Fifty years ago, as his second term was ending, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed a bipartisan group of the country’s smartest people to tell Americans what goals they should pursue. It goes without saying, of course, that Americans are not advice takers and not long term thinkers.
Export more than you import, Goals for Americans advised. Since then, for decades we’ve run trade deficits. Avoid too great concentrations of economic power. The rich have gotten richer and now the richest 1% enjoys a quarter of the income and 44 million live in poverty. Avoid impractical and unnecessary military projects. Reagan’s Star Wars has cost over $100 billion and remains a steady drain without having improved security.
Plan roads, rapid transit, housing, parks, and urban renewal regionally. With some exceptions, urban sprawl prevails, with home foreclosures rife and affordable housing falling ever further behind the need. Extend medical insurance through public and private agencies, and control health costs. Today 46 million are uninsured, and the 2010 battle to take the Commission’s advice 50 years later may have destroyed Obama’s presidency.
Support and strengthen the UN, International Court of Justice, and world law. We’ve treated all of these with disdain, withholding UN dues, limiting ICJ jurisdiction, and refusing to join the International Criminal Court. Create an informed public through better newspapers and television. Newspapers are going out of business and television is a wasteland. Above all, above all, control nuclear weapons by ensuring no nation is in a position of significant advantage, and imposing universal inspections. The world is on the brink of expanded nuclear proliferation and nuclear weapons are seen by many as a standard part of national arsenals.
Interestingly, the first section of Goals for Americans is entitled The Individual and the last is entitled The United Nations. The Commission thus framed the goals, looking forward from World War II, in the context of citizens on the one hand and the world on the other. The nation fell in between. One reason so few of the goals have been realized is that Americans glorify their nation, denigrate the UN, and deny personal responsibility. They endow a disembodied construct, their nation, with all responsibility, and relieve themselves of any responsibility.