Moving our Nation Forward Following a Very Unnecessary Shutdown
Part 1 of a 2 Part Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin
Our economy has been strong and growing stronger. Our national security is in a good place, including ISIS finally getting wiped off the map in the Middle East. As the United States enters 2018 with an economy starting to rip and our physical security strong, there was no good reason at all for the federal government to shutdown last Friday evening. There will always be very important work ahead of us at any time and at this moment there are certainly many great opportunities to move our nation forward following a very unnecessary shutdown.
In the last year, we have worked to create an economic environment that has spurred considerable job growth and great opportunities for American workers, with over 148,000 new jobs created in the month of December alone. However, to fully reap the benefits of this economic expansion, we need to ensure our workforce is qualified and capable of meeting this growing demand. Just one of many great ways to accomplish that will be to improve and modernize our current welfare system, incentivizing training and workforce development.
We must repair our nation’s infrastructure and further address vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement through sensible policies, including the use of more public-private partnerships to strengthen our roads, bridges and other forms of infrastructure. We also must physically secure all of our nation’s infrastructure from threats caused by terrorism and extreme weather events.
National security must continue to be a paramount priority for this country, as we have witnessed so many tragedies unfold around the world. At home, this means securing our nation’s entry points and choking off the flow of illegal immigration so we know who and what are coming into our country. This also means giving our law enforcement all of the tools necessary to do their jobs as effectively as possible. Around the world, this means pursuing a stronger, more consistent foreign policy that strengthens our relationships with our allies and treats our adversaries as our adversaries while ensuring our troops have the resources they need on-the-ground to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS.
Integral to our national security is ensuring Iran, with a regime calling for “death to America,” does not obtain a nuclear weapon and ceases its other bad activities. The current Iran Nuclear Deal is not a blueprint for how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. It is the pathway for exactly how Iran can acquire a nuclear weapon and with a jackpot of sanctions relief added on. We can no longer prop up a regime that seeks to destroy our country and our allies, destabilize the Middle East, and oppress its own people.
Additionally, an increasingly rogue nation, North Korea has demonstrated a blatant disregard for international law and human life through its active pursuit of nuclear capabilities, support of assassinations on foreign soil, and other nefarious activities. We cannot afford to disregard the real and escalating threat North Korea poses to the United States and our allies around the world.
However, one of our nation’s greatest threats can be bought on seemingly any street corner; the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic has claimed the lives of so many of our communities’ most promising young men and women. Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of death for Americans under 50, and any single day that Congress wastes in a government shutdown is yet another day that over 140 more Americans will die from an overdose because new progress wasn’t achieved for additional prevention, treatment and rehabilitation options.
Time lost on something as simple as keeping our government open, is time lost for our nation to accomplish these goals and many more, including cybersecurity, better access to affordable healthcare and education, and improved services for our heroes who served our country in uniform. While we have made great strides, our country continues to face great challenges, and it’s time for Congress to do its job and get back to work tackling them.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York, serving on both the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.