What is an American?
I have decided to be an American — not a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or assume any other political affiliation. Why? It seems so unappealing to follow political leaders who continue to insult our intelligence by only pushing their party's agenda and bashing one another about meaningless matters.
It will be hard to be an American because to do so means taking on a great responsibility. The responsibility is to be well-informed on issues that matter to my family, community and country. It means I will have to hunt down the truth and seek out the opinions of others who can be objective about issues. Thus far I feel a bit like Diogenes carrying a lamp around in the day time looking for an honest man.
Why are there so few leaders who seek the best for all Americans? Probably because few of us really care to know the whole truth and are content to look out for ourselves in the short run, though that may hurt us all in the longer term.
Controversy and gotcha Twitters are much more entertaining than a thoughtful analysis of the critical issues of our day. Unfortunately, we are getting what we deserve.
Take for example Obama's recent bashing of oil companies' subsidies. I generally believe subsidies are unwise, but there certainly would be some unwanted consequences for Obama's political base if oil company subsidies ended now. Think about it. If the subsidies end oil companies simply raise prices to maintain their profit margins. Who hurts the most when a tank of gas costs more? It certainly is not the notoriously wealthy 1%. We need to see through these false protestations and keep looking for common ground to put us all ahead.
As we all know there is new technology and discoveries of oil and gas reserves here in America. This is helping certain geographic areas rebound economically and that is a good thing. But, as it stands right now, many of the federal lands upon which these energy reserves are found have been leased to oil companies that will extract our nation's resources and then sell them on the world market. That does not help all of America. Would it not be better to put terms in the oil and gas leases that restrict the sale of our nation's energy resources to U.S. consumers? What type of competitive advantage would the U.S. have if our energy costs are far lower than other countries? Sounds like a common ground issue to me.
No matter who wins the upcoming presidential election he will have to deal with some very large issues to keep our economy from backsliding again. Bush's tax cuts expire, federal spending cuts are set to automatically occur and our federal debt ceiling will be reached again. This combination of issues could account for a decrease in our 2013 GDP of 3% to 4%. There is no way to avoid these issues any longer as the "can" will reach the end of the road at year's end.
In Jose Antonio Vargas' words, an undocumented immigrant: "Every morning, when I get up and have my first of too many coffees, I tell myself this: I gotta stop preaching to the choir and talk to people who may not agree with me." Amen brother. And the best way to have a meaningful dialogue is to understand the facts, theories and possible consequences of the critical issues of our day.
The starting point on my endeavor to be an America is to study the recommendations made in December 2010 by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles panel. The plan outlines a path for the U.S. to avoid the coming fiscal constraints that are otherwise almost inevitable. (http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf)
Armed with knowledge and diverse points of view I believe I'll be better equipped to advocate solutions for the common good. My hope is that other Americans will also start looking for higher ground upon which to dialogue and move our country forward.
I invite the readers of this paper to help me carry the lamp in search of honest leaders.
Business consultant Harley Luplow of Harbor Springs earned a law degree from Indiana University and a master's in business administration from Georgetown University. His column normally appears on the second Sunday of the month on the Business page. Luplow can be reached at (231) 709-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.