Watching the news today one would think the whole world is falling apart. Political charges and countercharges fly like arrows. But they often miss the mark of what’s really happening in America and what’s important for our future. The fact is that our country is making good progress on a number of fronts, but we also need to get some things right over the next few years to protect that progress.
First, the vast majority of Americans go about their daily lives as productive citizens. They love our country and respect its flag. They don’t obsess about every twist and turn in America’s history, but they know instinctively that America today is a better place than it was a century or two ago or even a generation or two ago.
We all learned from our school lessons that Betsy Ross and her band of seamstresses patched together that first American flag with its thirteen stars in a circle representing the unity of the colonies striving for independence and freedom. Was that union imperfect? Of course it was, but our founding fathers understood that when they set out to create “a more perfect union.” America is a work in progress. Our ancestors had to overcome the sins of slavery through a brutal civil war. In our lifetimes we’ve had to learn the painful lessons of the civil rights battle against bigotry and discrimination.
This march of the cause of freedom is not advanced by those who “take a knee” when the national anthem is played or otherwise disrespect a flag that represents the best chance of hope and opportunity for all. Companies like Nike that cave to the ignorant whims of Americans who always find fault but never see the striving for justice and equality represented by our flag are complicit in its desecration.
America today is a vastly more just and free nation than any other on earth. We’re such a beacon of freedom that people everywhere yearn to come here. Right now our southern border is being overwhelmed with refugees who would undoubtedly love to wrap themselves in America’s flag. That our leaders in Washington have so bungled the management of our immigration system to allow the crisis on our border to worsen is a blot on our federal government.
For those of us whose parents or grandparents travelled through Ellis Island, the comparison is stark. Millions of refugees came to America in an orderly and humane procession in the early to mid-20th century. They came in waves that were manageable and assimilated into our country. But today the immigration wave has turned to a flood, and instead of managing the flood Washington has let it overwhelm our capacity to contain it.
The answers to this crisis are straight-forward: a clear signal needs to be sent that unlimited “asylum” and endless “catch and release” of illegal immigrants will be stopped and replaced with a more orderly and humane approach. It’s been done before in America and it can be done again. All it takes is political will.
Apart from this immigration crisis, the American experiment is humming along with amazing resilience. Our economy is growing at a solid clip. There are plenty of jobs for those willing and able to work, unemployment is way down, wages are finally going up, and minority workers are sharing in the nation’s prosperity in record numbers. Keeping taxes and regulations in check have helped spur this economic resurgence.
But just as it must better manage our borders, Washington needs to be vigilant in managing our national economic progress. That means finalizing trade deals that have been languishing too long. Months ago, Congress received the updated treaty that would stimulate U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade. Yet there’s no clear sign this important treaty will be approved anytime soon. Similar trade deals with China and Europe also need to be finalized. A world-wide trade war right now could spell the end of the international economic recovery. That would be bad for American workers too.
And looming on the horizon in just a few short months is a potential federal budget and “debt ceiling” crisis that could sink our economy. Our leaders are playing with fire here, and if they don’t make progress to contain spending and slow the growth in our national debt, interest rates could soar and drag economic growth down.
To paraphrase old Ben Franklin, our Republic’s progress is steady and sure, “if we can keep it”!
This column was originally published in the Long Island Herald Community Newspapers.
Former Senator D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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