For the last several years, our government has been stuck. Recurring arguments about the Affordable Care Act, immigration policy, executive power, and national security have worn deep grooves into our political conversations. These largely tribal and tedious debates offer little opportunity to reconcile, let alone engage about real differences. Happily, there were some exceptions to this squandering of democracy. In the last Congress, the Bipartisan Policy Center is proud to have contributed to legislation that improved the development of life-saving medical treatments, removed arbitrary barriers to exporting oil, modernized the law regulating toxic chemicals, strengthened Medicare, and extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program.


But, on the whole, our government failed too often and achieved too little. As our new government enters the arena, predictable, doctrinal gridlock has been replaced by sprawling uncertainty. President Trump is unencumbered by political debts, rigid ideology or detailed policy positions.

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Big ideas for the future

Expanding Economic Opportunity

Support Entrepreneurship

The financial crisis of 2009 was a shock to the global economy that few saw coming. Many Americans lost their jobs, homes, and retirement savings. Not surprisingly, the impacts of the crisis fell hardest on middle- and lower-income Americans. Unfortunately, one of the principal responses—the Dodd-Frank Act—is also having a disproportionate impact on the working class. Six years after enactment of this sweeping law, it is necessary to explore opportunities that maintain the fundamental stability of our financial markets while encouraging economic growth and entrepreneurial opportunity.
Increase Economic Growth and Competitiveness
While much election coverage focused on the divisiveness and polarization of the 2016 campaign, some of the most passionate voices on either side of the blue-red divide struck a surprising note of convergence on one key point: The globalized economy is not working for all Americans. Addressing this anxiety requires more than nurturing entrepreneurship—it requires a tax structure that allows U.S. companies to compete globally without shipping jobs overseas; responsible fiscal policy; long-term investment in the “fundamentals” of the U.S. economy; and an immigration policy that ensures our nation has the workforce and talent it needs to sustain a vibrant, diversified economy for decades to come.
Financial Security From College to Retirement
Many Americans are hurting financially as they strive to achieve the American dream. The costs of college have skyrocketed, while individuals are now expected to shoulder much of the burden when planning for their own retirement. Policy reforms have the capacity to dramatically improve the situation for millions of households that have borrowed large sums to receive a higher education or that struggle to save for short-term needs or retirement.

Building the 21st Century Foreign Policy Toolbox

Building the Force for the Future

The foundation of our nation’s strength and prosperity is the men and women who volunteer to serve both in and out of uniform. However, our military was designed to fight the wars of the past, not the evolving threats or conflicts that may arise in the future. We must build the future force by recruiting America’s best and brightest and overhauling the military’s archaic career paths.
Reset Key Mideast Relations
With terrorist groups spreading throughout the Middle East; with partners like Turkey growingly increasing unstable; with Iran fueling civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen; and the forceful intrusion of Russia, core U.S. objectives in the region seem increasingly out of reach. Eliminating terrorism, preventing the region from falling under the control of hostile powers, securing energy access, and protecting allies will require rebuilding a functioning partnership with Turkey and limiting Iranian influence.

Improve Lives Through Innovation

Modernize All Types of Infrastructure

2017 presents a unique bipartisan opportunity to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. The nation must make investments that will spur faster economic growth and job creation in the near term while building a stronger foundation for long-term prosperity. The price tag to upgrade, modernize, and expand our nation’s roads, railways, water systems, airports, and more will total trillions of dollars. The U.S. government simply does not have the resources to close this gap absent increased help from the private sector. To engage the private sector as a true partner we must re-examine long-standing policies that bar private participation in providing public goods.
Lead On Energy Innovation
A combination of fundamental economic trends, technological innovation, and sound policy decisions have substantially strengthened our nation’s energy outlook. Domestic production of traditional and renewable energy has significantly increased while the rates of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions have diminished. Our nation relies less on imported energy than it has since 1986, and the prospect of increased energy exports strengthens our geopolitical strength. Despite these favorable trends, energy politics remain deeply divisive. The Trump administration has proposed to expand fossil fuel and coal production through a reduction in regulation and other market interventions. In contrast, the “keep it in the ground” movement and opposition to energy distribution infrastructure gain momentum on the left.
Deliver Better Health Care at Lower Cost
As Congress grapples with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), policymakers must address the underlying desire of the American public to receive better quality health care at lower costs. Congress must encourage new models of payment and care delivery that provide better value and improved outcomes, as opposed to traditional “fee-for-service” systems, which tend to drive volume of services without evidence that they improve health.

Restore Trust in Government

Create a Fair Legislative Process

Vigorous discussion, debate, and dissent are the lifeblood of government by the people. A fair legislative process provides the mechanism for translating contrasting views and interests into resilient policy decisions.. Bills must be thoroughly debated, not passed at the last minute or through procedural shortcuts. Members of Congress must invest the time needed to improve relations across the aisle and between the Senate and House of Representatives.
Tap America’s Talent for the Executive Branch
The president should assemble a cabinet that reflects the ideological and cultural diversity of America and enlist highly qualified individuals who have demonstrated a capacity to get things done. The often-hostile confirmation process has become a major deterrent to recruiting qualified individuals to serve. Congressional leadership and the White House must re-examine a process that often uses talented people as pawns in a larger political debate.
Improve Relations Between Congress and the White House
President Trump and Vice President Pence should meet on a regular basis with congressional leaders from both parties to build a working relationship and identify key elements of a shared policy agenda.

Dialogue is the quarterly magazine of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
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ISSN: 2473-800X (print) 
ISSN: 2473-8018 (online).