Benjamin Rush, one of America's Founding Fathers, famously wrote, "The American war is over but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of this great drama is closed."
On the heels of the nation adopting the Constitution, Rush offered that the American Revolution should not be conflated with the war against the British. The revolution is the ongoing narrative for what is commonly referred as the American experiment.
The war was a conduit that fueled the transformation from loyal British subjects to Americans beholden to the notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The war of attrition against the British Empire proved to be the easy part; the revolution continues. It is a never-ending struggle to make good on America's initial commitment -- a commitment that requires government intervention at times and laissez-faire at others.
It seems, however, that commitment lies dormant under the existing ash pile of politics, where meaningless rhetoric and systemic stagnation on Capitol Hill have become the preferred methodology, avoiding any attempt to assist many Americans in their pursuit of happiness.
Given the current climate, the pendulum for American economic policies ought to be swinging to the left. It was supply-side economics, irresponsible financing of the war in Iraq, and the impact of deregulating the financial markets that were key factors that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The current recovery feels to be one that exists more on paper than reality. There continues to be millions of working-age people who sit idle, unable to produce to their capacity. Economic growth is anemic at best, while the unemployment needle is seemingly moved more by those who give up looking for work than those who are being employed.
Raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits are important first steps. The importance lies more in the message that it sends to those on the margin than as an authentic economic response to the plodding rate of the current recovery.
How long can America continue to be comforted by a false unemployment rate that does not include those who have given up? How does it serve the interests of the American people, who need bold action, to be dominated by a recalcitrant ethos that demonstrates little regard for the responsibilities of governing?
America is in dire need of economic ideas that transcend any political orthodoxy. Investment in infrastructure is not some makeshift idea, but a badly needed work project that fills a huge void. This effort alone could exceed $2.3 trillion over the next decade for transportation, energy, and water infrastructure, but will employ many with good-paying jobs. America has more than 65,000 bridges classified as "structurally deficient."
Infrastructure investment would bolster the economy, increase consumer confidence and expand tax revenues, while lowering the deficit and unemployment rate.
The country needs investment in education so that it diverts the current trend that has condensed a college diploma to a devalued debt burden upon graduation for far too many. Moreover, there needs to be a corresponding investment in those for whom college is not an option so they are prepared to assume the emerging manufacturing opportunities that are on the horizon.
But such proposals are being hamstrung not only by obstinate politics, but also by a pervasive fear among many Americans who view inaction as the lesser of two evils. Fear creates a contradictory impulse that suggests it's better to keep things as they are rather than risking change.
Ironically, risking change is the hallmark of the American Revolution. It is in keeping with the spirit that Rush articulated in 1787. The failure to adopt bold policies in reaction to a stagnant economy reflects a commitment to the status quo that is working for only a few.
Byron Williams is a contributing columnist. Contact him at 510-208-6417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.