Does Congress Fail to Consider Critical Long-Term Issues?
Congressional planning is primarily concerned with short-term issues rather than critical long-term issues; planning is regularly synchronized with political re-election cycles. However, we live in a time when massive changes are occurring over one or more decades. Such issues are often global and difficult to solve politically, though they will have profound affects for all Americans whose much-loved decedents may live perhaps 30 to 60 years into the future.
Domestic examples are social security and health care, which periodically become political-spin issues of considerable obscurity without progress to long-term solution. Global examples are consumption in critical areas that already exceed stable resources and climate change that compounds the problems. Some examples are depletion of fresh water and fossil fuels, soil exhaustion, deforestation, and fish depletion. Globalization enables less developed countries to under-cut the U.S. in some areas. Long-term policy will have to respond either by proactive planning that can control some consequences or by last-minute reaction with potentially disastrous results. Four credible authors and a website of references present disturbing analyses:
- Diamond explains future scenarios by looking at the reasons for the historical collapses of civilizations,
- Homer-Dixon analyses the stresses causing changes and their effects on our society,
- Rees presents an evaluation of possible catastrophic changes, and
- Lomborg shows that solutions to some long-term problems are uneconomical and that some less obvious solutions can be effective,
- Heinberg explains the potential timing of the intersection between growing population and declining oil production, and
- A web site of general references is available on the Internet.
These add weight to the critical need for long-term planning and for very tough decisions—the type of decisions that politicians cannot face because they will probably lose votes (not to mention their opportunities to isolate themselves from the problems by their wealth), but decisions that the people can make because they realize that not making them only causes the problems to get worse. Based on information in the above references, there are several “perfect storms” that will hit us hard in the next decade or two. For example:
- In the U.S., the “perfect collision” of:
- A growing elderly population, especially when the baby-boomers retire, have Social Security entitlements owed by the government but paid from current tax revenues.
- Rapidly increasing medical costs as life-extending medical technology improves.
- Declining finances as increasing deficits, national debt, and inevitable inflation take their toll.
- In the entire world, the “perfect collision” of:
- Oil production (Party’s Over p90) is peaking or will peak in a few years’ time and decline thereafter.
- Personal expectations and growing income in developing countries (e.g., China and India, with over a third of the world’s population) demand increasing per-capita consumption of everything.
- The majority of scientists now agree that global warming will disrupt economies, eventually changing food production, and flooding highly populated coastal areas.
- Global population is now 6.65 billion and growing (more slowly) at about 1.2% per annum. Many scholars believe that today’s population is more than twice (Party’s Over p30, Population) the long-term, steady-state level. The problem will almost certainly be exagravated by dramatic improvements in longevity through the imminent improvements in disease control and eradication.
With such problems looming over our future, now is not the time for our government to procrastinate or to squander our resources. The People need the right of an effective voice in these long-term policy issues and decisions. Viability of the economy is the corner stone of our prosperity. However, when short-term-profit motivated industries excessively influence our elected representatives, we cannot rely on Congress to make balanced decisions for critical long-term issues.