September 2 2008

The American Promise

Originally published June 29, 2006

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The American Promise: the dream of being a country that provides its citizens with limitless opportunity and where people enjoy a high quality of life in terms of health, safety, income, and well-being. America has made great strides in fulfilling this promise. As detailed in this report, Americans are better off today than any other time in history on measures such as:

  • Health: Americans are living longer and healthier than at anytime in history.
  • Safety: Crime rates have plummeted. In the last thirty years, there has been a 40 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes against women and a 67 percent decline in violent crimes against men.
  • Income and Employment:More Americans are working today than ever before. Since 1967, per capita income has doubled.
  • Well-Being: Americans overwhelmingly report being happy and satisfied with their personal lives. Americans are far happier and more optimistic than their counterparts in Europe.

However, there is a long way to go until the American promise is realized. Two areas are of particular concern and serve as stumbling blocks on the road to fulfilling America's potential:

  • The Break Down of the American Family: More than one in every three children in America is born out of wedlock. These children suffer more hardships and are more likely to engage in problem behaviors as they grow up.
  • Our Failing Public Education System: Our public education system leaves many children without the kills necessary to compete in the modern economy. America lags behind much of the world in terms of the educational attainment of our children.

To fulfill America's promise we should focus on these two important issues. Policymakers should consider measures to address these ills. A first step is reforming our public school system so that parents are free to choose a school for their child. Policymakers should also evaluate existing laws and regulations that provide a deterrent to family formation. This includes evaluating our tax code and assistance programs to remove measures that create a financial penalty for marrying.

Government alone cannot solve these problems. Fulfilling the American promise is the work of each individual.

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