Imagine a Utopian American Society
Imagine a different America. Imagine a country with no poverty. Imagine a country with no gangs and little crime. Imagine a country with no costs of poverty or crime. This vision of a different society means devising a plan that eliminates poverty. It is possible to create a different America with no poverty and no crime and not having to pay for these societal problems. We have the power to eliminate poverty in America and it really isn’t very difficult.
Putting our young people to work and paying them reasonably for their efforts are the keys to creating this utopian society. The structural change of getting all capable people working can create an immense incremental enhancement to the American economy. We know that our lowest paid workers spend all of their compensation. These additional workers will literally create a new economy in America and these new workers will pay taxes, social security, Medicare, and healthcare.
In this altered country, we would save enormous criminal justice costs. The impacts on victims of theft, assault, rape, prostitution, drugs, and murder are visceral horrors that can be largely eliminated. A crime free society is safer for everyone. And the cost savings are enormous. The United States incarcerates two and a half million people and has an additional four and a half million on parole and probation. American criminal justice is an enormous and expensive business. At $40,000 per prisoner per year, prisons have costs that offer tremendous potential savings. And in this utopia, few people would need welfare or food stamps.
Seventy percent of the 2.5 million people in prison, and additional 4.5 million on probation and parole in America are high school dropouts. There are roughly a million high school dropouts a year in America. These young people are largely unemployable. This is the place to draw a red line. With basic policy changes, we have the power to largely eliminate high school dropouts in America and to create a highly skilled workforce that is worth being paid a decent wage. We have the power to create an alternative future by changing today’s governmental policies.
The first policy change is to reform America’s high schools. We presently graduate about thirty percent of our youth from four-year colleges. This is more than enough. The US Department of Labor estimates that only twenty-three percent of the jobs in America require a four-year college degree. The desperately needed policy change is to reconstruct our high schools into career academies. Career academies graduate ninety-five percent of their students, all with employable skills. This one policy change will reduce the high school dropout numbers dramatically that consequently will decimate gang and crime statistics. This one policy change is revolutionary. It has the power to make immense reductions in poverty and crime one cohort at a time.
Since we know seventy percent of high school students do not go on to graduate from college, we should target this entire group for career academy intervention. If we could make this one change in policy to implement career academies, we would annually prepare two and a half million high school graduates with employable skills. Over ten years, this policy change would create twenty-five million people prepared with technical work skills. This would create an immense wave of skilled American workers.
The success of preparing all of these people for work would generate a new problem of creating jobs for them. Baby boomers are already retiring and will continue to leave the job market in droves. However, millions more jobs will be needed to accommodate all of these skilled young people. A second change in government policy, particularly for an initial period of years, is to create a substantial tax credit for businesses that hire career academy graduates. In reorganizing American society, the business community must be incentivized to employ graduates of career academies.
A third policy change is to bring home some of the thirty million jobs American corporations sent overseas. Tariffs aimed at products of companies that sent manufacturing or service jobs overseas can be targeted. The sending of jobs overseas was un-American. It has damaged the country. The point is that jobs are the key to ending poverty and crime and their associated costs. We cannot achieve positive changes to American society without millions of jobs.
One additional policy change is required. Capitalism works well as an economic system. However, it has cycles that have recessions. The population, though, doesn’t stop having children. Thus, the system needs to provide for youth who happen to graduate from high school during a recession. A new governmental Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) like we had back in the Depression can fill in the cyclic need. When a recession hits six percent unemployment, this new federally funded CCC would kick-in employing all eighteen and nineteen year old graduates of career academies. This policy change should eliminate any interest in gangs and crime during recessions. The reduced costs of incarceration will more than pay for this program.
Futurists dream of using social science research to create an improved, alternative society. The reality is we have choices about how we organize our country and the decisions we make now craft the future. We can have a utopian society with no poverty, little crime, and few associated criminal justice costs. This utopia is within our grasp. Social science research data make projecting the future relatively easy. Change, though, seems to be difficult for us. Thus, the real question is where does the leadership to create this utopian society come from?