About the author:
Enrique E. Figueroa, Ph.D., Emeritus, Associate Professor, Dept. of Urban Planning, Former Director of the Roberto Hernandez Center & former Assistant to the Provost for Latino Affairs, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Founder of the GenteChicana/SOYmosChicanos Arts Fund
The 22nd year of the 21st century will come to an end amid a worldwide sentiment that unity will continue to evade us, particularly in the U.S. We have the threats of inflation and recession, a war in Europe, strident political divisions in the U.S., expanding illegal migration from Central and South America to the U.S., tribulations in the Middle East, the effects of climate change continue to cause natural disasters, and viruses are still not under control, particularly in Africa. Are there signs that we can begin to mediate any of the above conditions? Allow me to put forth some possible scenarios.
The latest US Federal Reserve data show that inflation has slowed – only a 0.5 rate increase as compared to the previous rate hike of 0.75. Unemployment remains low, jobs continue to be added to the US economy, and there is a plentitude of available jobs. I see a continuing reduction of inflation throughout 2023 and do not anticipate a recession. Instead, I see a growing economy.
Such a growing economy requires a labor supply to sustain it, but the immigration situation in the United States – both legal and illegal – needs policy prescriptions to address the situation. The Democrats will no longer control both houses of Congress, but contrary to popular belief, I believe a divided Congress will develop policy prescription, particularly in the legal immigration arena. The reader may remember that the last major illegal immigration reform took place during the Reagan administration, when no party controlled both houses and the Presidency. Comprehensive immigration reform does not have a high probability of occurring, but “Dreamers” and farm labor legislation have the highest probability.
Perhaps the best news regarding combating climate change is the recent announcement of achieving a breakthrough in nuclear fusion. Scientists have successfully sparked a fusion reaction that released more energy than the energy that went into it, though its practical and commercial use is many years away. Additionally, the production and acceptability of electric vehicles continues to increase, and alternative sources of energy, particularly solar, are contributing larger and larger shares of our energy consumption. The seemingly intractable divide between developing countries and developed countries (historically major contributors to our current worldwide greenhouse gas load) regarding who should “pay” for implementing gas mitigating measures isn’t imminent. Can there be an alternative and/or an amended COP27 in 2023? It remains an open question.
The latest US poll shows that a relatively small percentage of the Republican electorate supports the 2024 candidacy of former President Trump, though majorities support Trumpism. Florida Governor DeSantis appears to be the strongest challenger to Mr. Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy, though depending on Mr. Trump’s legal situation, a rather large number of Republican candidates may emerge in the coming year. Conversely, President Biden is showing all indications that he will seek his second term, though Democratic support for his candidacy is only slightly higher than Republican support for Mr. Trump. The midterm elections in the U.S. were very much a surprise to most political pundits. Surprises ranged from Republicans losing a seat in the Senate to Democrats losing three seats in the House from blue state New York. Can the political partisanship dissipate in 2023? The answer may lie at the local and state level, where political dynamics point to problem resolution, rather than party affiliation entrenchment. Many in the electorate are tired of the political infighting and one indicator is the switching to an independent party status – e.g., leaving both major parties. Key to the political climate in the U.S. will be how the very narrow Republican controlled House will function. Will the moderate wing of the Republican party exercise more power and if so, what will be their agenda? Compromise? Areas such as the regulation of social media and crypto-currency, minor immigration reform, crime (including domestic terrorism), and support for Ukraine are possible compromise issues next year.
The power and influence of media, be it establishment or otherwise, continue to affect our social structure and well-being. Disinformation or out-right untruths by a milieu of social media creates divisiveness, anger, fear, and a sense that the country is not moving in the right direction. How one untethers from the “harmful” media is one of our challenges in 2023. Journalism is under severe pressure: local media has for the most part disappeared from local communities, the atomistic nature of outlets pushes people to cease reading, hearing or seeing the news, thereby creating different realities, and the economy returns to the situation that following a particular agenda by a particular media outlet outweigh maintaining the integrity of the media outlet. Additionally, 65-year-olds and the older view the world in a quite different way compared to the view of 30-year-olds and the younger. These views are established and sustained by their choices of media consumption. Next year will continue to elevate these divergent views, but perhaps lead to an accommodation. Or will media adapt to this dynamic by recognizing their responsibility to the “greater good”? I am hopeful of the latter. I am familiar with a number of municipalities in the U.S. that are supporting and organizing grassroots “newspapers” and/or podcasts to reflect the sentiments of those local communities and what affects their livelihoods and well-being.
The US public education system is fraught with passionate discourse about the future of public education. Way too many children are not receiving an adequate education, particularly from inner-city school districts. Additionally, politicians are using public education as a “punching bag” for political gain. No doubt, US public education requires significant reform, as demonstrated by the large number of parents that are choosing alternatives such as private schools, choice schools, charter schools, and home schooling. Next year will see further migration away from public schools and I believe it is a good outcome, though the short-term reform process will be painful. Are teachers’ unions part of the problem or part of the solution? Most of the American electorate believe these unions are part of the problem. I believe that in 2023, other unions who represent different industry workers, and parents also, will and should play a role in our public school reform. Perhaps refraining from referring to teachers as “teachers,” but as “learning facilitators” will emerge. Learning and its measurement should drive reform, and accountability should be supreme. It is a difficult and long-term process, but 2023 may begin this much needed reform.
The U.S., and to a growing extent, the world, are multicultural societies. In many places and situations, race and ethnicity will continue to define one’s standing in society. The notions of “Identity,” “Belonging,” “Purpose,” and “Meaning” manifest themselves differently in different cultures and at times, one culture’s gain is viewed as a loss by another culture. How we achieve respect and admiration to other cultures is highly a function of how major media renders respect and admiration to the various cultures. Yes, the U.S. has been a “melting pot” for/to prior generations, but the baby boom generation was likely the last one to truly believe in its prevalence in our society. Subsequent generations have progressively lent less credence to the theory and the “salad bowl” theory has emerged – it is still emerging and evolving. Next year’s presidential campaigns will indirectly, or perhaps directly by some campaigns, refer to the salad bowl theory as fittingly adequate and outline its implications for how we interact across cultures and hopefully, from campaigners’ perspective, garner more votes for the candidate. The implications of adopting the salad bowl theory are yet to be fully understood and appreciated, particularly in rural America. Yet, 2023 will see a greater progression towards wanting to understand the implications to our society – e.g., seeing the long-term benefits, including mitigating divisiveness.
I close with a sense of hope. No doubt, many challenges face us as countries and the world as a whole. I am encouraged by my reading of history, which reveals that we have experienced more troubling and divisive times – our Civil War, two World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. We have emerged from these challenges in many, though not all, ways stronger and more united. Yes, it will take local, state, national, and world leadership to define our unifying mission and develop the multi-faceted and multicultural messaging to achieve the mission.
This article is from the December issue of TI Observer (TIO), which is a monthly publication devoted to bringing China and the rest of the world closer together by facilitating mutual understanding and promoting exchanges of views. If you are interested in knowing more about the September issue, please click here:
ON TIMES WE FOCUS.
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