The media focus on political minutiae in the presidential campaign can often crowd out the substantive issues that the winner will have to deal with once taking office. And while the candidates themselves occasionally talk about these issues, there’s a number of critical concerns that get no attention, including some of the worst problems (in terms of the harm they cause to people’s lives) in the United States and the world. To address this lamentable state of affairs, ThinkProgress has compiled a list of ten of the most significant problems being severely underserved by the campaign and American political discourse more broadly. In no particular order:
MASS INCARCERATION AND THE DRUG WAR
Writing in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik termed “mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history…perhaps the fundamental fact [of American society], as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.” Indeed, as Gopnik notes, there are more black men are in prison today than were enslaved then and more total people in prison than there were in Stalin’s gulags at their largest. The result of this wave of imprisonment was structural inequality so severe that it was called “the new Jim Crow” by a famous book of the same title, as the strict limitations placed on convicted felons have rendered millions black Americans second-class citizens. One of the principal causes of the rise of mass incarceration is the War on Drugs, which has failed abysmally at limiting the use of dangerous drugs but succeeded wildly at aiding and abetting racial inequality in the United States and the murderous drug trade abroad. The Justice Department recently doubled down on these policies by initiating a massive crackdown on medical marijuana in states that have legalized the drug’s medicinal use.
THE HOUSING MARKET
Though it’s well-known that the housing bubble collapse precipitated the financial collapse, the subsequent woes of the housing market have received comparatively little attention. John Griffith, Julia Gordon, and David Sanchez, in a recent report for the Center for American Progress, call the current housing market “one of the biggest drags on our recovery,” writing that “The historic decline in home prices since 2006 has cost Americans more than $7 trillion in household wealth, forced millions of families out of their homes, and left nearly one in four homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Private investment in housing is a fraction of its historic norm, translating to billions in lost economic output and millions of missing jobs. And more than five years into the crisis, the U.S. mortgage market remains on life support as the federal government guaranteed more than 95 percent of home loans made last year.”
THE INDIA/PAKISTAN CONFLICT
As the United States exits Afghanistan, tensions are likely to flare up again between the two nuclear-armed states over concerns about terrorism and relative influence in the country. The status of the contested Jammu-Kashmir province also remains unresolved. Former Pakistani director of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs, Feroz Hassan Khan, concluded in a paper published by the US Army War College that “this region seems to be the one place in the world most likely to suffer nuclear warfare due to the seemingly undiminished national, religious, and ethnic animosities between these two countries.”