A Time for Renewal and Prosperity

Washington DC
Editor's note:

Please join us on December 17 for the kick-off event for the Brookings Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity, with a conversation about economic growth and dynamism.

Blueprints for American Renewal & ProsperityAs future historians reflect on the key moments of peril for the American experiment, 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most trying.  From COVID-19 to massive economic downturn and inequality, the nation’s latest reckoning with systemic racism, a uniquely tumultuous presidential election cycle, and more, American society has been forced to endure so much in these recent months.  What’s more, today’s challenges also include the looming threat of climate change, the continued rise of authoritarianism and radical populism, and in particular, the pernicious effects of disinformation, “fake news,” and the fracturing of our democratic system.  This terrible convergence of national and global crises has amounted to a true inflection point for the United States and in turn the world, with the lives of hundreds of thousands taken by the coronavirus, and many millions of livelihoods destroyed.

Consequently, we’re now approaching a crossroads where fact-based policy solutions are desperately needed to stem the tide of the compounding historic challenges facing our society, as we look to renew the nation’s global leadership while making progress here at home for all Americans. In looking ahead to the realities of a new presidential administration with the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next leaders of the United States, and the possibility of a split government, solutions must include innovative policy ideas that allow for more equal economic growth and dynamism; absolute racial justice and opportunities for workers to get ahead; a reinvention of institutions and processes that improve governance at home and abroad; a reasonable and responsible international security framework; and perhaps most importantly, climate policy which allows for a safe and sustainable future for all of humanity.  In tackling these issues, we envision a society more prepared and resilient for the future crises inevitably bearing down upon us.  And indeed, Brookings’s distinguished track record of generating groundbreaking policy solutions and helping policymakers turn plans into action makes our organization uniquely prepared for this critical moment, when COVID-19 has laid bare the many cracks in America’s institutional and cultural foundations.

Just as the Brookings Reopening America & the World effort was an important response to the immediate threat posed by the coronavirus, our new Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity project is a critical step towards realizing a vision of a renewed America in 2021 and beyond.  Launching today, and throughout the next several months, Brookings will release through our Blueprint project a series of papers detailing innovative, necessary federal policy action and ideas focused on racial justice and worker mobility, economic growth and dynamism, domestic and international governance, international security, and climate and resilience. These Blueprints will be enhanced through a series of events and podcast episodes discussing the details of these vital policy ideas and topics.  We welcome members of Congress, transition and administration officials, and the federal policy community at large to engage with our Blueprint federal policy content. Such an initiative is perfectly aligned with Brookings’s core mission of fact-based, non-partisan research and analysis in support of the public good.  Indeed, it is our greatest calling to contribute to what is a uniquely complex moment of crisis, and to bring together our best and brightest to offer much-needed policy solutions for the incoming administration.

For its part, the Brookings Institution has faced similar moments before, and has harnessed the organization’s talent – its scholars, researchers, and world-class business and operational staff – to provide the most precious resource to American leaders: non-partisan, fact-based, and actionable policy guidance.  Indeed, in the 1930s – when the country faced the stark realities of The Great Depression – Brookings pulled together a critical analysis of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Then, in 1948, following the devastation of World War II, our institution produced the foundational document of what would become known as the Marshall Plan, or the European Recovery Program.  In the 1960s, Brookings analysis informed the creation of NASA’s space program and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society initiatives as well.  Brookings also helped inform the creation of the Congressional Budget Office in 1975, whose founding director was our longtime friend and colleague Alice Rivlin. And earlier this year, when Americans were enduring the crushing initial shock of COVID-19 closures and societal shut-down, Brookings released its flagship “Reopening America & the World” effort, which examined global reopening strategies and best practices for public health and safety.

In each of these cases, America was facing immense and pressing challenges.  These events echo much of what is happening at this very moment, and also reflect Brookings’s critical capacity for impact when we focus our efforts on developing solutions that support the greater public good.  As we assess the inflection point that is 2020, the call to action could not be clearer: Brookings must again exert its leadership and its scholarship to provide something of critical value to the American people – Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity.

Society needs more than a recovery or a return to previous norms if we are to see the other side of this challenging moment.  Instead, we require an absolute renewal, and even a reimagining, of all of society and its sub-components.  Importantly, this vision is not partisan – instead, it is truly American, and one that both Congress and the new administration can and should unify behind.  Therefore, rather than simply fixing pre-pandemic structures, we must take the opportunity to re-invest in society to achieve best-possible outcomes.  In this way, our Blueprint effort is the essential follow-up to our earlier Reopening project; it mirrors the vital evolution from response and repair all the way to restoration and reimagining.

While it will take those same future historians to determine where and how we could have better performed throughout the struggles of 2020 and beyond, there is no doubt that we must move forward immediately striving towards a path of renewal and healing.  The realities of the 2020 U.S. presidential election cycle showcase the critical need, and the immense opportunity, for the embracing of this reimagining of society.  The incoming administration undoubtedly heralds a return to normalcy for American leadership, seeking solutions to COVID-19, economic inequality, systemic racism, and climate change.  At the same time, a deeply divided United States – one in which tens of millions of Americans reject the legitimacy of the official government – means that no matter the vision of this new administration, the prospects of unification and swift forward progress are entirely in question.  Few yet comprehend the full, long-term implications of this hyper-partisan moment, but all in turn must recognize the overwhelming need to come together, to support Americans of all backgrounds and dispositions, and to reconcile the differences that have dominated our politics for generations.

We at Brookings welcome a vigorous debate around these ideas.  In fact, we view such activities as absolutely inherent to the creation of best-possible outcomes for all of humanity.  Through our Blueprints for American Renewal & Prosperity project, Brookings scholars recognize what this moment requires and are presenting salient, actionable ideas to rebuild America’s global leadership and make significant progress here at home for all Americans. It is time to create a new, modern era in which we can come together around solving problems for the greater good of society, using evidence, research, and common sense to tackle the most pressing issues of today.  We at Brookings aim to do just that – and we truly hope that you’ll engage in our Blueprint project and our continued efforts along the way.