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Biggest Issues in 2016, What are the biggest problems facing the United States of America?

Biggest Issues in 2016, What are the biggest problems facing the United States of America?

Biggest Issues in 2016, What are the biggest problems facing the United States of America?

I will endeavor, as Chris Resro did, to be as unbiased as possible…

  • Stagnation and decline of “primary heavy industry”. These are industries such as mining, manufacturing, chemical production, timber, and other industries producing raw material or intermediate or finished goods, which are generally perceived as both “dirty” and as perpetuating demand for often-stigmatized “unskilled” labor. Many Americans honestly believe that the ideal is for as many Americans as possible to be “knowledge workers”, making money with their brains instead of their hands, and various policymakers since the ’50s have worked to transition the U.S. towards exactly that type of economy by emphasizing the importance of so-called “STEM” subjects in schools. However, that’s also increased our overall trade deficit and thus our national debt; Americans still want things that we are no longer producing or have never produced inside our borders, and the value of our knowledge-based products that we “export” isn’t keeping pace (for a variety of reasons, one of them being vastly different world views on “intellectual property”).
  • Over-standardization of education. I’m not saying a standardized education, in which you make sure that every graduating student has demonstrated mastery of a set of core subjects, is necessarily a bad thing. I am saying that the structure of the Western education system, which has developed as a result of emphasizing this core curriculum, is now working at cross-purposes to its stated goals. We have, for the past 20 years or so, trained our children primarily to be test takers, because students’, teachers’ and schools’ performance is rated by those test scores, so there’s pressure at every level to “teach to the test” to maximize those scores, and to learn specifically how to take a test. As a result, students graduate high school, and even college, knowing relatively little about *why* they learned all the things they did, other than that it was on a test they had to pass. This problem is compounded by the pace of the human race’s acquisition of knowledge; every day, 24 more hours of history happens, and that history will inevitably include the discovery of knowledge or the development of creative works like art, literature and music, which will be of interest to every other subject. But, the average school year is still only 9 months long (though it’s gotten slightly longer each year); I have never read or been tested on the last 150 pages or so of any history book I’ve ever bought or been issued for a class.
  • Impending Baby Boomer retirement, aka “Retiremageddon”. The generation conceived between the end of WWII (with all the young soldiers coming home to start their lives) and the early 60s (with the rise of the birth control pill) is the United States’ single largest homegrown population boom. Those born in 1950, the approximate peak year of the “baby boom”, will turn 65 in 2015, becoming eligible for the majority of government retiree entitlement programs. For the next 15 years thereafter, more people will be retiring each year than at virtually any point since the creation of Social Security. With average life expectancy the highest it’s ever been in recorded history, and with the recent market crash followed by falling bond prices severely depleting many retirees’ pension and retirement funds, it is expected that many retirees’ savings will not be sufficient to last them the rest of their lives, and will either require additional government assistance, increasing either taxes or national debt, or will move in to their children’s homes, decreasing their ability to save for their own retirement.
  • Interest rate on the U.S. Credit Card. In the past 6 years, the U.S. National Debt has grown by more than 50%, due primarily to government bailout and stimulus spending in response to the fallout of the debt market collapse. That debt was financed via T-bills at historically low interest rates, arrived at through a combination of US debt being the best-looking horse in the glue factory, and Fed policies keeping interest rates on other types of debt very low to effect a recovery. At the worst of it, U.S. 10-year T-notes sold by the Treasury in early ’09 were bought by the market at an effective interest rate of just over 2%. However, with an end in sight to the Fed’s stimulus bond-buying and no end in sight to the government deficit, when the U.S rolls over the approximately $6 trillion it has spent and/or rolled over during this period of low interest in a better economy with higher interest rates, the interest rate it will begin paying on that amount is expected to almost double. That will make “discretionary spending” (basically everything except entitlement programs and the national debt interest; arguably, discretionary spending is what the government *should* be spending taxes on) less than 25% of total government spending by 2025; the U.S. government will be spending the majority of current monies on payments to past obligations, while there will be no reduction in expectations of current citizens as far as the level of services and infrastructure provided by “discretionary spending”.
  • by Keith Shannon

Going into the new year, Americans say terrorism is the greatest problem facing the country. Dissatisfaction with the government, a popular problem in 2015 and also the most popular problem in 2014, is second on the list, according to Gallup.


A graphic showing the most important problem in the U.S.

LINDSEY COOK FOR USN≀ SOURCE: GALLUP


The early December polling followed the terrorist attacks in both Paris and San Bernardino, California. The ratio of roughly 1 in 6 Americans citing terrorism as the country’s most important problem is the highest in a decade, though significantly lower than the 46 percent measurement after 9/11.

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A graphic showing a poll by Gallup on terrorism.

COURTESY GALLUP


Along with the economy and unemployment, guns/gun control, crime/violence, the Islamic State group/the situation in Iraq and national security also topped the December list from Gallup. And in another poll by the Pew Research Center asking about the government’s efforts to reduce terrorism, more people rated its performance negatively than positively for the first time since 9/11.

National security and terror-related issues will likely remain atop Americans’ list of concerns into 2016 and through the presidential election season, especially if there are other high-profile attacks.

Meanwhile, concerns about dissatisfaction with the government have decreased in recent months, per Gallup, while Congress has increased its productivity this year, according toPew. Among its accomplishments this year, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a replacement for No Child Left Behind, a transportation funding bill and the USA Freedom Act, which curbed the NSA’s surveillance capabilities.


A graphic showing the productivity in Congress in 2015.

COURTESY PEW RESEARCH CENTER


Since September, Americans’ concern about the umbrella category of economic problems has decreased from 35 percent to 21 percent, though the economy in general is still the third-most popular problem cited by Gallup respondents.

According to Pew, more than half of Americans said they felt economic conditions a year from now will be about the same as they are now. And although the same is better than getting worse, it shows Americans aren’t expecting many improvements.

All of this may mean good news for Republicans, as Pew found more Americans said Republicans are better equipped to deal with such threats. Additionally, the GOP led in terms of its members’ ability to handle gun control – another top issue for Americans going into 2016. The party also had a slight edge on economic issues.


A graphic showing which party Americans favor to handle terrorism and the economy.

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


Among the Republican presidential contenders, voters on the right say Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are the best suited to handle the Islamic State group, with 47 percent favoring Trump and 21 percent favoring Cruz, according to a Dec. 17-21 poll from CNN.

On the economy, Trump is an even bigger favorite, with 57 percent saying he is best suited to handle it. Since the margin of error is 4.5 percentage points, the second-place contender is anyone’s guess – voters showed 8 percent support for Cruz, 7 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio and 6 percent for Ben Carson.

On the Democrats’ side, front-runner Hillary Clinton is neck-and-neck with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on economic issues with 47 percent versus 39 percent (margin of error is 5 percentage points) support. Clinton has a wide lead on foreign policy and the handling of the Islamic State group though, with 72 percent and 63 percent support, respectively.

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