Reasons to invest in strategic industries, trade relationships have been around for years
I was cleaning out my home office the other day when I happened upon some newspapers from 2016 and early 2017 that I somehow neglected to put in the recycle bin. Rather than automatically discard them, I took a few moments to peek into the news of the past. While the stories I read resembled a time capsule, it seems like some things never change. I read about the controversial presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the vitriol of which reflected the mean-spirited campaigns we are now seeing at all levels of government. There were stories on Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and the tight voting margin between this party and the Democrats.
I read about the severe flooding in the South and Midwest caused by Tropical Depression Cindy. There were stories about inappropriate relationship scandals involving officers in the military. Border Patrol agents were saving migrants trying to cross into the U.S. from drowning in the Rio Grande. Eerily, I read how a Black, off-duty St. Louis police officer was accidentally shot by white officers who were trying to arrest some suspects.
Yet while reading the old news, I was struck by a sense of how innocent those times seem today. This was before a pandemic killed millions across the globe, quarantined us at home, put millions out of work, and provided us with a daily sense of gloom. With all of this came hording,
incongruent information on how the COVID-19 spreads, the deliberate spread of false information on the virus, and the split of the U.S. into camps of people eager to be vaccinated and the anti-vaxers who don’t trust the vaccine, science, or their government. This was before the supply chain disruptions that have caused delays in production, construction, and even routine food deliveries to grocery stores.
It was before President Donald Trump refused to accept defeat in the 2020 elections and promulgated the Big Lie that the election had been stolen from him. This was before January 6, 2020, when insurrectionists, fired up by outgoing President Donald Trump, tried to overturn a democratic election by storming and defacing the U.S. Capitol.
Now we have Russia creating world instability by its invasion and brutal attack of Ukraine. This is causing the worst strained relations between the East and the West since World War II. It has also resulted in major energy shortages and high prices for European countries that over the years had become too comfortable and reliant on Russian petroleum and natural gas to fuel their economies. African and Middle Eastern countries have been exposed as to how dependent they are on purchases of Ukrainian grain to feed their populations – a fact made more evident by a country engaged in an all-out war with an aggressor. The world has been reminded to the reality of what a major powerhouse Saudi Arabia is in determining crude oil production and prices. It has refused to be persuaded to increase production as the world suffers high energy costs and fuel shortages, yet it happily buys U.S. military equipment for its own protection.
As we face yet another election that could well determine the course of democracy in our nation, changes in the world order, and how we prepare for future crises, I wish I could step back in time six years to write a note to ourselves about how to avoid the factors that put us in our present situation. I would encourage political dialogue to address the widening wealth and education gaps in our country, so that millions of Americans are not prone to misinformation, lies, and conspiracy theories. I would remind the world of the danger of letting a nuclear superpower such as Russia fall into the hands of a man who has made himself a supreme dictator. Countries should never have let themselves become so dependent on a country that is managed by the whims of what appears to be a delusional and unstable man.
I would reassess our trading relationships with countries that have proven not to be friends of the U.S. in times of crises. China strongly and immediately sided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It, too, has been made into a dictatorship, run by a man intent on dominating the world’s economy by spreading Chinese investment to the ends of the earth, particularly to developing countries hungry for foreign direct investment. China is even more dangerous than Russia, because it is both a military and economic superpower. Six years ago, we could have become serious about investing in strategic industries such as computer chips, rare earth minerals, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies. Future U.S. reliance on China for products in key industries is a recipe for disaster. We knew it six years ago, and we surely know it now.
Six years ago, we could have strengthened our trade relationships with proven allies such as Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Western Europe. The pandemic and Putin’s war in Ukraine has lit a fire under our shoes in this sense, but we could have redoubled efforts even sooner. Finally, we have to strike a balance in the U.S. between the production of fossil fuels and renewable energy. This is not a black-and-white issue. A strategic approach and compromise are the path forward.