I’ve enjoyed many celebrations over the years. Christmas Day, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, my birthday… all of them are fine. But what I’m looking forward to most is Election Day.
I love elections. Not only do they embody our democratic process in action, and fulfill the visions of our Founding Fathers and Mothers, but they also serve as a swift “kick in the pants” for our politicians and leaders, who sometimes forget where they came from and how they arrived in their elected positions. Elections force them back into conversations with voters. Elections make the collective wishes of the American electorate known.
This November 8th, all 100 seats in the Senate will be contested, as will three dozen gubernatorial races. Other state and local elections will be held nationwide. Prospective public officials are debating and campaigning hard. The results of this general election will determine the 118th United States Congress. If run properly, this election is critical in that it can restore our faith in the democratic process… a necessity after the last contentious presidential election was held amid allegations of fraud.
However, this is not a presidential election. It’s not a referendum on Trump or Biden. So, let’s stop acting as if it were. They are not even on the ballot.
Instead, we must use this opportunity to consider the most basic issues. Right now, with a recession looming (that is, if we aren’t already in one), we need to figure out how to put food on the table. Our kids’ schools need funding. People need jobs. We need to discuss what matters on Main Street, USA – the concerns of families, workers, and small business owners. These are issues of importance to Democrats and Republicans alike.
As an American, here’s what I know: we can find common ground.
As just one example, there is a unifying policy that can address and solve the social, business, and economic issues that affect all citizens. It’s called Qualified Opportunity Zones.
Opportunity Zones are an instrument through which investment dollars, including private equity, are channeled into distressed, low-income urban and rural communities that struggle with poverty, unemployment, failing infrastructure, population decline, drugs, crime, and other challenges. There are nearly 8,800 distressed communities dotting the country that have been identified as qualified opportunity zones, with nearly 30 million people living in them.
Years of decline have depleted their resources. Since the pandemic, skyrocketing job loss and company closures made life even harder. These neighborhoods were designated from census tracks, treasury, and state leaders as communities that would benefit from an influx of investment dollars directed through the Opportunity Zones plan.
Investment dollars, amassed by capital gains from sales of real estate, stock, and other assets, can serve to reinvigorate businesses and bolster residents in these communities. The possibilities for investments are endless: hospitals, charter schools, condominiums. Infrastructure projects from airports and seaports to bridges and tunnels. Agricultural campuses to support growers and shippers with everything from cold storage to transit. Industrial facilities, warehouses, packing sheds, factories. Recreational stadiums, amusement parks, golf courses… and so on.
What are the results? New, better-paying jobs that offset unemployment. People relocating to struggling towns for those jobs, helping to reverse population decline. Real estate values climbing, leading to increased tax revenues which can be used to further improve failing infrastructure. New life breathed into local businesses. Better health care and education resources for families, neighborhoods, and entire communities. Decreasing crime and drug use.
I know that the bipartisan support Opportunity Zones have received demonstrates that there is continued backing for the initiative on both sides of the aisle.
And here’s something else I know:
If Republicans win, they need to remove the far-right extremist groups from their midst and reconsider issues relating to abortion and gay marriage, which Americans strongly support. If Democrats win, they need to distance themselves from far-left anti law enforcement measures and embrace the fact that businesses can help resolve social issues in America. Both the Red and Blue parties must return to the center.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
We Americans must send a loud and clear message to our elected officials: Find common ground. Give us the type of leadership our nation so desperately needs, and support the initiatives that allow us to flourish.
Written by Dr. Jim White.
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