See if this sounds familiar. The recession lingers, the budget is in deficit, unemployment is still way too high, and the Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other. Do I have it right?
Our leadership tells us we will solve the problems of recession if we lower taxes and cut government spending. The reasoning is that lower taxes will stimulate more spending by our citizens and the business community and we can spend our way out of the recession.
Having a recession and a budget deficit are not new to us. We have had recessions periodically throughout our history. It is a “normal” happening in a free enterprise system. And budget deficits are an almost every year “thing” for decades. So how did our leadership solve these problems in the past when economic conditions were similar to those we are experiencing today?
One of those difficult times was in 1956. The U.S. leadership included a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and a number of outstanding leaders from both political parties. Lyndon Johnson (D) was the majority leader in the Senate, and John McCormick (D) was speaker of the House. Others of our elected leadership included Barry Goldwater (R) of Arizona, Everett Dirkson (R) of Illinois, Sam Ervin of North Carolina (D), John F. Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, and Strom Thurman (R) and Olin B. Johnson (D) of South Carolina.
That leadership group solved the problem by what today would be considered a novel approach. They worked together for the benefit of the country. They decided to make major investments in education and science to stimulate innovation. Then they commissioned the creation of the national highway system to promote interstate commerce.
By today’s standards the 40 billion dollars spent on that highway project was not huge. The investments in education and science, however, were major. Their vision was to stimulate innovation in business and education and to tap the potential of our youth for future economic advancements. Investments were made in foreign language training and product development, both areas needed for future success in world trade. Financial aid was offered to retiring military personnel for college and/or training for work and extended to bright young people who otherwise could not afford to go to college. In addition, small business incubators were established around the country and systems were put in place to facilitate trade with the rest of the world.
The result of this cooperative effort was major development in science and business, major improvements in the health industry, fifty years of economic growth, and the highest living standard in the world. President Eisenhower’s strength was getting people to work together. We could learn a thing or two from him. And so could the folks in Washington, D.C., today.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges in universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at email@example.com.