According to the Oxford Dictionaries, a problem is something that needs to be addressed: “A matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.” Our problem briefs are intelligence briefs that describe problems that affect the health and well-being of American society. We prepare these intelligence briefs from the best of available knowledge to give you, the citizen CEOs of our democracy, a platform for understanding the problems and making critical decisions in all parts of your lives.

Our objective in preparing and presenting these briefs is to provide a framework for focusing on and more fully understanding the issues that ebb and flow in the daily news stream. As much as possible, we attempt to identify and filter out the noise – the distractions, the disinformation, and the misdirections that are often designed by special interests and their political mouthpieces to prevent productive discussion and real problem solving. Through this framework, we seek to provide enough common ground to bridge partisan differences and build the political will to accomplish what needs to be done.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Economic Crisis: The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it has produced have turned our world upside down. Even while we grapple with the effects of this twin crisis, many people are seeing for the first time the faults in our system that have either made the crisis worse, or been made worse by the crisis. This brief turns a spotlight on how those systemic problems have been impacted by the crisis; it also collects some of the key tools and resources available for monitoring our growing knowledge about the crisis and our responses to it.

Climate Change: Our best available science tells us with a very high degree of certainty that the Earth is warming due to man-made causes. We understand that these changes will disrupt existing weather patterns, increase the force and frequency of storms, cause sea levels to rise, and increase the spread and virulence of infectious diseases. As vast regions of the planet are affected by climate change, the Department of Defense, industry leaders, and numerous city and county governments are among those who are preparing climate change action plans to ready themselves for the likelihood of specific impacts. Coordinated action at the corporate, federal, and global levels are essential to reach attainable goals.

National Debt: The national debt is increasing dramatically. Economists debate how high the debt can go before it becomes a problem of concern – or whether it has already crossed that threshold. There are significant unresolved questions regarding exactly where that threshold lies, so much of the debate has to do with the level of risk that citizens and policymakers are willing to accept. The higher the threshold, the greater the risk to economic stability. Given the lack of consensus on the specific threshold, our elected representatives are challenged to implement a consistent policy for controlling the debt.

Voting Rights: Despite the steady expansion of voting rights throughout the course of US history, groups of eligible voters have frequently faced oppressive laws and intimidation designed to keep them from voting. Today, active voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other systemic features of our electoral system are currently undermining the right to vote and to have that vote count in a meaningful way. When voters believe that their vote doesn’t mean anything, they will often stop voting. Much of the activity has occurred at the state level and in the courts, which have issued several recent rulings regarding voting rights, gerrymandering, and laws involving voter IDs and other suppressive election rules.

Access to Health Care (in development): Access to affordable health insurance, access to healthcare services, and soaring costs are the three aspects of healthcare that have left as many as 45% of US adults inadequately insured and a growing number of rural and inner city Americans with limited access to healthcare services. What was a part of the solution, the Affordable Care Act, has been resisted and slowly dismantled by those who offer no solution in its place.

Income & Wealth Inequality (in development): Since 1981, there has been a significant and widening gap in income as executive compensation among the largest companies has risen much faster than that of the typical worker. The result has been a growing concentration of wealth that is counter-productive to our market-based consumer economy and also undermines the principles of American democracy.

Immigration (to be developed): The increase in the number of immigrants to the US has brought renewed focus to our broken immigration system. Recent efforts to fix the system have again raised questions about the value immigrants bring to our country and who is to be held accountable for the presence of so many illegals. With climate change likely to contribute to even greater numbers of migrants and automation steadily eliminating jobs, we may need to find a new balance between the aspirations of the American melting pot and new economic and environmental realities.

Money in Politics (to be developed): Wealth provides political access to the few who possess it and leaves those who lack financial resources with no voice, or a very quiet voice, in the political process. It follows that as wealth shifts to a small percent of the population, so too does political influence. While the US continues to have free elections, in many cases, and especially at the state and national levels, the wealthiest individuals contribute vast sums of money to promote the candidates and policies that they prefer.

Racism (to be developed): Racism in America has many outward manifestations in the inequities of our way of life, particularly evident in the distribution of wealth, access to healthcare, and protections under the law. Rooted in our tribal instincts, racism is so baked into our culture that it often challenges our desire to exterminate it at the same time that it fuels our desire to do so. Sadly, we don’t believe that racism can be extinguished, but we do think its expression can be limited and its manifestations eliminated. We can’t change how someone’s life experience makes them feel towards others, but we can change the world around them so that diversity and social equity are the norm and resistance to them is viewed as undemocratic and unpatriotic.

Judicial inequity (to be developed): Democratic society depends on the rule of law and trust in the institutions set up to enforce and improve it. For too long, the law has been unevenly applied and law breakers of different socio-economic status held to different standards of accountability and justice. At the same time, Congress, the Justice Department, and other more local institutions have given Americans many new reasons to fear that the legal system is breaking down. In the broad context of American life, it is evident that the processes designed to keep the law from becoming a tool of the rich and powerful have been subverted.