New Issue Guide Available: Social Security — How Can We Afford It?

I am pleased to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: Social Security: How Can We Afford It? This issue guide, authored by Maura Casey, is the latest in the issue book library of which Mannakee president I am Executive Editor.

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

The following is from the introduction to Social Security: How Can We Afford It?

If anything, the recession that began in 2008 increased the concern about the cost of caring for the elderly because so many people lost their jobs, forcing some to take Social Security years earlier than they had intended. Social Security is one leg of a “three-legged stool” that also includes private pensions and personal savings. However, in tough times many find that the Social Security leg must bear more than its share of the weight…

Many Americans are reexamining the principles on which Social Security is based and are thinking anew about the nature of individual responsiblity. What does the government owe the elderly? Should saving for retirement be strictly an individual responsibility? Is it fair to require succeeding generations to shoulder the increasing burdens of supporting retirees?

The question we must face is this: how can we best provide for Americans’ retirement?

This 12-page issue guide presents three possible options for deliberation:

Option One: Shore Up and Reaffirm Social Security

Social Security benefits represent a promise made to Americans, symbolizing a shared commitment to one another that is a fundamental value of our country. The program has earned its near-universal support and the promise should be kept by doing whatever it takes to keep these benefits as they are.

Option Two: End Reliance on Social Security for Retirement

Government has been taking too much responsibility for the well-being of its older citizens, undermining the nation’s traditional emphasis on self-reliance. We should phase in a privatized system of retirement savings accounts, which could be regulated by the government, but controlled and managed by individuals.

Option Three: Reinvent Retirement and Social Security

It is unrealistic to continue to support a plan that enables people to retire in their early to mid-60s when the average life span now extends to the age of 78 and sometimes far beyond. Americans are living longer, healthier, more active lives. The compact that Social Security represents should be adjusted to account for this.

A New Issue Guide: Immigration in America. How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: Immigration in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

This issue guide, authored by my good friend and colleague Scott London, is the latest in the Kettering Foundation issue book library of which I am executive editor.

Immigration In America: How Do We Fix A System In Crisis?

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

From the issue guide:

Immigration in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

Most Americans agree that our immigration system needs an overhaul. Too many immigrants slip across our borders undetected and too many are here on expired temporary visas. Backlogs and bureaucracy prevent high-skilled foreign workers from getting the permits they need and hinder family members from being reunited with their loved ones in the United States.

Tackling the immigration issue requires that we take a fresh look at it and get beyond the polarized debates that too often divide the country rather than bringing it together. Our challenge today is to build a system that reflects our essential values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. This issue guide explores three different options for doing that.

Option One: Welcome New Arrivals

America is a nation of immigrants, a people welded from many nations and races, bound together by a common vision of opportunity and freedom. That diversity has always been the backbone of America’s strength. A 21st -century immigration system must reflect these characteristic values along with a humanitarian commitment to refuges and those seeking freedom from persecution.

Option Two: Protect Our Borders

Some of America’s most serious social and economic problems are exacerbated by the influx of unauthorized immigrants. By failing to control illegal immigration, we’ve undermined our national security, stiffened competition for scarce jobs, and strained the public purse. This option argues for tighter control of our borders, tougher enforcement of our immigration laws, and stricter limits on the number of immigrants legally accepted into the country.

Option Three: Promote Economic Prosperity

Protecting American jobs while at the same time increasing economic competitiveness requires a multi-faceted immigration strategy, one that acknowledges the important contributions made by high-and low-skilled immigrants alike, but does not depress the wages of disadvantaged American workers or drain our public resources, especially during economic hard times.

Get the full issue guide here at the NIFI website.

A New Issue Guide: A Nation In Debt. How Do We Pay The Bills?

I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: A Nation In Debt: How Do We Pay The Bills? This issue guide, authored by my good friends and colleagues Tony Wharton and Noelle McAfee, is the latest in the issue book library of which I am Executive Editor.

Click to download from the NIFI website

We worked very hard getting this guide finished — researching, writing, testing and re-testing. I am really proud of it.

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

The following is from the introduction to A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills?

It’s become apparent to many Americans that if we do not act decisively on the nation’s debt soon, our economy will be seriously hobbled and we will dump an unsustainable burden on our children and grandchildren.

“What’s decided (or not decided) over the next few years will spell big changes for the way we live our daily lives,” write Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis. “How the country solves or doesn’t solve this problem will affect our paychecks, our investments, our mortgages, our kids’ prospects in life, what kind of health care we’ll get, our chances of ever getting to retire-even whether we live in a country that’s fair, stable and prosperous.”

This 12-page issue guide presents an overview of the problem and three options for deliberation.

Option One: Agree to Make Sacrifices Now – We need to compromise on our differences and act now to reduce the national debt.  If this generation doesn’t make needed sacrifices, we’re simply passing the burden to the next generation. It’s time to face this urgent problem.  We need to raise taxes and cut spending; neither will get the job done alone.

Option Two: Strengthen Checks and Balances – We cannot just hope that personal discipline and basic legislative safeguards will control the urge to spend.  Citizens willingly accept more benefits than government can afford and leaders are too willing to help us dig this hole.  Our top priority should be to make systemic changes to increase fiscal responsibility.

Option Three: Invest in Growth First – We need to encourage economic growth and invest in research, development, infrastructure, and science education.  Growing the economy will boost tax revenues, make the debt more manageable, and will be better for the country in the long run.  Drastic cost-cutting measures would likely harm the economy as it tries to recover.

A New Role with the Kettering Foundation

As many friends and colleagues know, I have enjoyed a long association with the Kettering Foundation. When I first came to know the Foundation while I was working at the Institute for Global Ethics, I felt I had discovered an intellectual and philosophical home. And I was right.

Over the years, the good people at Kettering have become more than colleagues — they are friends and family. For some years, I have been proud to say I am an Associate of the Foundation. (This means I am not an employee but an independent professional working on a range of learning projects.)

KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a research foundation (not a grant making foundation) that studies the question: What does it take to make democracy work as it should? A fundamental part of that is to study public deliberation — how people make choices in communities. An excellent overview of Kettering research is in this brochure.

To further its research, the Foundation supports the development of issue books on various topics and makes them available to organizations throughout the National Issues Forums and to others. These issue books can serve as the basis of public deliberative forums where people wrestle with the difficult issues of the day such as energy, health care, economic security, the national debt, and more. I have written some of these issue books over the years.

I am thrilled and humbled to report that I’ve taken on a deeper role as a Kettering Associate, serving as executive editor of the issue book library. (I’ll still be working on all my other projects too, with other clients and collaborators.)

I’ll be doing this work closely with my friend Ilse Tebbetts, a longtime Kettering colleague, who will be serving as managing editor.

The announcement Kettering issued is below:

Two familiar names have recently taken on new duties in producing the deliberative issue guides that have long been key parts of the Kettering Foundation’s work.

Brad Rourke has taken the role of executive editor of the issue guide library. As executive editor, Rourke will have overall responsibility for the issue guide series, overseeing the writing of new books and the updating of earlier guides. He will work with David Holwerk, Kettering’s director of communications, to oversee the work of writing and updating issue guides.

Rourke has been associated with the work of the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums since 1997. His first learning agreement with the foundation was in 1999, when he worked on framing the issue of election ethics and campaign conduct for public deliberation. Since then, he has been closely involved with Kettering’s work and has written a number of issue guides and reports for the foundation, including The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future and Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need?

Ilse Tebbetts will work with Rourke as the managing editor of the issue book series. In that role, she will have primary responsibility for editing the text of new and revised books and will work with Holwerk to oversee the design and production of the books in both print and digital formats.

Tebbetts, a freelance editor and writer, has worked on a variety of projects with the Kettering Foundation for more than 30 years. She has edited and written portions of many of the issue guides published by the foundation and has written and edited abridged versions for new readers. Tebbetts has also edited a number of the books published by Kettering Foundation Press, as well as a variety of occasional papers and KF reports. She was one of the principal editors of Selected Writings of Li Shenzhi, published this month by Kettering Foundation Press.

Thank you to Kettering for this unique opportunity.

Issue Guide On America's Role In The World Available

This is a little overdue, as this was released a little over a month ago, but better late than never! I am delighted to announce a new issue guide that I wrote has been released and will be used in deliberative forums across the nation.

Here is the post I wrote for the “news” section of my firm The Mannakee Circle Group that describes the whole thing:

coverAmerica's-RoleThe Mannakee Circle Group is pleased to announce a new issue book authored by Brad Rourke for the National Issues Forums Institute and the Kettering Foundation, working closely with colleague John Doble. The guide is titled America’s Role In The World: What does national security mean in the 21st century? and is available from NIFI.

The issue guide will be the basis for deliberative forums held across the nation, the results of which will be reported to a US-Russian group of policy experts and citizens in October this year.

From the issue overview:

The world bears little resemblance to the way it was in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell and the cold war ended. Where the world used to have two “superpowers,”—the Soviet Union and the United States— the end of the cold war created what many observers called a “unipolar” world in which the United States was the clear leader, able to bend most events to its will. But that moment has passed.

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence issued a report in late 2008 that assessed where things stand and where things are likely to go over the next two decades. One conclusion of this comprehensive study is that the United States “will remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant.”

Examples of less dominance are everywhere. China has gone from being a very large nation to being an economic powerhouse. India’s economy, as well as its influence on the world stage, has grown rapidly. Pakistan is now strategically vital.

Threats are becoming more global in nature, too. Climate change (global warming), pandemics, and resource depletion face countries without regard to superpower status or military strength. Many of these threats require response, but no one nation can act alone.

This issue framing presents three possible options to consider:

Option One: National Security Means Safeguarding the United States

Our global objective must always be to maintain the safety of the United States and its citizens. We must guard against threats to national security above all.

Option Two: National Security Depends on Putting Our Economic House in Order

With such significant economic issues facing us, we need to focus on eliminating our staggering public indebtedness and improving the balance of trade. That means spending less on the military and reducing the amount of money that flows overseas.

Option Three: National Security Means Recognizing that Global Threats are our Greatest Challenge

Today’s challenges face everyone on the planet, not just one nation. We must take a leadership role in working with other nations in a collaborative way to address long-term threats to humanity and increase foreign aid so other nations can also address such threats.

The Mannakee Circle Group would like to thank NIFI and the Kettering Foundation for the opportunity to work on this important project.

Coping With The Cost Of Health Care

I wanted to share a project that I have been working on with my friends at the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums. I’m quite excited about it.

It’s a new issue book I’ve written called Coping With the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? The “issue brief” is available for free download here, and the larger “issue book” can be ordered here.

(This is a slight revision of a health care issue brief developed back in March.)

Like all National Issues Forums issue guides, this one looks at a difficult public problem from three different perspectives, or “approaches.” The guide is meant to be the core of a small-group discussion where participants wrestle with the choices and trade-offs embedded in the issue, and come to their own view of how we ought to proceed as a nation. The book does not advocate for any one choice.

Here are the approaches it outlines:

Approach #1: Reduce the Threat of Financial Ruin

Proponents of this approach say we need to make health insurance that covers major medical expenses available to everyone.

Approach #2: Restrain Out-of-Control Costs

Health-care costs are too high for too many people. This approach holds that they should be reduced directly through price controls and other means.

Approach #3: Provide Coverage as a Right

Proponents of this approach say that health care coverage is something every citizen is entitled to.

Thank you to the Kettering Foundation for the opportunity to work on this important issue.

Paying For Health Care In America

I wanted to share a project that I have been working on with my friends at the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums. I’m quite excited about it.

It’s a new issue book called Paying For Health Care in America: How Can We Make It More Affordable? I’ve finished the “issue brief” and am now working on a larger “issue book.” The 12-page brief is available for free download here. The issue book (which will be slightly larger and have more research and quotes and such) will be sold for a nominal fee.

Like all National Issues Forums issue guides, this one looks at a difficult public problem from three different perspectives, or “approaches.” The guide is meant to be the core of a small-group discussion where participants wrestle with the choices and trade-offs embedded in the issue, and come to their own view of how we ought to proceed as a nation. The book does not advocate for any one choice.

Here’s a recap of this particular guide:

Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance while costs continue to spiral out of control for those who do have coverage. The nation spends more than any other country on health care, but many are still dissatisfied with what we have to show for it. Now it is time to face the difficult choices needed to make the U.S. health-care system function properly.

Approach #1: Focus on Personal Choice and Responsibility

There is neither enough individual choice nor enough personal responsibility when it comes to health-care coverage. The real costs are hidden because it always looks like someone else is paying. We need to place individuals more in charge of their health-spending decisions; this will create incentives to reduce spending and improve service.

Approach #2: Provide Coverage as a Right for all Americans

It is an outrage that, in the wealthiest nation on the planet, more than 15 percent of us lack health insurance. We are all in this together, as a society. We rely on government to protect us from fire and crime and to provide education; it should ensure our health too. We need to provide health-care coverage as a right to all Americans, not just those who can afford it.

Approach #3: Build on What is Working

The U.S. health-care system is facing real problems right now– and there are real solutions available right now. Holding out for a “perfect” answer is not reasonable. We can institute a modest set of reforms right away, which will bring real strides in increasing health insurance coverage and reducing costs.

Watch for an announcement of the full issue book, which should be available later in the spring.