July 4th. Great country, lots to do

By | July 5, 2013

I am an American and proud of it. The US is a truly blessed country, and it is no surprise that the waiting list for green card averages six years (depends on the country of origin). Supply and demand. People want to live here. People want to be American.

“If you are born in the United States, your glass is 95% full.” This is what Warren Buffett said when he spoke to a group of 100+ MBA students (including me), in 2004. I completely agree. As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Today is a day to celebrate. Wave the flag. Shoot fireworks. Be proud.

Tomorrow is a day to improve. There is a laundry list of things that the America needs to fix, if we want a future as bright as our past.  Thomas Friedman highlights many of them in his awesome – if a bit depressing book – That Used to be US (affiliate link). Many of the things that made the US great in the past, are sorely lacking today. To mention just two:

Under-investment in Education.  In the past, the US was a huge land of opportunity. Immigrants and returning soldiers (GI bill) were guaranteed a good education and a chance at social mobility. Not true any more. If you are poor in the US, the chances of getting a good public education is quite low. The Economist notes that the gap in test scores between rich and poor students has increase 30-40% over the last 25 years.

Under-investment in Infrastructure.  President Eisenhower created the world’s best transportation system 60 years ago in the US.  The US was 50% of the world’s GDP after WWII and we had the infrastructure to support it. Not so any more.  Forbes notes that 1 in 4 bridges is broken. We need better roads, ports, airports, electrical grids, everything.

Crazy trivia. The US Highway Trust Fund gets its money from a gas tax. Unfortunately, it is set in 1993 dollars. Even though the price of gas has risen 3x since then, the tax dollars the US government gets per gallon is the same. No surprise, it is bankrupt.

As a patriot, I want the US to do better. It’s going to be a rough road ahead with all groups sacrificing something.  All groups can’t have all their entitlements. The math does not work. Baby boomers are getting older, living longer, and getting sicker. It will strain the system more than ever. We all have to pull together to make this work. If this were a presentation to the country of the United States, the next steps page might look like this:

Next Steps for the US

Unsurprisingly, this is the most daunting next steps I have ever seen.

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