More Important Than Running for President

American Solutions: Countdown to September 27

I went home to Atlanta this week to speak at the Buckhead Coalition, a group of Georgia business men and women and community leaders. I saw friends, supporters and even a few political rivals who I’ve known for decades. It was a wonderful homecoming.

More than a few people asked me whether or not I’m running for President. My answer is always the same: My focus right now is not on the presidency.

I know this answer confuses the political consultants and reporters who preoccupy themselves over the minutiae of the presidential campaign horse race. But for now, I’m not focused on Nov. 4, 2008. I’m focused on Sept. 27, 2007. Because on that day — the 13th anniversary of the unveiling of the Contract With America — the new organization that I’ve founded, American Solutions, will do something more urgently needed than presidential posturing.

On September 27, American Solutions will reach out across the country to all 511,000-plus elected office holders in America, their staff, and the citizens who are serving or seeking to serve in these offices. Our goal is to create a wave of change that meets America’s challenges, seizes our opportunities and builds a better future for all Americans.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like enough to keep anyone busy for the next seven months. And it sounds a lot better than spending that time watching the polls, endlessly fundraising and otherwise navigating the trivial and tortuous two-year march that we have made of our presidential election process.

A New Generation of American Solutions in Jobs, Health and Energy

The purpose of American Solutions is very simple, but very ambitious. We think it’s important that we break out of the political cycle that we’re in, which consists of 30-second negative commercials, hostile e-mails, candidate cattle calls and canned debates. Instead, American Solutions will focus on developing, on a bipartisan basis, a new generation of solutions to meet the scale of challenges we face:

  • Solutions that create better jobs with greater income so America can compete with the rise of China and India — and win.
  • Solutions in health care so that every American of every background and in every neighborhood can live the longest, healthiest possible life with the best quality of care at the lowest cost.
  • Solutions to our energy needs that are better for our economy, better for our environment and better for our national security.

In other words, real change.

The Coming Explosion in Science and Technology

I decided to launch this very ambitious project because I am fundamentally optimistic about the future of America. I am optimistic because three great breakthroughs are coming.

The first is in science and technology. In the coming years, there will be more advances in science, creating more knowledge, than we have any notion of how to apply to our daily lives. This represents an enormous opportunity.

Here’s just one example of what I’m talking about: Every 16 months, we double the amount of computer power you can buy with a dollar. That means that every decade, the amount of computing power you can buy with a dollar increases by a factor of 100.

What does that mean on a practical level in your life? For starters, it means that health care can be better, safer, cheaper and much more efficient than it is today. To take just one small example, at the Center for Health Transformation we’ve brought together computer companies, insurers and pharmaceutical companies to help drive the implementation of an electronic prescription capability for doctors and hospitals that is available for free online. Ending the dangerous practice of writing paper prescriptions will reduce medication errors, and that means fewer deaths, fewer emergency room visits and better health care. This is just one application of our advances in science and technology to make a difference in the lives of Americans.

Bringing the Revolution in Private Sector Productivity to Public Sector Problems

The second breakthrough that makes me bullish on America’s future — if we exploit it — is the dramatic explosion in productivity America has had in manufacturing and private sector services.

Over the past 60 years, we’ve developed a series of approaches to productivity and quality in the private sector that are revolutionary. Two good examples are how the price of television sets and cell phones has dropped even as their quality has increased. The opportunity to bring these advances to government and public policy is enormous. American Solutions will exploit this opportunity.

Bringing the America That Works to the America That Doesn’t

The third and last great breakthrough we will take advantage of at American Solutions isn’t really a breakthrough as much as it is a rediscovery.

America works because of our time-tested values. Over time, they have made us the most prosperous, creative and generous nation in history. Our work ethic …well, works. As a general rule, people who get up in the morning and go to work do better than those who don’t.

Incentives work. Americans love incentives and despise regulation and coercion.

But what, again, does this mean in our daily lives? Take one of our most serious national crises, the crisis in our public schools. The schools that are failing in this country do not focus on the work ethic and don’t use incentives — and then wonder why they fail. Oprah Winfrey opened a school for girls in South Africa because, as she explained, she has given up on getting the kids on the South side of Chicago to want to learn. This is a devastatingly serious indictment that something isn’t working — and America’s kids are paying the price.

When the Detroit public schools only graduate 21 percent of entering freshman on time — cheating four out of five young people — this is a serious sign that something has got to change.

American Solutions will highlight how American virtues, habits and principles that we know work can help address the challenges that confront our country. It is simply a matter of applying what we already know works.

This Level of Change Cannot be Created From the Oval Office

So we have our work cut out for us. We will spend the next seven months developing an entire new generation of solutions, making sure they are understandable to the American people and that they are supportable by the American people.

Then, on September 27, we will use the power of the Internet to start to make these solutions available to every candidate from both parties in every elected office in the country.

The goals we have set for American Solutions are a lot more difficult and less conventional than running for President. But I believe they are also a lot more important.

If we can move the entire system — if we can have school board members committed to incentives, hospital board members exploiting new technology, and state legislators who understand how to bring market principles to public problems — this country can and will fix itself. This is a level of change that cannot be created from the Oval Office. This level of change has to be brought about by people who care at the local level and want to do common-sense, practical things to make life better for their communities.

Our hope is to reach out across the country and create such a wave of change on a nonpartisan basis that anybody of any background who wants to use science, who wants to use the power of productivity, who wants to revitalize American virtues that work, has the tools to do so and to help others realize their potential as well.

If we can do that, we won’t need to fear economic competition from China or India. We won’t even need to fear the threats to our survival from rogue dictatorships and their varying alliances with the irreconcilable wing of Islam. And we won’t be waiting on Washington politicians to solve our problems.

The liberated energies of 300 million Americans are a dramatically more potent force for good then anyone’s force for evil. And I can’t think of a more important way to spend the next seven months than helping unleashing that potential. I hope you’ll join our effort at American Solutions where you can make a difference.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

P.S. – In case you missed it, in my talk at the National Review Institute’s Conservative Summit last week, I ended with an extended reflection on how the secular left would never allow advances in desalinization of ocean water to make the deserts habitable and improve the lives of millions. If you’re interested, you can listen to it here.