As 2012 turns into 2013, many pundits look back at the highlights of the past year and predict what will happen in the next. I won't do that. Instead, I will list some of the developments nationally and internationally I hope will happen in 2013.
Congress gets its house in order. The recent "fiscal cliff" negotiations are just the latest manifestation of Congress' inability to pass legislation in a timely manner. Even the budget process has become a series of continuing resolutions. Congress must reform its internal processes for resolving policy issues and even carrying out basic functions.
Congress makes significant progress in balancing the nation's budget. The ballooning federal debt is a heavy burden the nation will carry for years to come. First, there must be a balanced annual budget passed each year. Next, Congress has to make progress on reducing the national debt. That will require a combination of both tax increases and across the board spending cuts. These austerity measures will not be popular, but failure to act is not an option.
Unemployment returns to near pre-recession levels. The unemployment rate in 2008 was around 5 percent. To return to 6.5 percent, the economy must grow more than 200,000 jobs each month for the next year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 and 2012, that rate was about 150,000 per month. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? I hope so.
Health care reform is enacted. Hopefully, opponents of Obamacare realize that the election is over and a majority of voters chose the candidate who favored Obamacare and not the one who vowed to repeal it. That doesn't mean it is perfect. For example, it has not gone far enough to contain costs and deal with the physician crisis the nation faces. Nor has the issue of religious institutions' responsibility to provide contraceptives been resolved. But the underlying premises of increased health care access, greater regulation of the health insurance industry to protect individuals and families and the enhanced value of everyone participating in health care should now be set.
Immigration reform is passed. Even though immigration has slowed during the recession, the problem has not gone away. Indeed, as the economy improves, the issue of illegal immigrants pouring across the border will return. Congress, not an individual state, needs to act to institute programs to allow immigrants to come to the United States legally and contribute to the U.S. economy, while regaining control of the nation's borders.
Afghanistan and Iraq do not descend into anarchy or dictatorship. The U.S. devoted thousands of solders' lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to support these nations. U.S. dollars built hospitals, schools, roads, etc. Now that U.S. combat troops are leaving, the moment of truth has arrived. Will the Afghans and Iraqis preserve what U.S. troops sought to create? I want to believe they will.
Democracy makes advances across the globe by replacing dictatorial regimes. Bashir Assad (Syria), Kim Jong-Un (North Korea), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), and other dictators are succeeded by more democratic governments. This may seem unrealistic. But within the past couple of years, several dictators have fallen — Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia). Why not more?
The Palestinians and the Israelis come to an agreement on a two-state solution that brings peace to the region. This has been elusive for several generations now. Too much hatred has thrived. Too much blood has been spilt. Too many years have passed without a resolution. It is time for the leaders of these nations to forge a lasting peace that recognizes both their separate and their mutual interests. Pie in the sky? The past would say yes. The future should say no.
Those are a few of my hopes for 2013. Hopefully, you have your own. Happy New Year!
Richard Davis is a professor of political science at Brigham Young University. Email: [email protected]