Three practical presidential pledges to promote national prosperity
James-Christian B. Blockwood, a former senior career senior executive in Federal Government, is Executive Vice President of the Partnership for Public Service and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.
Though the 2024 presidential general election is more than a year away, primary races have already begun. Early polling results tend to influence messaging, and it seems the more provocative the talking points—those that move a candidate to one side of the political aisle and separate them from others—the better.
Recent Republican announcements offer the latest intrigue, as Ron DeSantis launches his candidacy uniquely via Twitter Spaces, and Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Asa Hutchinson previously announced their intentions to run as alternative candidates to former President Trump. The latter candidates pitching free-thinker, bootstrapped, and restore American values and greatness platforms, but all are vying to challenge President Biden, the current Democratic front runner.
Regardless of who emerges victorious in the primaries and, ultimately, the presidency, here are three practical pledges—perhaps lacking the drama prompting headlines on the debate stage but fundamental to a well-functioning government—our next president can commit to that will affect positive change in our nation’s prosperity.
Balance the Budget and Reduce the Deficit
Good governance and fiscal prudence matters, especially when our country’s gross national debt is nearing $30 trillion, and Congressional Budget Office projections indicate debt may reach 119 percent of gross domestic product by FY2033.
Americans expect elected officials to faithfully execute their constitutional obligation to make laws and pass budgets, but when they fail to do so, it impedes the government's long-term planning capability and erodes trust in our institutions. The president, critical to this process, all too often allows political brinkmanship to get in the way.
Hostage negotiations (which Democratic Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson called economic terrorism) and crisis management was in full effect over the debt limit (the borrowing restriction placed on the government). Failing to have raised it would have been catastrophic for the economy, and those receiving government services or aid would have likely suffered the most. Though raising the debt limit still poses real world consequences and keeps our government on the same unsustainable fiscal path we’ve been on for decades. Unfortunately, it seems managing crises is becoming the norm, as our government continues to try solving our most pressing challenges through patchwork and stopgap efforts—evident in this latest conciliation which purportedly includes a multi-year appropriation and extension of the limit.
We need a balanced budget. We need to dramatically decrease the nation’s budget deficit. We need a President committed to these two causes, one who works across government seriously reevaluating and tackling the most expensive categories of spending (national defense, Social Security, healthcare and interest payments), and exacts effective governance, long-term fiscal health, and security.
Promote the Federal Workforce and the Work They Do
Though views of the government are not necessarily favorable (only 37 percent of people believe the government helps people like them), remove partisan politics from the equation and focus on localized services, and the government generally delivers. Improving trust and changing perception starts with acknowledging that some grievances are warranted, committing to strengthening the civil service, and reinforcing it should never be weaponized or politicized, rather celebrated.
While often scrutinized and negatively portrayed, civil servants operate seamlessly in the background every day, even in the face of major crises, to help Americans live better lives. A successful president recognizes this, truly understands how (and how well) the federal government serves its people, and promotes the federal workforce and the work they do.
The Partnership for Public Service’s Service to America Medals highlight how federal employees are leading innovation and service delivery excellence. Some recent accomplishments include working with airports and airlines on new programs to identify and prosecute human traffickers, helping deploy insects as natural predators against other bugs that damage crops, and creating new cotton-based medical gauze for trauma and chronic wounds.
We need a federal workforce that feels valued and is exalted for their achievements. We need a president firm on expectations and accountability while also honoring and equipping our civil servants with the resources and support to be innovative, efficient, and responsive to public needs.
Champion Trust and Cooperation
A strong government requires strong leaders, especially at the highest levels, who are stewards of public trust and committed to public good. As campaign rhetoric intensifies, particularly around divisive issues, it becomes increasingly important to think about what happens after the country has voted for its next leader.
Presidential candidates have a responsibility to promote trust in our elections and, more broadly, in our institutions. As candidates, committing now to respecting the outcome of fair and free elections (to include the process for contesting, recounts and legal challenge before conceding) and adhering to a spirit of cooperation to share information with transition teams will go a long way to increasing trust and ensuring the best start to the next presidency.
We need an election process typified by candidates honoring outcomes and participating in an amicable transition. We need a president that will represent our entire country if elected and support their former opponents to the fullest should they not be.
A presidential candidate will surely be judged on technological savvy, geopolitical acumen, economic prowess, and moral compass. However, we should also look for our next Commander-in-Chief to commit to balancing the budget and reducing the deficit, promoting the work of those who serve us every day, and championing trust and cooperation—a commitment to Americans and our nation’s well-being.
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