Former Rep. Gephardt Addresses America’s Problems

Richard A. Gephardt

Richard Gephardt, former majority leader in the United States House of Representatives and former presidential candidate, recently discussed four of the most troublesome issues facing Americans during his Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series lecture. In his address to law students and faculty, Gephardt said he hopes the next 10 years bring significant progress in the areas of globalization, energy, health care, and terrorism.

In order to achieve globalization, Gephardt said, “You’ve got to have huge creative destruction in your economy, huge change for workers, huge change for companies and unions.”

Gephardt said key questions for policymakers should include: “How do you use trade negotiations, trade treaties, and trade laws in order to hasten the development of underdeveloped countries? How do you bring standards up in the underdeveloped countries faster, so that there’s more compatibility sooner in the world?”

International policies should encourage enforcement of labor and environmental laws, Gephardt said, along with implementation of minimum wage standards worldwide. In the United States, better retraining programs are necessary for workers who lose their jobs, along with inducements for companies to replace that lost income – perhaps by sharing stock, Gephardt said. At the same time, he said, policies should encourage companies to invest in technology to ensure future success.

Energy is another pressing issue, Gephardt said. One way to address America’s dependence on oil is through a variable subsidy program created to support alternative energy companies, he said.

“For solving the terrorism problem, for solving our trade deficit, for making us more efficient economically, we’ve got to have a serious alternative energy program,” he said.

Health care
Health care, Gephardt said, is one of the toughest problems he encountered during his political career. Research is imperative, he said, and federal funding extended to research institutions like Washington University pays off in the form of new technologies and ideas.

In the last 10 years, healthcare has been the only industry to create new jobs, Gephardt said. “We’ve got to start talking about the positive impact … it’s good for people’s health, it’s good for people’s longevity, and it’s good for the economy.”

Acknowledging that other tough issues facing America, such as education, deserve consideration in other forums, Gephardt addressed terrorism as his final topic.

“Terrorism is one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a military-only solution to this problem because if you do that, and especially the way we’ve tried to do it, you make the problem worse because you’re not uniting the whole world against terrorism.”

To curb terrorism, political leaders should work toward policies of both world energy and world economic development, a policy to help countries develop and enforce rule of law, and a policy to meet the AIDS epidemic in Africa, among other important initiatives, Gephardt said.  

Article by Janet Edwards