“I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”– George Burns
The future is often the central focus of policymakers and average citizens alike. However, many times we focus on what we desire rather than what we need. Be it fantasizing about the day we reach the pinnacle of our careers or the day we retire, we look to an idealized view of tomorrow. The same holds true for the policies many of us would like to see. Tax cuts are a perfect example of this. No one enjoys paying taxes, and many people would welcome their complete elimination. Such a policy would be severely detrimental to the needs of us all. When planning for tomorrow it is important we weigh what we would like to see with what needs to happen to move the world forward.
While we may want to avoid all tax increases, we need government revenue. Without revenue, many of the services we rely on will no longer exist in the future. The financial support needed to train our future industry leaders will dry up. The safety net so many of us rely on once we reach the final years of our life will cease to be. Countless other programs and services we take for granted will be severely limited or eliminated entirely. While one may argue responsible spending is central to government, it is impossible to spend anything without taxes.
While many of us want cheap electricity, we need clean, efficient energy sources. Of all the things we take for granted in life, our access to cheap, abundant power may be lead among them. Our ideal light, temperature, and entertainment all rely on the relatively low cost of electricity. A price that is kept low by our consumption of dirty fuels like oil and coal that has disastrous consequences for the long term vitality of our planet. Furthermore, none of these sources of energy are renewable. For these reasons, it is vital to our future we invest now in the technology and policies needed to move to a smarter, cleaner energy grid. While we may need to make sacrifices in the short term, these costs are necessary for the long term vitality of our society.
While we want a strong military and ample Medicare and Social Security programs, we need to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure. While I am a strong advocate for raising taxes to fund the infrastructure improvements our nation needs, sometimes compromise requires sacrifice. The defense of one’s country is central to any government, however when the costs to sustain a military puts a nation’s domestic security at risk there is a problem. Furthermore, while entitlement programs like Social security and Medicare are integral to maintaining the well being of our most vulnerable citizens, allowing the infrastructure of our country to crumble will be detrimental to us all. In order to maintain our roads, water supplies, dams and other vital structures we must view the military and entitlement programs not as untouchable behemoths, but as vital programs that can be made more efficient.
It is difficult to ignore what we want for what we need. Ensuring the future won’t be easy. There will be many challenges and hard decisions. Compromising many of our desires for the greater good will be necessary. It is how we approach these struggles that will define us to later generations. In this we must not falter. As John F. Kennedy said, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”