During the 2016 election, thought leaders at the Aspen Institute felt compelled to add to the debate over who will lead this nation beyond analyzing polling data and personality. As an Institute dedicated to promoting the values that make great leaders, we hoped to contribute an exchange of ideas and consideration of the issues before the nation as a whole.
Here’s a compiled list of policy areas that the new administration must focus on in the coming years:
The On-Demand Economy, Innovation and Workers
As the on-demand economy expands and opportunities for nontraditional work become the new normal, the next administration must push policy for the 21st-century workforce by enabling and incentivizing employers to reduce inequality; help workers get ahead; and facilitate access to training, benefits, and protections to secure their futures.
- The Future of Work: There is palpable anger that the “Great American Bargain” is broken—that hard work and playing by the rules no longer assure economic advancement, and that many make it substantially ahead of the pack by privilege rather than merit or effort.
- Working for a Stronger America: We do not need to make false trade-offs between the success of business and the success of working people, and just as business asks for rules to protect its interest—for everything from intellectual property to the enforcement of contracts—workers also need rules to protect their interests in fair pay, safe working conditions, and opportunities to benefit from their work and build a better future.
Prioritizing Infrastructure Investment
The US now ranks 25th in the world on the quality of its infrastructure. We can do better. The next president is in a perfect position to turn the tide on short-term vision and reignite the incentives for long-term thinking.
- Investing in Better Infrastructure: The need for enhanced infrastructure is at a crisis point. America must invest in better infrastructure.
- Taking the Lead on Energy Policy: It is important for the US to maintain its prominence in innovation related to our energy economy. We need a new set of energy policies and market structures to modernize our energy system and efficiently address climate change at the same time.
Engaging Young Americans
When provided platforms for meaningful dialogue about the issues they care about, youth have tremendous power to inspire one another, and each of us. Developing the capability for civil and effective engagement needs to start at an early age.
- The Power of Youth Engagement: If we are to begin healing our body politic, one of the most important things we can do is develop meaningful engagement and dialogue with the next generation on deck to lead our country.
- Increase Youth Employment and Opportunities: Young people want to work. Recent studies show that more than 75 percent of the 5.6 million jobless “opportunity youth” are seeking gainful employment.
- Engage Youth Early in Civil Discourse: We need to create more opportunities to sit in a room and discuss values and ideas, to acknowledge differences in perspectives, and to be able to engage in discourse whose final end is to appreciate the other’s perspective even if we do not agree.
Make College More Affordable:
By the end of the next president’s first term, two-thirds of jobs will require some form of post-secondary credential, but today just over 40 percent of Americans have a college degree or certificate. The next president must strengthen the capacity of our nation’s colleges and universities to ensure not only greater affordability, but also the talent needed for state and national economic growth, social mobility, and the sustenance of our democracy.
- Who Pays and Who Benefits from Higher Education: Both presidential campaign proposals related to higher education make clear that college affordability is a major national concern.
Financial Security and Helping Americans Build Wealth:
Improving Americans’ financial security — and renewing Americans’ faith in their civic institutions — will take more than just a tightening job market. Policies designed to ensure better and more plentiful jobs need to be coupled with a new generation of wealth-building opportunities.
- Leadership on Financial Security: If necessity is the mother of invention, then the current economic landscape is ripe for innovative solutions.
Restoring Civility and Values-Based Leadership:
The challenges facing our great society mandate that we stop acting the way that we have been and demand that we conduct a strong national conversation in which we listen as well as speak.
- Politics – A Values Vacuum: The only antidote to a heartless, soulless politics is to reintroduce the language of our highest values.
- Defining the American Identity: We are going to have to rediscover a common language. A way of talking to each other across economic and cultural gaps.
This election season has challenged Americans in new and sometimes troubling ways. The goal of each idea presented here and the dialogue over them in the future will bring people to listen, civilly exchange their thoughts and seek solutions that will make America a better place. This election series is just the beginning — stay tuned for more insight from our policy leaders on the most pressing issues of our time.