Competitive spirit is America at its best

Putnam Investments

118366168_590x332_duoFew moments in sports are as inspirational as global competition. We have proudly watched the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding, who worked a lifetime for this moment, take their skills to the limit, and compete for the recognition of being best in the world.

On many levels, we are all competitors. As we embark on a new year of challenges, my wish for 2014 is that we all - individuals, business leaders, and policymakers  - take a page out of the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding playbook. Let's make it a year that we place the best of America in all of us at the forefront.

If the United States wants to retain its competitive leadership, we need to push our skills to the limit, innovate, and embrace new ways of thinking. But first we need to get the basics right and get the job done. No coach would let us settle for mediocre performance.

We can start here.

1. Get our fiscal house in order. Our national solvency must be the priority. We cannot advance our economic recovery, implement solutions for other problems, or bring life to new ideas until we tackle our national debt and rein in spending. We've seen the results when Congress engages in reasoned compromise, and felt the setback when protracted debate turned into gridlock. Markets, businesses, and individual taxpayers need certainty.

2. Create more jobsThe fuel of sustainable economic growth is jobs. America was built on opportunity, and there are many ideas out there to grow good-paying jobs. We need to foster an environment where the employment rates is driven drown by real job creation and by not growing numbers of talented American job-seekers giving up.

3. Strengthen retirement security for all Americans. As with the dignity of a job, workers deserve a dignified retirement. But some of the fabric in our national retirement system is frayed. We cannot ensure that our seniors will avoid a retirement spent living in poverty. We can start by fixing Social Security, and expand what's working in the retirement industry today, so that all workers can have access to the tools that build sufficient income in retirement. The Administration's creation of the "myRa" account, which uses payroll deduction to invest in government bonds, is a step in the right direction, but its effectiveness is uncertain.

Like any competitive arena, no skier would become a challenger on the global stage without starting with a firm footing in the basics and having won some championships. The United States is not alone in its demographic and economic challenges post-Great Recession. In this global competition, we cannot retain our leadership without establishing a firm footing.