This is the fourth and final (I heard you breathe a sigh of relief!) post discussing the issues I think are most important in the nation today as compared to the ones that citizens consider the most important according to a national Gallup survey of July 13-17:
- Racism/Race relations
- Dissatisfaction with government
- Ethics/Moral/Religious decline
In this post I will conclude by discussing the last two issues on my list::
- Environment/climate change
- Gun control
- Refugee crisis/immigration
One could argue that #4, education, should be at the top of the list. Education is very much linked to almost all other issues, as the more enlightened we are as a nation, the more likely we will be to make wise decisions, smart choices.
In 1990, the U.S. ranked first in the world in four-year degrees among 25-34 year-olds; today, the U.S. ranks 12th. Why? What happened? One theory is that college enrollment always follows the economic cycle: when the economy is in a recession, college enrollment increases, and when in a period of recovery, as we have been for some years now, enrollment decreases as jobs become more readily available. This theory makes some sense if you think about it, however it is only a part of the reason. Rising college costs must be considered to have a significant impact on enrollment. According to data recently released by the Organization for Co-operation and Development, the U.S. has the highest cost, $26,021 per year, of all nations surveyed. This, as compared to Russia ($7,424), Canada ($23,225), Japan ($16,445), and Israel ($15,553). Over the past 30 years, the cost of a four-year college degree in the U.S. has tripled.
The unemployment rate for Americans with bachelor’s degrees or higher is just 3.2 percent, compared to a national average of 6.1 percent. This, in itself justifies education being among the top issues facing the nation today! Not only is the college-educated individual more likely to have a job, but that job is more likely to provide a living wage. According to Pew Research Center, the median income for a college graduate is $45,500 compared to $28,000 for a high-school graduate, or 62.5% higher for the college grad.
The facts speak for themselves. We must make college more affordable and ensure that the opportunity is available for every high school graduate. Tax credits, lower interest on student loans, additional grants, and loan deferments are just a few of the ways that government may be able to help, and I am sure there are others. We need lawmakers who are dedicated to making college affordable to all, else we are destined to end up a nation of citizens working at minimum wage jobs and worse, unable to think for themselves.
Finally, the 5th item on my list, the refugee/immigration issue. Though this, also, is truly a global issue, I am speaking here only of the situation in the U.S. as regards our current and potential immigrant situation. Current and reliable data is difficult to come by regarding the number and origin of our immigrant population at present. The most recent reliable data is as of 2014, which ordinarily would not be a problem, but in this situation, there has been significant change during that time, so I am uncomfortable using it. I can certainly understand the dearth of valid data, as it is, I am certain, rather like trying to hit a moving target. However, the table below shows the number of immigrants as of 2014 for a base reference, since this data agrees with that of several sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau.
When I include refugees/immigration as one of my top five issues, I do so from a different perspective, perhaps, than many people. Today, in the furor of certain political candidates who have convinced a portion of the masses that all immigrants are in one way or another a bad thing for this country and must absolutely be stopped, it is difficult for saner voices to actually be heard. My perspective, the reason I see this as an issue, is that it makes no sense to ban immigrants, however we absolutely must have plans and processes in place to absorb those immigrants, to help them survive and assimilate into our society. At present, I can tell you based on my hours spent dealing with government agencies on behalf of my neighbors, Syrian refugees, if there is an organized plan, it is elusive.
Private organizations often help refugees for the first year or so, but after that they are on their own. Imagine escaping from a country where terrorist attacks and bombings are the everyday norm, leaving behind everything except a few clothes … family pictures, money, furniture are all left behind … to come to a country where hardly anybody speaks your language, there are mounds of paperwork required simply to find food and shelter, all of it in English, having no car, no family, no friends. Just try to imagine it for a minute. The government is trying, I do believe, but I have found that even with my command of the English language the hurdles are frustrating.
The massive, ongoing violence in the Middle East and economic situation in other countries are such that every nation must do its part to help displace people. That includes the U.S., and I do not foresee that we will realistically be reducing the number of immigrants seeking refuge in the near future. Thus it is imperative that our elected leaders come together to plan and implement those plans such that we can provide the most amount of help to people, with the least amount of disruption to the country. It is foolhardy, to say the least, to think that we can just toss all immigrants out of the country.
Thus concludes my fourth and final post of this series. I appreciate all who stuck with me for all four! My purpose, for any who may have wondered, was not to force my opinions on anybody, but to highlight the fact that, as voters, we need to be thinking about the issues facing our nation. We need to vote in November based on which candidate we believe will best serve our nation overall, not which can yell the loudest or be the most obnoxious or come up with the wildest schemes. We need to ask the candidates to clarify and provide detail on the issues. Pick your own five top issues and then check the candidates records on those issues, check what they have said about them, then decide. Do not be swayed by braying voices and false accusations. And most importantly of all … make certain that your voter registration is current and then GO VOTE!