to the employment levels we saw
at the end of 2007.  

 

America can’t wait 11 years. 
We need a plan, TODAY.  What is
President Obama’s plan?  In a speech he
gave in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania in February, 2009, the
President said:

 

So then
you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending
bill. What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point.”
[2]  

 

Every
economics instructor teaches his students about something called the multiplier
effect.  Different types of jobs have
different types of multipliers or “trickle down” effects.  Allow me to demonstrate how different types
of jobs created different types of trickle down effects.

 

I
know a family where the wife works as a chemist for Eli Lilly, the husband as a
master carpenter, and the teenage son has worked in fast food restaurants
flipping hamburgers.  If one asks “which
of these three has the greatest multiplier effect,” the answer is:

 

1.    
The chemist.  If she, or one of her fellow chemists,
creates a new drug, Eli Lilly will build a new building in which new employees
will be hired to manufacture that new drug.

2.    
The
carpenter.  Along with other construction
workers, he’ll be hired to build the building where the people will work to
make the new drug invented by the chemist. 
If the drug doesn’t get invented, no new buildings are needed, and the
carpenter doesn’t get hired to build a building for Eli Lilly.

3.    
The “hamburger
flipper”.  When the carpenter goes to
work, he has to eat lunch.  So will the
new employees of the building where the new drug that Eli Lilly has built.  To feed them, McDonalds may decide to build a
new restaurant near by, and hire the son of the chemist and the carpenter. 

 

A
massive Man on the Moon effort to mine our own oil, coal and natural gas is a
plan that would create the jobs we need.  
The stimulus effect of a job in these industries – called a “multiplier
effect” by economists – leads to job multipliers ranging from 3 to 8, depending
on the part of the country and type of fossil fuel being mined.  That means that for every 1,000 jobs created
in these industries, another 3,000 to 8,000 jobs are created in the rest of the
economy.  You don’t get that by just
“spending money” on, say, unemployed people. 

 

Even
John F. Kennedy understood the multiplier effect.  In a speech he gave on September 18, 1963,
President Kennedy said:

 

The
multiplied effect of these new private consumption and investment expenditures
released by the tax cut will create a new market right here at home nearly
equal to the gross national product of Canada and Australia combined.
[3]

 

          We need a President with 2020 vision.  We need a President who can seize the new
Kennedy moment to set a vision for the end of the decade – to see clearly what
we should do by 2020. 

 

          President Obama fails that test.  We need to tell him that he is no John F.
Kennedy.

 

2.   
The Threat of Global Terrorism Funded with Petro-Dollars.

 

Not only should
we focus on meeting our own energy needs. 
We should focus on mining, drilling and extracting enough energy
resources so that we can also export fossil fuels to the rest of the world. 
Most
Americans don’t know the US presently
exports coal to China.  In November, 2010, the New York Times
reported the following:[4]

 

The United States
now ships coal to China via Canada, but coal companies are scouting for new
loading ports in Washington
State. New mines are
being planned for the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest.
Indeed, some of the world’s more environmentally progressive regions are
nascent epicenters of the new coal export trade, creating political tensions
between business and environmental goals.

 

Now, if we can mine and export coal, why
not oil, natural gas, and other commodities? 
Not only could we go a long way in reducing our balance of payments
deficit, but we could undermine the source of funds available to fuel terrorism
around the globe.

 

Thanks to the release of documents via
the Wikileaks scandal, we know now that the Arabs have been funneling petro
dollars to
various
terrorist groups
around the world. 
In 2010, the OPEC nations earned over $600 billion from the rest of the
world.  Saudi Arabia accounted for 27% of
OPEC’s oil revenues.  Libya, Iran
and Kuwait
together accounted for 23% of OPEC revenues.
[5]

 

For many of these Arab nations, oil is virtually
their only export commodity.  If the US can reduce
their ability to earn money from selling oil to give to terrorist
organizations, then we will have won a major battle in the war on terror.

 

But the threat of petrodollar financed terrorism
isn’t the only reason to replace the Arabs as a source of oil.  Beginning in Tunisia
and Egypt, recent government
upheavals in the Middle East have caused oil
prices to rise substantially.  Some
experts, such as
Niall
Ferguson
, are warning of oil prices hitting $200 per barrel.  In such an environment, the United States
cannot risk placing the fate of its economy in the hands of foreigners,
especially the Arabs.  One last point is
to note that Saudi Arabia is
increasing its ties to
China.  In such a dangerous, shifting international
environment, America
must not only strengthen its own energy resources, it must remember that all
markets are contestable.  China is contesting for the oil resources of the
world, building relationships with oil producing nations and supplanting the US.  We cannot afford to cede relationships built
over decades without a fight.  

 

President John F. Kennedy clearly understood this
concept. In a televised speech on the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy
said the following:

 

We no longer live in a world where only actual firing of weapons represents
a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril.
[6]

 

While the threats have changed the days of Kennedy, America’s
resolve must not.  We need a President
who understands this basic concept.  We
need a President with 2020 Vision who can see clearly the way forward for how
America should not only become energy self sufficient, but contest markets and
reduce the flow of petrodollars going to Arab nations, which are in turn used to
fund terrorist activities designed to kill Americans. 

 

3.   
The Courage to Strip Away Self-made Impediments that
Prevent us from Becoming Energy Self-Sufficient.

 

In 1974, President Nixon promised that we would
become energy independent by 1980.  His
idea:  Increased oil drilling and the
development of new sources of energy, including safe nuclear power.  In March of 1979, Three
Mile Island experienced a shut down and partial melt down.  From that point forward, dozens of nuclear
power plants were shut down.  The goal of
energy independence changed to focus on solar, wind and biofuels. 

 

President Jimmy Carter highlighted these alternative
energy sources in his July, 1979 “Crisis of Confidence Speech” televised
address to the nation.  And, he ceded
failure to achieve energy independence, stating: “I am tonight setting a clear
goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this
moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in
1977—never.”  In 1979, US oil imports
were just under 8 million barrels per day (MBD). In January of 2011, we
imported 12 MBD.
[7]
 Since Nixon, every American
President has paid lip service to the idea of energy independence.  Yet, as a monologue on Jon
Stewart’s Daily Show
makes clear, all Presidents since Carter have
attempted to pin their hopes on everything BUT oil and nuclear energy.  For a graph depicting trends in US oil
production from 1945 to 1975, visit
http://www.energybulletin.net/image/uploads/27804/us-production.jpeg

 

Some
say that we can’t do it, that traditional wells are running dry.  Yet, new shale fields, such as the Bakken
field in the Dakotas and the Marcellus Shale
region of the Appalachian Basin, hold increasing promise.  According to an article in the Anchorage
Daily News, North Dakota could easily surpass California and Alaska
in terms of oil production. 
Additionally, the article states:

 

North Dakota‘s oil patch now accounts for about 6
percent of total U.S.
crude oil production. That’s up from 1 percent less than three years ago.  Federal and state estimates had pegged North Dakota’s portion of the Bakken shale and underlying
Three Forks-Sanish oil formations in western North Dakota at about 5 billion barrels of
oil, using current horizontal drilling technology.  Helms said that estimate has more than
doubled based on drilling success and current production rates.[8]

 

It is time to make good on the promise of energy
independence.  We have not failed because
we can’t achieve energy independence.  We’ve
failed because we’ve been unwilling to achieve energy independence.  We have failed because, rather than firmly
facing the problem, our leaders have blamed others for their lack of political
will.

 

In his day, President Kennedy faced down those who
refused to see clearly the solutions to our problems.  Speaking at the California State Democratic
Party Dinner in Los Angelos,
CA on November 18, 1961,
President Kennedy said:
[9]

 

In most crucial periods of our nation’s history, there
have always been those on the fringes of our society who have sought to escape
their own responsibility by finding a simple solution and appealing slogan or a
convenient scapegoat … But in time the basic good sense and stability of the
great American consensus has always prevailed.

 

The
American people know that we need to achieve energy independence.  They need a President with 2020 vision who
can reflect the “good sense and stability of the great American consensus” and
seize the new Kennedy moment to set a vision for the end of the decade – to see
clearly what we should do to finally make good on a 37 year old promise to
become energy independent.

 

Conclusion

 

America is hungry for a
vision that makes sense.  They want to
see job growth to get us back to where we were – today – not 11 years from
now.  They want to see a halt to the
slide of our nation into a second rate paper tiger.  They want a restoration of hope and change
they CAN believe in, not a bait and switch gimmick that took their change and
stuck them with an IOU to the world.

 

America needs a
President who says we can solve our problems, and here’s how, instead of a
President who says we can’t solve our problems, and here’s why not.

 

America needs a President with 2020 Vision.


[2]
York, Byron.  Obama: If It’s Spending,
It’s Stimulus.  Accessed 5/7 at
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/176877/obama-if-its-spending-its-stimulus/byron-york

[3]
Lantz, David: Bill Clinton, You’re No John F. Kennedy.  P. 40. 
Quote from Kennedy’s speech “Prosperity Insurance: Importance of Tax
Reduction Now.”

[4]
Rosenthal, Elisabeth.  Nations that
Debate Coal Use Export it to Feed China’s Need, New York Times, November 21,
2010.  Accessed 4/24/11 at
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/science/earth/22fossil.html

[6]
Lantz, David: Bill Clinton, You’re No John F. Kennedy.  P. 78. 
Quote from Kennedy’s televised address to the nation October 22, 1962.

[7]
Everett, Bruce.  “Obama’s New Year
Resolution”, 4/1/2011.  Accessed
4/24/2011 at 
http://bmeverett.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/obama%E2%80%99s-new-year%E2%80%99s-resolution/ 

[8] MacPherson,
James.  “North Dakota oil production
forecast to surpass Alaska’s”,
Associated Press, January
3, 2011. Accessed 4/24/2011 at
http://www.adn.com/2011/01/02/1629025/north-dakota-oil-production-is.html

[9]
Lantz, David: Bill Clinton, You’re No John F. Kennedy.  P. 18.