Opportunity 08

Opportunity 08: Independent Ideas for America's Next President

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 2
Pages: 412
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  • Book Info
    Opportunity 08
    Book Description:

    Voters say they want to hear more from candidates about the critical issues facing our nation and less about partisan politics. Opportunity 08 answers the call with authoritative analysis and innovative policy solutions for the problems that matter most to the future of our society, our prosperity, and our world. Reflecting an impressive breadth of expertise, opinions, and political beliefs, the contributors to this book tackle diverse challenges including how to deal with Iran and Iraq, the rise of China, climate change, poverty and inequality, and retirement security. New chapters in this updated and expanded second edition include examinations of homeland security, foreign aid, health care reform, and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan. Praise for the first edition: "Each chapter contains well-organized, innovative and practical approaches not just for the sitting president, but for the campaigning hopefuls, and should inspire voters to look beyond all-too-typical horse race coverage -and perhaps demand more from their news media and their leaders." -Publishers Weekly Learn more about the Brookings Opportunity 08 project at www.brookings.edu/projects/opportunity08.aspx

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0187-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Health Sciences, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Strobe Talbott

    American presidential election years are always important, but this year’s is remarkably so, given the magnitude and complexity of the challenges facing the nation and the world. The 2008 race is unusual in another respect: despite the differences among them, the nineteen candidates who sought the Democratic and Republican nominations had one thing in common: none was an incumbent president or vice president. That meant they were likely to be more open to fresh ideas on how to deal with the challenges facing the nation and the world.

    Moreover, voters have made clear that in the course of this unusually...

  4. 1 Big Ideas for the 2008 Race
    (pp. 1-4)

    With the 2008 general election campaign fully upon us, and a new administration getting ready to start its first 100 days in office shortly thereafter, Brookings is happy to offer this new and updated version ofOpportunity 08: Independent Ideas for America’s Next President.Among other things this version includes new chapters on Pakistan by Bruce Riedel, homeland security by Jeremy Shapiro, and foreign assistance by Ken Dam.

    Since August 2007, the Opportunity 08 project has been to Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, and Ohio, teaming up with ABC News and regional organizations such as the University of...

  5. PART I Our World

    • 2 Expand the U.S. Agenda toward Pakistan: Prospects for Peace and Stability Can Brighten
      (pp. 7-20)

      Pakistan is the most dangerous country in today’s world. There, the forces that threaten global peace and security all come together: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the risk of nuclear war, terrorism, poverty, dictatorship, radical Islam, and narcotics.

      Pakistan’s fragile politics reflect a history of alternating military dictatorships with periods of weak elected civilian rule. Recently, violence has become a dominant feature of the political landscape—most notably in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. But, following the February 2008 elections, Pakistan may have embarked on a tortuous path toward democracy.

      The United States has failed democratic...

    • 3 Countering Iran’s Revolutionary Challenge: A Strategy for the Next Phase
      (pp. 21-35)

      Iran is a revolutionary power, still in an exuberant phase of its revolution. Geopolitically it seeks to dominate the Gulf; ideologically it challenges the legitimacy of moderate governments in the region. Indeed, Iran aspires to be the leader of Islamist radicalism in the Muslim world as a whole. Iran’s conventional military buildup, its pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the UN Security Council, and its interventions in Lebanon and Iraq not only reflect its ambitions but also explain its current self-confidence.

      The nature of the regime is at the core of the challenge it poses, but the starting point...

    • 4 Engaging the Muslim World: A Communication Strategy to Win the War of Ideas
      (pp. 36-53)
      HADY AMR and P. W. SINGER

      A critical pillar of success in the war on terrorism is restoring the world’s trust in America’s word. Fortifying this pillar should be a top priority of the next president, with a special focus on relations with the Muslim world. To win the war of ideas with those advocating violence against America, we must act quickly to rebuild the shattered foundations of understanding between the United States and predominantly Muslim states and communities.

      For its efforts at public diplomacy and strategic communications to be effective, the U.S. government must move beyond understanding the problem as simply a global popularity contest....

    • 5 Contending with the Rise of China: Build on Three Decades of Progress
      (pp. 54-67)

      China’s rise may pose the most important foreign policy challenge to the United States in the twenty-first century. Chinese economic expansion of 10 percent annually offers exciting export and import opportunities—accompanied by profound economic, military, and political risks. The next president should embrace the strategy of engagement initiated by President Nixon and sustained by all his successors to date. Presidential candidates should avoid tendentious condemnations of China and instead signal their intention to develop a personal relationship of trust with their Chinese counterpart soon after taking office. Specifically, the next president should

      convince Chinese leaders that they can...

    • 6 Constructing a Successful China Strategy: Promote Balance and Democratic Ideals in Asia
      (pp. 68-78)

      Historians may ultimately judge the next U.S. president more on how his administration managed the rise of China than on how it fought the war on terrorism. The convergence of the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. party conventions in the summer of 2008 will ensure that China policy becomes an issue in the U.S. presidential race. Advocates of containment will call attention to the U.S. trade deficit with China and to the Communist regime’s human rights violations, military buildup, repression of Tibet, and expansion of influence throughout Asia. The presidential nominees will feel pressured to demand a tougher stance toward...

    • 7 Ending Oil Dependence: Protecting National Security, the Environment, and the Economy
      (pp. 79-94)

      Plug-in electric vehicles, biofuels, fuel efficiency improvements, and smart growth can help end the United States’ oil dependence in a generation. Doing so would provide important national security, environmental, and economic benefits. A broad political consensus and game-changing technological advances create the conditions for dramatic change. Yet presidential leadership and robust policies will be needed. There are no simple or short-term solutions. The next president should

      transform the auto fleet with federal purchases of plug-in electric vehicles, tax incentives for the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles, and a fund to help automakers invest in fuel-saving technologies;

      transform the...

    • 8 Iraq in 2009: How to Give Peace a Chance
      (pp. 95-109)

      The next president of the United States will inherit 130,000 to 150,000 troops in Iraq amidst a fractured state of Iraqi politics that includes nascent stability in some provinces, militias armed to the gills, and little or no consensus on major national issues that are fundamental to a viable Iraqi state.¹ A precipitous troop withdrawal could unleash an internal conflagration that could increase the threat of transnational terrorism, send oil prices soaring further, and add to the number and anguish of 4.7 million Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. Yet keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is an unsustainable stopgap in...

    • 9 Back to Balancing in the Middle East: A New Strategy for Constructive Engagement
      (pp. 110-128)

      A new Sunni-Shi’a fault line and a significant decline in U.S. influence frame the challenge to Middle East policy for the next president. That challenge requires a return to balance-of-power diplomacy and a better balancing of interests and values to contain the Iraq civil war, strengthen the forces of moderation, prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and promote democratic reform.

      An expanding arc of Iranian influence extends from Tehran over Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. Radicals under this arc have gained strength by exploiting the United States’ own mistakes—our ineffectiveness in Iraq, disengagement from the Arab-Israeli peace process, enabling...

    • 10 Bent but Not Broken: How the Next Commander in Chief Can Prevent the Breaking of the U.S. Military
      (pp. 129-158)
      P. W. SINGER

      The good news for the next president is that he will become commander in chief of a military that is unmatched in its power and capability by any other nation’s armed forces today or in history. The bad news is that this excellence is under siege. The U.S. military and its National Guard and Reserve components have been stretched thin and worn down by the combination of extensive deployments and a deferral of the hard questions of how a nation supports a military at war.

      The U.S. military is far from broken. But warning symptoms are there. Trends in recruiting...

    • 11 Ensuring that Foreign Aid Is Effective: Raise the Level of Debate about Aid
      (pp. 159-172)

      Presidential candidates can expect to encounter three competing concepts about foreign aid. They will hear that foreign aid does not work and is therefore wasted; that poverty, disease, and hunger are so pervasive in the developing world that foreign aid must be increased dramatically; and that U.S. foreign aid decisionmaking and management are so complex and convoluted that they need major reorganization. To raise the level of discussion and ground the administration’s decisions in better data, the next president should direct severalevaluativeinitiatives:

      All foreign aid programs should be systematically evaluated, based on their unique goals, rather than...

    • 12 Managing Homeland Security: Developing a Threat-Based Strategy
      (pp. 173-188)

      After 9/11 the United States acted swiftly to defend itself from terrorist attacks. The government implemented numerous farreaching security measures, undertook a vast reorganization for the purpose of defending against terrorism, and more than tripled federal homeland security spending. Although substantial gaps remain, coordination of antiterrorist efforts has been significantly improved internationally and within the federal government.

      There have been no terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11, but it is far from clear whether the government’s efforts have made the difference. Policy discussions of homeland security issues are driven not by rigorous analysis but by fear, perceptions of...

  6. PART II Our Society

    • 13 Empowering Moderate Voters: Implement an Instant Runoff Strategy
      (pp. 191-197)

      U.S. elections and the conduct of elected representatives in recent years have been characterized by excessive partisanship that impedes their performance and, more important, thwarts the fundamental purposes of representative government. The next president should promote the concept of “instant runoffs” in U.S. elections in order to give candidates who appeal to a broader range of the electorate a better chance to win their races and serve our citizenry. Specifically, the next administration should work to achieve either

      more competitive districts in which the parties must nominate candidates who appeal to moderate and independent voters, or

      instant runoff...

    • 14 Rethinking U.S. Rental Housing Policy: Build on State and Local Innovations
      (pp. 198-211)

      The subprime mortgage crisis has suddenly brought housing back on the national policy agenda. But while federal policymakers naturally focus their attention on crisis abatement, the country’s broader housing challenges, particularly in the rental sector, also deserve attention and demand structural reform. If we are serious about our commitment to grow the national economy, make work pay, leave no child behind, and grow in environmentally sustainable ways, we must more effectively tackle today’s rental housing problems. The next president should reinvigorate national rental housing policy, building on the innovations being tested in various states and locales. Specifically, the president should...

    • 15 Attacking Poverty and Inequality: Reinvigorate the Fight for Greater Opportunity
      (pp. 212-225)

      Although the nation’s poverty rate is higher now than it was in the 1970s, no president since Lyndon Johnson has made fighting poverty a major plank of his campaign or a goal of his administration. With large and growing gaps between the rich and the poor, it is now time for presidential candidates and the next president to focus on poverty and inequality in the United States. Evidence suggests that the American people are ready to support a reinvigorated fight.

      Three effective ways to reduce poverty are to increase work levels, reverse the growth of single-parent families, and improve educational...

    • 16 Pathways to the Middle Class: Ensuring Greater Upward Mobility for All Americans
      (pp. 226-242)

      Middle-class prosperity is the cornerstone of the American Dream. Americans believe that through hard work and education families can enter the middle class and keep on climbing. However, recent evidence shows that, even with a rebounding U.S. economy, working-class and middle-class families are struggling more than in decades past, and upward economic mobility is slowing, even for those who work hard and play by society’s rules. Moreover, the road to middle-class prosperity is even rockier for minorities. Several time-honored pathways that lead to the middle class are postsecondary education, good jobs, living in viable neighborhoods, personal financial responsibility, and entrepreneurship....

  7. PART III Our Prosperity

    • 17 Taming the Deficit: Forge a Grand Compromise for a Sustainable Future
      (pp. 245-260)

      Currently projected deficits are unsustainable and pose serious risks to the economy, make us dangerously dependent on other countries, impose a “debt tax” on every taxpayer, send the bill for current spending to future generations, and weaken the government’s ability to invest in the future or respond to emergencies. The next president will have to act to meet the deficit challenge.

      Specifically, presidential candidates should commit to restoring fiscal balance over the next five years and to constructing a sustainable fiscal course over the long term by reforming entitlements and taxes as soon as possible. They should emphasize to the...

    • 18 Realistic Approaches to Head Off a U.S. Economic Crisis:
      (pp. 261-276)

      An honest assessment of the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook almost makes one wonder why, in 2008, anyone would want to be elected president. And why so little attention is being paid to a problem that budget analysts of diverse perspectives routinely describe as “unsustainable.”

      One thing is clear: the status quo is not acceptable. The next president will inherit a fiscally lethal combination of changing demographics, rising heath care costs, and falling national savings. The public should take care to not buy the proposals of presidential candidates that either ignore the magnitude of the long-term fiscal challenge or lock candidates...

    • 19 Extending Deregulation: Make the U.S. Economy More Efficient
      (pp. 277-289)

      Since the 1970s, deregulation has succeeded in increasing overall economic welfare and sharply reducing prices, generally by about 30 percent, for transportation—including air travel, rail transportation, and trucking—and for natural gas and telecommunications. Few industries remain subject to classic economic regulation in the United States. To help remove some of the last vestiges of such controls, the next president should do the following:

      Promote full deregulation of all voice telephone services

      Oppose “network neutrality” initiatives for broadband telecommunications that would interfere with pricing innovations designed to relieve network congestion

      Within the electricity sector, support market...

    • 20 Strengthening Higher Education: Simplify Student Aid and Emphasize Vital Science, Math, and Language Skills
      (pp. 290-303)

      The importance of higher education to the future of the nation can hardly be exaggerated. Economic growth and responsible political participation increasingly depend on a well-read and scientifically literate citizenry. Social mobility and higher incomes are closely tied to the acquisition of a college diploma and the communications skills and critical thinking that higher education fosters. And for many, a liberal education introduces students to the many dimensions of their own civilization and to the diversity of human civilizations and enlarges sensibility and understanding.

      American universities are strong in many ways. No nation on earth can boast universities of greater...

    • 21 Meeting the Dilemma of Health Care Access: Extending Insurance Coverage while Controlling Costs
      (pp. 304-316)

      Health care is the nation’s largest—and, in many respects, most important—industry. It accounts for a large share of the nation’s economy and is a major source of employment, to be sure, but by improving people’s health and reducing disability, it promotes productivity across the economy and improves quality of life. The dollar value of Americans’ improved health over the last three decades approximates the value of all other economic growth combined, and much, though not all, of that gain is traceable to improved health care.

      The U.S. health care sector is growing rapidly and, on the private side...

    • 22 Meeting the Challenge of Health Care Quality: Achieve Reforms in Medicare, Quality, and Malpractice
      (pp. 317-331)

      The cost of the U.S. health care system is high and rising at unsustainable rates, and a growing number of Americans have inadequate health insurance or none at all. The American public has a right to expect both presidential candidates to address the overall problem of rising costs and decreasing access to care due to consumers’ increasing inability to pay for services. But it also should expect candidates to address certain specific health system shortcomings, including the need to reform Medicare, improve quality of care, and tackle medical malpractice reform.

      Each of these issues has figured prominently in recent political...

    • 23 Slowing the Growth of Health Spending: We Need Mixed Strategies, and We Need to Start Now
      (pp. 332-349)

      Americans are deeply concerned about paying their mounting bills for health care. This is true whether they have private insurance or public (Medicare or Medicaid)—and certainly for the 46 million with no insurance at all. The federal government’s health spending, primarily for Medicare and Medicaid, is clearly unsustainable. If current commitments are kept, other government services will have to be slashed or taxes increased drastically just to pay for these two programs. But the problem of rising health care costs is not confined to the federal budget; private health spending is rising just as quickly. Conventional strategies to slow...

    • 24 Promoting Retirement Security: Make Saving Easier and More Rewarding
      (pp. 350-359)

      The past twenty-five years have brought a dramatic shift in our nation’s pension system away from defined benefit plans and toward defined contribution accounts, such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). But many of our public policies have not been updated to reflect the increased responsibility placed on workers to prepare for their own retirement. The next president can improve and strengthen retirement security substantially through a series of commonsense reforms that would make the defined contribution pension system easier to navigate and more rewarding for American families:

      The most important change would be tomake saving easier...

    • 25 Fixing the Tax System: Support Fairer, Simpler, and More Adequate Taxation
      (pp. 360-370)

      A good tax system raises the revenues needed to finance government spending in a manner that is as simple, equitable, stable, and conducive to economic growth as possible. But the challenge for the next president will be to make reform work not just in the abstract, but in the real world, where special interests often rule the roost. The next president should support reforms that would tax all income once (only) at the full tax rate, simplify and streamline the tax code, and, of course, raise sufficient revenues. To achieve these goals, the package of specific reforms proposed in this...

    • 26 Strengthening U.S. Information Technology: Keep America No. 1 on the Net
      (pp. 371-388)

      Leadership in information technology (IT) is the foundation for U.S. competitiveness and future economic well-being. The Internet is and will be the central medium of information technology today and for the next decade. It underpins large market opportunities for software, hardware, and Internet applications, and it enables a far broader set of industries to achieve greater transaction profitability, increase productivity, and create new markets—this is how the Internet and IT sparks growth.

      America must stay no. 1 on the Net.The next president should endorse policies that enable American companies to remain the primary inventors and purveyors of Internet...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 389-390)
  9. Index
    (pp. 391-412)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 413-415)